la voz flamenca
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“As artists, we want to do things that are relevant, exciting and full, and show our best work. But we don’t want to keep explaining ourselves to institutions and venues.” – Brinda Guha
In Sevilla, there is an organization called the Unión Peñas Flamencas Sevilla. They represent the collective members of all the peñas and therefore organize many things that have to do with the flamenco culture. In the coming weeks, all 13 peñas will come together to honor Manuel Herrera Rondas. But who was Manuel Herrera Rondas, and why was he important to flamenco?
Described by many as one of the most important personalities on the Spanish cultural scene in recent decades, Manuel Herrera Rondas was a writer, teacher, director, and great aficionado. His tireless struggle to defend flamenco led him to develop different projects throughout his life, thus becoming an essential figure in the history, modernization, and preservation of flamenco as a Heritage of Humanity.
We are talking about the 70s, for example, when Manuel founded the Institución Social para la Tercera Edad de los Artistas Flamencos (ITEAF). An organization created to support the retirement of the great masters of flamenco, who had never been able to contribute to Social Security. He was also the founder and director of the magazine “Sevilla Flamenca” that documented many forgotten flamenco figures such as Piriñaca. And it was precisely in 1979, when he decided to take a step forward and appear together with Francisco Cabrera and other peñistas before the Seville City Council to propose the creation of what we know today as the Bienal de Flamenco. Occurring biannually, the Bienal is perhaps the most important flamenco event in the entire world. Not only is Manuel one of the founders of the Bienal, he also created the Giradillo awards, served as the Director for several editions, and remained an essential collaborator until his passing in 2020.
I explain all of this to also talk about the importance of flamenco peñas. As we now know, there are many commercial venues in Seville for flamenco, but the peñas are something else. It goes without saying that in Sevilla almost everyone has a flamenco band somewhere in the family, and those peñas are the place to go! Often it’s free or you pay a fraction of what you would pay at the commercial places. Foreigners rarely come, and that is quite a pity, but I advise everyone to visit these places. In every village you can find a flamenco peña, where you can see great performances and the fin de fiesta is highly recommended. Here at the peñas, you can taste the original atmosphere. The whole place is always full of famous artists, who may or may not have performed there. The food is simple, definitely tapas and more. If you want to go deep into flamenco culture, you should visit a peña. Maybe I’ll see you there one day because I visit one or two peñas every week.
A hearty flamenco greeting from Freddy Flamenco Lover!
Answer: La Paquera de Jerez!
By Tony Bryant for Andalucía.com
Francisca Méndez Garrido was born in Calle Cerro Fuerte, Jerez, in 1934, and spent the last half of the twentieth century at the center of flamenco. She became a kind of matriarch of the flamenco of Jerez de la Frontera and spent many years performing in the tablaos of Madrid and Seville. She was born in the neighborhood of San Miguel in Jerez, but it was in Madrid were she was to make her name, rubbing shoulders with the top artistes of the time.
In 1971, she was awarded the Niña de los Peines trophy at the Cordoba Nacional Concurso de Cante Flamenco. She is one of the most majestic singers to come out of Jerez de la Frontera in the last century, and she gained the title of Queen of the buleriás. She was like a volcano waiting to erupt. Her soleares and bulerias were performed with fire and deep emotion.
As a child she would perform the festero (festive) styles of Cádiz in the streets of Jerez, which she learned growing up in the gitano (Roma) community and from artists like her cousin Diego Rubichi. This was an area that has been a training ground for the many top singers, who have evolved from this majestic old town. Although at this time La Paquera was just a teenager, she possessed rhythms and echoes that were centuries old.
In 1957 La Paquera recorded Maldigo tus ojos verdes and by this time she was performing in numerous flamenco companies as well as appearing in several films. In her long career, she has worked with many guitarists of Jerez, including the brothers Manuel and Juan Morao, but her favorite accompanist was Parrillita de Jerez. She stormed through the festival circuit of the sixties and seventies like a whirlwind, her hard emotional husky voice full of gravel and passion. She also undertook numerous tours with shows like España por Bulerias, Arte Español, Carrusel de Canciones, and Ronda de Canciones. La Paquera died a flamenco legend at the age of seventy, in Jerez de la Frontera in 2004 and continues to be remembered as one of the giants of flamenco cante.
Recommended Viewing: Flamenco de Carlos Saura
Recommended Listening: This is La Paquera de Jerez (Spotify).