Comrade Picasso

This is an extremely interesting article from the New Statesman by Jonathan Vernon:

Picasso's 'Guernica' on view at the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid. Photo: Getty
Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ on view at the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid. Photo: Getty

One would expect a game of word association on a busy street to match many a ‘Picasso’ with ‘Guernica’. Commissioned for the Spanish Republican Pavilion at the 1937 Paris World’s Fair, Guernica took as its subject the aerial bombardment of the eponymous Basque town. Heinkel bombers flying for General Franco had razed it to the ground across three days earlier that year. The visual language Picasso wrought from that event gave form to human suffering with unparalleled potency.

But it also gave birth to a reputation. It is with Guernica that we are introduced to the defiant pacifist, the Picasso that would stand firm during the Occupation of Paris, and join the French Communist Party (PCF) upon its Liberation. The story goes something like this: exiled from Spain, and fully aware of the threat its Falangist occupiers posed to civilisation, Picasso joined ‘le famille communiste’ and became its most distinguished voice in the struggle against fascist and capitalist tyranny alike.

The breast, at this point, is prompted to swell uncontrollably. After all, this tale boasts every trope of our most loved and recyclable yarns: the rustic warrior exiled from his homeland, the surging rebellion yearning a voice, and the depraved autocrat condemning it to silence. It telescopes Homer and Hemingway in equal measure. It is almost enough to make us forget that we are talking about a painter.

And yet the demands of history have a way of reasserting themselves. Such is the nature of research conducted by Genoveva Tusell Garcia, published earlier this year in The Burlington Magazine. Citing correspondence within the Franco government, Garcia makes an extraordinary claim. Although the regime’s prevailing attitude toward Picasso was one of hostility, certain of its members came to see an advantage in taming his reputation and sharing in his achievements. In 1957, they approached the painter to discuss the possibility of his work returning to Spanish collections, and even a retrospective.

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Barcelona diary: Celebrating radical history

The Gonzo Kid:

Recently I was lucky enough to take part in a meeting of radical historians in Barcelona. The event was billed as “a meeting of colleagues and comrades, all active in interpreting and bringing out the radical history of the place where they live”.

As well as sharing experiences and having a good time, the gathering was aimed at establishing “a more or less formal network/platform for the future. An international network of independent tour guides, street storytellers and historical activists”.

Radical historians and tour guides from Dublin, Barcelona, Olso, Berlin and London were present, as well as members of the RaspouTeam who make innovative use of street art, QR codes and radio to celebrate the revolutionary history of Paris. For my own part, I delivered a presentation on Liverpool’s history from an anarcho-syndicalist viewpoint, including some general history of the Solidarity Federation (which goes back to the founding of the Syndicalist Workers’ Federation in 1950), of which I am a member. Also participating and helping to facilitate the meeting was a CNT member who has set up a bar off La Rambla called La Llibertària, which is run as a workers co-operative. The walls of the bar are covered in posters, photographs and original newspapers from the Spanish revolution and it is well worth a visit for anyone spending time in the city.

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Music Mondays: Cante Flamenco

For the Sake of the Song, a fantastic music blog, occassionally posts briliant Spanish music, and I have linked there before in this series, I think. Here’s the lastest:

[…] a quartet of fantastic flamenco pieces from thirties Spain. Featuring Pepe Pinto, Antonio Mairena, Manolita from Jerez, and last but not least the legendary Tomás Pavon. ¡Palmas y agua!
Pepe Pinto – Hermanita, Sientate A Mi Vera Cuando Querra La Virgen Del Mayor Dolor
Antonio Mairena – Soleá De Alcalá
Manolita De Jerez – Bulerias
Tomás Pavon – Cantes De Triana

