An exciting and hard fought final at the Cante de las Minas in La Unión concluded at 2.24am on Sunday morning, with 36 year old Ricardo Fernández del Moral from Daimiel, Ciudad Real, claiming the treasured Miner's Lamp at the 52nd edition of the Festival.
Although the main prize of the Lámpara Minera is for the performance of the Minera, he also won the categories for the Soleá, toná, malagueña and taranta, a decision which proved highly popular with the audience, although less so with the other contestants who had hoped for greater success.
Ricardo said his work as an artist had only just begun, as , "now I have to demonstrate that the jury hasn´t been mistaken in their decision tonight."
This is the first time an artist has won the Miner's Lamp without the necessity for a guitarist as accompaniment, but Ricardo is also an accomplished guitarist himself and performed alone in both the semifinals and finals.
Originally his first studies had been in guitar, and he began to sing only once he had achieved a notable level in guitar, a feat which requires a high level of mastery, being extremely difficult to be a master of both disciplines and perform both confidently at this high level.
The other vocal prizes went to Guillermo Cano García who won the prize for Cartaganeras, María Cristina Soler, a 23 year old who won the prize for "other songs from Málaga, Granada, Córdoba and Huelva with a granainas and 17 year old Beatriz Romero, already a firm favourite with the audience in her second year of finals, who won the category of bulerías, cantiñas, tangos , tientos, peteneras, farrucos, fandangos and other songs.
The dance prize, the Trofeo Desplante, was won by Madrilenean dancer, 26 year old, Jesús Carmona Moreno, a popular choice with the crowd, following 2 nights of impressive performances which were very well received by attendees in the Catedral del Cante, although the jury decided not to award a second prize in this category.
The prize for Guitar prize was also left unawarded, the Jury choosing to award only the second prize to the one finalist in the guitar category, 21 year old Alberto López Martínez, from Granada, the second year in a row that he has achieved second prize in this category, although he was naturally disappointed not to have gained the trophy for guitar.
However, the happiest winner by far was a delighted Óscar Manuel Gómez Calatayud ‘Óscar de Manuel’, the flautist who won first prize in the instrumental category after achieving second place for two consecutive years. His performance this year was imaginative and melodic, very well received by the audience who were enthusiastic about the decision, with pianist Ildefonso Aroca Moreno, ‘Alfonso Aroca, taking second prize.
This year all the judicial decisions seem to have been in agreement with the popular choices of the audience and the prizegiving was enthusiastically received by a packed Catedral del cante, closing what has been a very melodic and enjoyable 52nd Festival Internacional del Cante de las Minas, which has offered a greatly expanded cultural programme and a superb selection of galas, in spite of the economic difficulties Spain is currently enduring.
The finals were attended by the Secretary of State for tourism, Isabel Borrego, who made the closing speech, along with the Mayor of La Unión, Francisco Bernabé, who is also the President of the Executive commission for the Cante de las Minas Foundation.
Next year the 53rd edition will be dedicated to Miguel Poveda, who himself won the lamp here 20 years ago.
Reports about the 52nd Cante de las Minas Festival, together with photographs, can be found in the La Unión section, accessed at the bottom of every page via the map box, under the heading of Cante de las Minas.
Images available for publication or artist use by request.
Born in Daimiel, Ciudad real, he began his guitar studies at the age of 8 years old, influenced by his father, also a singer and great flamenco enthusiast.
As his studies progressed, he received tuition from prestigious masters Oscar Herrero and Manolo Martín. At 14 years old, he began to play in the peña Juan Antonio Córdoba, in Almagro, where he became the official guitarist after a short while.
He is also official guitarist in the Peña La Sonanta in Ciudad realand has participated in festivals in Spain, Franceand Portugal, accompanying important figures in the Flamenco world, including Chano Lobato and Marcelo Sousa, "Niño del Gastor."
As a cantaor ( singer) he has participated in performances alongside José Menese, José "de la Tomasa" and Raúl Montesinos. In 2011 he began to compete in competitions, self accompanying on guitar, wining first prize in the competition, "Cuando llega el duende." He also won third prize in the 1st competition, "Puerta de Siberia in the Casas de Don Pedro ( Ciudad real.)