This release is on Arhoolie, mainly a bluegrass label, although it also carries loads of stuf by the great Flaco Jimenez. Some of the music is incerdibly rare. These are almost all Gyspy singers, who hunkered down in the years of the Spanish Civil War and Franco dictatorship, playing in late night dives in the urban ghettos of Andalusia. They sang a deep, rough, almost orgasmic cante flamenco, at a time when the fashion (and, after Franco’s victory, state approval) was for a more Castillian, operatic, smooth, flamboyant style. (more…)

Music Mondays: Flamenco Candido

Kellie of Airforce Amazons has a post about his first and last vinyl LPs at Bob’s Beats. This is an extract from that:

The other early LPs I remember my brother and I listening to were two Burl Ives LPs, and a loud flamenco record: Flamenco Candido, by The Curro Amaya Dancers with Domingo Albarado, vocal, and Juan Jiminez, guitar. The record was first published in 1959, but ours was a later reissue on the Pye Golden Guinea label.

Flamenco Candido back of sleeve

Here is another Amaya, Carmen Amaya performing Buleria from a 1963 film, Los Tarantos. I think Curro Amaya was Carmen Amaya’s nephew, and Buleria is also included on his LP. More about the Amaya family on Omayra Amaya’s website.

So, here is the guitarist, Juan Jimenez, with the great dancer Eduardo Serrano Iglesias, El Güito, again performing a bulerías.

And here is a granaína taken from a Curro Amaya record:

Music Mondays: El Grito

Contentious Centrist writes:

In the art of poetry, silence is usually a fraction of a void, an emptiness, a pause, between words that sound and resound. And for some poets, the silence can only be contrasted by a great scream of emotion or anguish or joy.

Lorca was such a poet.

None understand better the meaning of the cry (“el grito”) — the scream, the howl, that is punctuated by short, stylized silences — than the Spaniards, with their Flamenco, their duende, and the immensity of feeling they funnel through their poetry and music.

“Not unlike the guitar, in fact, the voice of the cantator is considered an instrument of the cry, the cry that dares to break the silence, just as the hands are an instrument to break the stillness, and the feet. “

The Cry

The ellipse of a cry
echoes from mountain
to mountain.

From the olive trees
a black rainbow
veils the blue night.

Ay!

Like the bow of a viola
the cry vibrates long strings
of wind.

(Translated by Ralph Angel)

There are two different choral settings of El Grito, one by Argentinian composer Maria de los Angeles cuca Esteves (here) and one by Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara (below). To be honest, I don’t much like either one. Although they do use silence and are powerfully unsettling, they lack duende. Would you agree?

Music Mondays: Tiene Corazón

I just read this post at one of my favourite blogs, For the Sake of the Song:

Back with the only album I managed to score during a wonderful but busy trip to my beautiful Catalunya: Canastera. One of the few Camarón classics I didn’t own yet, it’s another collaboration with the mighty Paco De Lucía on guitar. Here’s two choice cuts, sung straight from the heart as always.
El Camarón De La Isla – No Dudes De La Nobleza
El Camarón De La Isla – Las Campanas También Lloran

Here is a YouTube video of “No Dudes De La Nobleza”. The song is a fandango, I think written by Antonio de la Calzá, from Seville, and it celebrates Gitano (Gypsy) identity, which was quite subversive in 1972, the dusk of the Franco dictatorship, when Camarón and De Lucía made this record, the fourth in their string of more or less annual collaborations in this period.

Published in: on June 4, 2012 at 8:41 am  Leave a Comment  
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Music Mondays: Grândola, Vila Morena

On every corner, a friend
In every face, equality
Grândola, swarthy town
Land of brotherhood

Zeca Afonso: Grândola, Vila Morena

Today’s song is from History is Made at Night. Here’s a short extract from a great post.

n April 1974, left leaning military officers overthrew the Portuguese dictatorship and ended its colonial wars in Africa. For the next two years Portugal was in turmoil, with workers taking over workplaces and many hoping to push the revolution further. The radio stations were one of the key sites of struggle, in particular Rádio Renascença.

The Revolution Started with a Song by John Hoyland (Street Life, November 1 1975): 

‘3 am, April 25 1974. By prior arrangement with the rebel Armed Forces Movement (AFM), a DJ on Lisbon’s Radio Renascenca plays ‘Grandola, Vila Morena’, a popular song of the day whose possible subversive meaning had escaped the censor’s ears. The song is a signal for a military uprising that, with scarcely any opposition, overthrows the Caetano Government, and brings to an end 50 years of fascism in Portugal. The next day, the people pour into the streets, and give the soldiers red carnations. The soldiers stick the flowers in their guns…’

Previous: The music of the carnation revolution, The Carnation revolution, Anarchist fado.

Music Mondays: Montserrat Figueras

Montserrat Figueras, the great Catalan soprano, died in Cerdanyola del Vallès on 23 November, after a long struggle with cancer. Here are two wonderful songs, via Entdinglichung. The first is Hespèrion XX, her ensemble, singing a gorgeous Sephardic Jewish song.

The second, recorded in 1988, is “El Cant de la Sibil·la“, the song of the Sybil, “a liturgical drama and a Gregorian chant, the lyrics of which compose a prophecy describing the Apocalypse, which has been performed at some churches of Mallorca (Balearic Islands, Spain) and L’Alguer or Alghero (Sardinia, Italy) in Catalan language on Christmas Eve nearly uninterrruptedly since medieval times… The Song of the Sibyl was almost totally abandoned throughout Europe after the Council of Trent (held in 25 sessions from 1545 to 1563) declared its performance was forbidden. Nevertheless, it was restored on Mallorca as soon as in 1575.” Interestingly, the great leftist musicologist Alan Lomax recorded a fragment of a version during his Balearic fieldtrip of 1952, in the Franco years. Franco of course suppressed Catalan language, and Figueras and her husband Jordi Savall lived in exile in Switzerland until after Spain democratisation in the 1980s. The decision of Hesperion XX, formed in 1974, to record Catalan songs (and to recover the repressed memory of Jewish Iberia) was thus an act of defiance against the Francoist regime.

These songs are part of an on-going series on Catalan music. Previously, I have featured Jordi Barre, Pau Casals, Isaac Albinez, Enrique Granados, and Enrique Morente.

Music Mondays: Anarchist fado

Via Sam Geall’s Twitter, here is some rare anarchist fado.

According to the info on YouTube, this is a clip from the documentary Mariza and the Story of Fado.

Here are the lyrics: (more…)

Published in: on November 28, 2011 at 2:18 pm  Comments (1)  
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Monday music: Jordi Barre

Rcan featuring Jordi Barre: Décloisonnement intergénérationnel

It’s a long while since I did a Monday music post. This one follows on from my earlier series on Catalan music, but also kicks off a new (non-musical) series I’m going to start soon about the Catalan lands that are now part of France. Barre died earlier this year. He is very little known in the English-speaking world and consequently has no English wikipedia page. Below is my loose translation of the French page.

Jordi Barre (born Georges Bar on 7 April 1920 in Argeles-sur-Mer and died on 16 February 2011 in Ponteilla) was a Catalan-speaking singer-songwriter. Taking to the stage very young, he sang in the village dances of the plain of Roussillon and then turned sailor, typographer, foreman. In the mid-1960s he met the poet Albert Esteve, who encouraged him to devote himself exclusively to the song.

In 1974 he moved to Barcelona where he met the great figures of Nova Cançó, moving close to the autonomous musical community of the end of the Franco era. Still standing away from political movements, Jordi Barre advocated through song for a recognition of culture and especially of the Catalan language and quickly became an institution for the people of Northern Catalonia.

His voice was gravelly and profound, its deep timbre through “which run cool water streams, the rocky hills, the blue of the sea and the madness of the north wind” (Jean-Michel Collet); his impressive concerts are great moments of emotion and intensity on a par with a Paco Ibanez or a Silvio Rodriguez.