He has also performed in the Café de Chinitas in Madris on several occasions between October of 2011 and January of 2012.
On 11th August 2012, at 2.24am, he was awarded the Miner's Lamp for his rendition of the Minera in the 52nd edition of the Cante de las Minas in La Unión, aged 36.
He also won the categories for the Soleá, Toná, Malagueña and Taranta, a decision which proved highly popular with the audience, although less so with the other contestants who had hoped for greater success.
Jesús Carmona Moreno
Winner Trofeo Desplante, Dance trophy, August 2012
Jesús Carmona Moreno was born in Barcelona in 1985 and began training as a dancer aged 7, in "La Macarena y el Niño de Morón."
In 2004 he was licensed in Flamenco dance and Danza Española by the Barcelona Instituto del Teatro y Danza, and was awarded the prize of best dancer in the XX Certamen de Danza Española y Flamenco of Madrid in 2011.
He also won the third prize for choreography in the 2001 Nou Barris competition..
His professional debut was in the Zorilla Theatre with the Orquesta de Tatro Liceu de Barcelona aged 16.
From this moment on he began his professional career participating in various dance compnaies including the Nuevo Ballet español, Carmen Torres, "El Guito", Esther Carrasco, Antonio Canales, Rafael Amargo, "La Truco" and Mónica Fernández.
In 2006 he presented his spectacular, "El Silencio de la Luna" the silence of the moon, and in that same year became part of the Ballet Nacional de España, as part of the dance chorus, and one year later became the principal dancer of the company.
In 2010 he participated in the tour as an invited artist in the Asian tour of Rojas y Rodriguez and with the Ballet Nacional de España in " Corazón de Piedra Verde, " ( heart of Green stone.)
On August 11th 2012 he gained the Trofeo Desplante at the Cante de las Minas in La Unión.
Winner of the 2012 Flamenco instrumentalist category
Oscar Manuel Gómez Calatayud began his studies in the Conservatorio de Torrenete, Valencia, aged 6, and has studied with a long list of masters and composers to attain his current level of virtuosity. He is fully qualified as a sound and image technician, as well as having completed many courses: Master Class de Flamenco by flautist and composer Joaquín Cortés, with Juan Parrilla, Domingo Patricio and Jorge Patricio.
As an artist, he has shared the stage with Leo Molina in "My inspiration, "; in the Bienal de Valencia, along with the Compañia de Oscar Valero, with Pitingo, María Pages, Marta Sol, Vicente Amigo in the Festival de Flamenco de Valencia, with Potito, Javier Zamora, Celia Mur, and Paquete, as well as Estrella Morente and Chano Dominguez.
He has also recorded with a wide range of artists including Javier Zamora, in "Aires del Mediterráneo, " with Lucas Jiménez in the work, "Flamenco Jazz" and with Emilio Villar.
However, for Oscar, his most important work to date, is "Lágrimas de Sal, " an innovative and experimental spectacular written by himself. In this piece, flamenco fuses with classical music, a work dedicated to the union of diverse cultures, in which 10 artists interact, fusing classical music and flamenco.
The piece is adaptable for Symphonic Orchestra, or for chamber Orchestra and hopefully his success in gaining the title of instrumentalist 2012 at the Cante de las Minas in La Unión , will help him to bring his work to a wider audience.
2012 winner of , cantiñas, tangos, tientos, peteneras, farrucas, fandangos and other songs, with her interpretation of Alegrías
Beatriz Romero González
Performing : Malagueña, Granaina, Alegrías
Beatriz Romero González was born in Palos de la Frontera in 1996.
She began her training in the Fundación Ampara Corres, where she was part of the group, Niños de Huelva until 2008.
She has been invited to participate many times in television programmes in the "La tarde Musical, " and "Menuda Noche."
In 2005 she participated in the competition "Veo veo" and began to travel as a solo artist, travelling around various Andalucian towns and several regional capitals, including Badajoz, Barcelona, Murcia and Madrid.
In October 2009 she participated in a TV competition on Telecinco, "Tu si que Vales, " reaching the finals.
In 2010 she took part in the programmes, "El sol, la sal y el son, " collaborating alongside artists such as Dorantes in the interpretation of Orobroy, Lebriano, and Mi Primer Olé, where she was part of a line-up including José Merce, Esperanza Fernández, Arcángel, Moraito Chico, El Lebrijano, Antonio Canales and Farruquito.