Forcing people to fall in love with the colour of life

Principia Dialectica: Juan Miro: 

Still Life with Old Shoe by Juan Miro, 1937

The big show of Spanish Surrealist Juan Miro’s life’s work at London’s Tate Modern art gallery is such an exciting exhibition anyone visiting might need a stiff glass of fizzy wine in the ninth floor bar before they descend to soak up the energy on display. The exhibition is hugely popular – which leaves you with a sense of both frustration and exhileration as you walk around – too many people! But, at the same time – so many people! How exciting it is to be alive at a time when so many people are receptive to the ideas that Juan and his fellow Surrealists were engaged in helping to create and spread in the 1920s and 1930s. [READ THE REST]

Also from Principia Dialectica: A report on Marxism 2011; Doug Henwood on the irrelevance of Leninism.

The smallest mass party in the world: An interview with Ian Birchall on Tony Cliff. (And a footnote from Andrew Coates, on an appalling article on Puerto Rico.)

Music: from Super Sonido:

It’s kind of a sad thing that the Gypsy Kings had to put crossover gypsy rock on the global map. It’s not that their music is all that bad – but every time I go to a mediocre Italian restaurant, much to my chagrin, I’m subjected to their music playing in the background. I’ve even heard Bandolero blaring out of a lime green convertible Mustang once. Oh lord.

Before all that, there was a true king of this genre: Peret – the Spanish Romaní singer, guitarist and composer, who was pretty much the embassador of the Catalan Rumbasound. If you are interested in this music please do check out the articles Soul-Sides has about Peret and Los Amaya (O-dub always has the finger on the pulse). What I wanted to add was that I found this in the KRMX lot of 45′s I have. So even though Peretis Spanish, his music was still heard in Latin America, although I am not quite sure what impact it had, if any. Either way, two really solid tunes from El Rey de La Rumba Catalana. Enjoy!

1. Peret: A Mi Las Mujers, Ni Fu Ni Fa

2. Peret: Lo Mato

Published in: on July 7, 2011 at 2:01 pm  Comments (1)  
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Music Monday 1: Carnation revolution

It is today the anniversary of the Portuguese carnation revolution.

Maurice Brinton:

Like all radical endeavours in history the upsurge was a joyful affair, at least to start with. An immensely popular song, after April 25th, was entitled Gaibota (the seagull). Poster wit, although perhaps never achieving the insights of May 1968 in France, nevertheless developed into a telling instrument of social critique. The anarchists ensured that it was used as often against the ‘left’ as against more obvious targets. With the joy went a very Portuguese toughness.

The Fado persisted,not as an embodiement of despair and resignation (as claimed by the superficial sociologists ) but as a down-to-earth and uncompromising statement of the life of the poor. I recall a letter Phil once wrote me. He was entering the Alentejo : “The tiny hills begin to roll across the flat countryside. Crouched eucalyptus trees hide in the barren dales. Here is a land of tradition, of rich struggles against elements and of wine, olives and music, of landowners alike, a land of everyday survival, difficult to penetrate except by those who care for it. It is as if the stunted growth of the trees said all that needed to be said about hardship, abandonment, work – about the constant fight against a poor and unyielding soil on which lived giant women and monstrous men. But however ungrateful the land, the spirit was never crippled…”.

Although not songs of revolt the fados testify to this indestructibility of the oppressed, to this deep unity of man and nature. Romany roots endow some songs with a fierce pride, with a scorn for what ‘the bourgeois’ will think or say, enabling them boldly to deal with such themes as women’s right to sexual pleasure. No sentimentality, no soothing syrup. Love may mean pain, but is worth it. No neurotic trendiness. Just things as they are.Is not this the raw material of which revolution will be made?

Here is A gaviota, also known as Somos livres, We are free.

Published in: on April 25, 2011 at 7:27 am  Comments (3)  
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Music Mondays: Peret

Peret y Muchachito: Chavi

From Soul Sides:

PERET: THE KING OF RUMBA CATALAN

Peret-Rey_De_La_Rumba-Frontal copy.jpg
Peret: Chaví
Si Fulano
From S/T (Pronto, 1972)
. Also on Achilifunk Vo1. 1

In my last post on rumba catalan, I mentioned this excellent comp, Achilifunk which is now in its second volume. I was reminded of this via an email, touting a new set of remixes of rumba catalan tracks by Txarly Brown. Well worth a listen!

It was also a reminder to get back to writing about a pair of songs I discovered from the first volume by one of the kings of rumba catalan, guitarist and singer Pere Pubill Calaf, better known as Peret. These two tracks do an exemplary job of capturing the various music heritages flowing through the style; “Si Fulano,” especially has a grand, lively feel to it. Meanwhile, “Chavi” has a lovely, smoky funk groove that grabs the ear from jump. Both songs can also be found on what looks like an American-manufactured comp of Peret tracks from the late ’60s through early ’70s.

This is the fifth in my series on Catalan music, the fourth being on Pau Casals.

Published in: on April 11, 2011 at 4:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Music Mondays: Pablo Casals

So it was that in the spring of 1939 I came to Prades. I could not have imagined at the time that I would spend the next seventeen years of my life in this little town in the Pyrenees. And in spite of the sorrow in me, I found respite in my surroundings. With its winding cobbled strees and whitewashed houses with red tiled roofs – and the acacia trees that were then in bloom – Prades might have been one of the Catalan villages I had known since childhood. The countryside seemed no less familiar to me. The lovely patterns of orchards an vineyards, the wild and craggy mountains with ancient Roman fortresses and monasteries clinging to their sides – these too were a replica of parts of my homeland. Indeed, centuries before, this very region had been part of the nation of Catalonia – from Joys and Sorrows by Pablo Casals, via On An Overgrown Path

Granados: Spanish Dance (played by Pablo Casals, c.1916-20)
For Granados, a Catalan composer of the late 19th century, see here.

Max Bruch: Kol Nidrei (played by Pablo Casals, 1923)

Pablo Casals: El Cant dels Ocell
This version of his classic Catalan melody was recorded in Puerto Rico in 1956.

Pablo Casals: El Cant dels Ocell
This version is from 1958’s Windjammer.

Victoria de los Ángeles: El Cant dels Ocell
A singer from Barcelona, who died in 2005.

(more…)

Music Mondays: Isaac Albéniz

Isaac Albeniz: Iberia No 6 “Triana”

Albeniz was a Catalan composer and this Triana is from his late years, written in exile in Paris. A Triana is actually an Andalucian flamenco songform, from the mainly Gitano (Gypsy/Roma) Triana neighbourhood of Seville.

This version is played in 1931 by Harvey Sachs Rubinstein, “the Latino from Lodz”.


Albeniz’s grave in Montjuic, Barcelona.

It’s the third in my series on Catalan music, the previous being Granados. See also this post on Enrique Morente.

Imagery

This post is indebted to my friend Kellie Strom, whose art you can view here.

I have been digging around the Galeria d’Imatges site, a Catalan blog about graphic design, and found all sorts of wonders. I can’t recommend it highly enough. I hope they don’t mind me publicising them by pasting some of their images here. Please click on the images to go to the original posts.

Socors Roig. Ajut de reraguarda. POUM. Barcelona, 1936. Litografia a 3 tintes (Groc, negre i verd). Il·lustració Casals.

***

***

[Panait] Istrati shared the leftist ideals of [Romain] Rolland, and, as much as his mentor, placed his hopes in the Bolshevik vision. In 1927 he visited the Soviet Union on the anniversary of the October Revolution. He was joined in Moscow by his future close friend, Nikos Kazantzakis. In 1928-29, after a tumultuous stay in Greece (were he was engaged in fights with the police and invited to leave the country), he went again to the Soviet Union. Through extended visits in more remote places, Istrati learned the full truth of Joseph Stalin’s communist dictatorship, out of which experience he wrote his famous book, The Confession of a Loser, the first in the succession of disenchantments expressed by intellectuals such as Arthur Koestler, André Gide and George Orwell. Istrati came back to Romania ill and demoralized, was treated for tuberculosis in Nice, then returned to Bucharest. In fact, the political opinions Istrati expressed after his split with Bolshevism are rather ambiguous. He was still closely watched by the Romanian secret police (Siguranţa Statului), and he had written an article (dated April 8, 1933) in the French magazine Les Nouvelles Littéraires, aptly titled L’homme qui n’adhère à rien (The man who will adhere to nothing).”

The cover above is of The Thistles of the Bărăgan, whose 1957 Romanian cover can be seen here.

***

HERNÁNDEZ, JESÚS. Yo fuí un ministro de Stalin. Mèxic, Editorial América, 1953. Il·lustració de Ramón Pontones (23 x 17 cm.)

Jesus Hernández was born in Spain in 1906. He held left-wing political views and in his youth he joined the Communist Party (PCE). Hernández was later to admit that he took part in a failed assassination attempt on the life [of] Indalecio Prieto, one of the leaders of the Socialist Party (PSOE).

On the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War Hernández was editor of the [C]ommunist newspaper, Mundo Obrero. In September 1936, President Manuel Azaña appointed the left-wing socialist, Francisco Largo Caballero as prime minister. Largo Caballero brought into his government two [C]ommunists [including] Hernández (Education).

Hernández, a strong opponent of the anarchists, spent the next few months trying to persuade Largo Caballero to bring the Anarchist Brigades under the control of the Nationalist Army. During the May Riots in Barcelona Hernández argued that Worker’s Party (POUM) should be outlawed. When Largo Caballero refused, he helped to force the prime minister to resign.

[…] In 1939 Hernández fled to the Soviet Union and became an executive member of Comintern. He soon became disillusioned with the rule of Joseph Stalin and went to live in Mexico.

In his memoirs published in 1953, Hernández admitted that he was following orders from Stalin to oust Francisco Largo Caballero and to get him replaced by Juan Negrin. He also claimed that Stalin did not really care about the Republicans winning the Spanish Civil War and was more concerned with blocking German influence in the country. Jesus Hernández died in 1966.”

***
A related project is Piscolabis librorum. Here is a cover image there of a book on the Stalinist purges in Civil War Barcelona.
And this is from a post about anti-fascist cards after the May Days.
[…] Entre una edició i una altra, però, hi ha vàries pàgines que canvien totalment de contingut i no només de matisos. Això està relacionat amb els fets de maig del 1937. Les pagines més significatives són, doncs, les que corresponen a Largo Caballero (PSOE), president de Govern que dimití arran d’aquests fets i que en la segona edició és substituït per Pablo Iglesias, fundador del PSOE i la UGT però, alhora, l’introductor del marxisme a Espanya. D’aquesta manera, el líder socialista del moment és substituït per un difunt cosa que marca un cert allunyament d’un tarannà partidista tan marcat. El mateix passa amb el fotomuntatge de Los sindicatos deben apoyar al gobierno en el qual els emblemes de la UGT i la CNT tenien un gran preponderància en la primera edició. Aquest fotomuntatge fou substituït -hàbilment i sense cap sigla partidista- per un altre de referit a un difunt il·lustre: Durruti (Durruti murió luchando por la libertad), líder anarquista però de qui la propaganda republicana es va apropiar i el va convertir en una espècie de Ché Guevara avant-la-lettre, de manera que tothom que era d’esquerres podia identificar-s’hi. El dors d’aquests fotomuntatges continuen tenint les mateixes consignes i sil·labari en la segona edició que en la primera, la qual cosa demostra aquesta substitució intencionada d’algunes pàgines concretes.[…]
If you lke this post, you’ll like El Gabinet NegreBibliofilia novohispana and 50 Watts.

Music Mondays: Granados’ Goyescas

Enrique Granados: Goyescas – 4. Quejas, ó la maja y el ruiseñor

Wikipedia:

Goyescas, subtitled Los majos enamorados (The Gallants in Love), is a piano suite written in 1911 by Spanish composer Enrique Granados. This piano suite is usually considered Granados’s crowning creation and was inspired by the paintings of Francisco Goya, although the piano pieces have not been authoritatively associated with any particular paintings.

[…]The fourth piece in the series (Quejas, ó la maja y el ruiseñorThe Maiden and the Nightingale) is the best known piece from the suite. It resembles a nocturne, but is filled with intricate figuration, inner voices and, near the end, glittering bird-like trills and quicksilver arpeggios. Mexican songwriter Consuelo Velázquez based her 1940 song Bésame Mucho on this melody.

(more…)

Music Mondays: Nitin Sawhney and Ojos de Brujo

Nitin Sawhney and Ojos de Brujo: Noches en vela

Published in: on March 7, 2011 at 7:29 am  Comments (1)  
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Music Mondays: Enrique Morente

In Orihuela, his town and mine, Ramon Sije, whom I loved so much, has been taken from me like a flash of lightening.

I want to be the crying gardener of the earth
you occupy and nourish,
comrade of my soul, all too soon.

Feeding the rains, the snail-shells
and organs, my grief without purpose
gives your heart to feed

to the desolate poppies.

The great Enrique Morente is dead. He was one of the giants of Spanish flamenco, born in the slums of the Albacin, Granada’s old gitano quarter in the shadow the Alhambra. His second album, Homenaje flamenco a Miguel Hernández, was inspired by the working class Valencian anti-fascist poet Miguel Hernández, who died of consumption in Franco’s prisons while in his early thirties. Just making this record, was an act of defiance against the aging dictator and an auger of the re-birth of democracy later in the decade.

Morente was deeply rooted in the ancient vernacular culture of flamenco, the underground soul music which had been suppressed under the dictatorship  in favour of a plastic tourist kitsch version, and, with Cameron de la Isla and others, brought this rebel music out of the shadows in the dying years of the fascist regime. Later, however, he earned the disapproval of the increasingly conservative flamenco purists by his increasingly innovative work, such as collaborations with Maghrebi artists and thrash punk bands.

Here is one of his Miguel Hernández songs, “Elegía a Ramón Sijé”. Ramón Sijé was a Catholic poet and very close friend of Hernández, who died very young. The opening words in English are at the start of this post; the whole text can be found here.

Here is Morente in 1981, singing a granaína, one of the song forms of his Albacin ghetto youth.

Here he is with Lagartija Nick performing Lorca’s “Ciudad sin sueño” from the 1995 Lorca/Leonard Cohen tribute Omega.

The pairing of Garcia Lorca and Cohen is sort of obvious, given Leonard Cohen’s debt to the poet, but the musical setting is highly original. Here is “First We Take Manhattan”:

Finally, here is a more schmaltzy but still lovely version of the elegy to Ramón Sijé, by JM Serrat. Serrat is a Catalan singer and songwriter of Morente’s generation. His defiance of Franco came in 1968 when he was selected to represent Spain in the Eurovision song contest, but insisted on singing in Spanish and was replaced and his records banned.

In 1969, Serrat released Com ho fa el vent, a tribute to Antonio Machado, the Republican poet who died in 1938 fleeing Franco’s Spain. (His death is one of the stories told in Soldiers of Salamis by Javier Cercas, which I may write about some time.) Serrat was soon exiled from Spain, but because he chose to sing in Spanish, he was condemned by the Catalan nationalists. “I sing better in the language they forbid me”, he said.

José Antonio Labordeta (1935 – 2010)

Another fine life lost.

Published in: on September 19, 2010 at 1:16 pm  Comments (2)  
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