Amongst the awards and prizes she has won to date are:1st Prize, "Peña Flamenca Vicente Amigo 2009 First prize in the Concurso Amparo Correa in San Silvestre de Guzmámn in 2009 Premio al mejor Fandango Valiente Peña Flamenca de la Ordern.
She also won the prize in the competition organised by the Andalucian institute of youth for the development of flamenco, "Desencaja" in Huelva in 2011 and won the prize for "Other songs from Huelva, Málaga and Córdoba " at the Cante de las Minas of La Unión in 2011 and in the class of Tarantas y Granainas y Media.
In 2012 she won the first in the cante de las Minas , La Unión, in the category for ‘bulerías, cantiñas, tangos, tientos, peteneras, farrucas, fandangos and other songs, with her interpretation of Alegrias.
Cante: Minera, Cartagenera, Granaina, Guajira Born 28th June 1989 in Huelva, she has studied in the Fundación Amparo Correa de Huelva (2003-2005), undertaken a summer course with the Fundación Cristina Heeren de Sevilla and also two annual courses in the same school between 2008-10 and 2011-12.
She has participated in numerous flamenco festivals, including the XXXI Festival Flamenco Juan talega, XXXIX Festival Flamenco de Ceuta, II Festival Flamenco de Mazagón in Huelva and others.
She has also collaborated in the recording, "nuevos valores del fandango de Huelva, " volumes 5 and 6, and in spectaculars and recitals in peñas flamencas across Spain.
She has achieved a good level of success in a number of flamenco competitions including: First prize in the ! Certamen Regional de Fandangos de Huelva, Villa de Paterna del Campo and first prize in the youth category of the X Certamen Nacional de Colombianas y Cante Flamenco Noches de Bajo Guía in Sanlucar de Barrameda and the First prize for Soleares in the XII Certamen de cante por Soleraes Naranjito de Triana.
In 2012 she won the prize for granainas at the Cante de la Minas 2012 in La Unión.
Cante Minera, Taranta, Cartagenera, Siguiriya
Born in 1973, he began his participation in Flamenco events in his native town of Bolullos Par del Condado in Huelva in 2002.
His focus is very much on a purist style and he has already preformed alongside artists such as José Menese, El Lebrijano, Manuel Mairena and "El chocolate" amongst others.
Since 2004 he has performed in Cerdanyola, Granada, Zamora, Marchena, and Ávila, participated in the XIV Bienal de Flamenco in Seville and in 2007 recorded his first album, "Rincón del Pensamiento, " which won the prize for best new artist given by "Flamenco Hoy."
Amongst the prizes won to date are:
First prize in the volaera flamenca de Loja ( Granada).
First prize in the Festival Internacional Cante de las Minas for the group of songs from Córdoba, Granada y Málaga in 2002.
First prize in the Soleá de Triana in Seville, 2003.
First prize for the categories of Taranta and Cartagenera in Cante de las Minas, La Unión in 2003
First prize in the Concurso de Cante Jondo de Antonio Mairena in Mairena de Alcor, Seville, in the category of Malagueñas in 2004.
Guitar: Taranta, Alegrías
2012 Cante de las Minas , 2nd place, Flamenco guitar, first prize not awarded
Alberto López Martínez was born in Baza, Granada, at the end of 1990 and began his musical training aged 11, learning from Oliver Martínez and Pilar Alonso.
In 2008 he took a course to perfect his technique with acclaimed guitarist Gerardo Nuñez, whilst continuing his apprenticeship with teachers from the school of Manolo Franco ( Niño de Pura) and studies in classical guitar with David Martínez.
Although only 21, he has already started touring throughout Spain and abroad, giving major concerts in Andalucía, Granada, Jaén, Córdoba, Seville, Pais Vasco, Italy and Morocco.
He has also competed successfully in a number of competitions, winning first prize in the Certamen Internacional de Guitarra Flamenca Manuel Cano in Granada ( 2009) the first prize in the Concurso Nacional de Guitarra Flamenca para Jóvenes Interpretes ( Jaén 2010) ( the National youth compettion for solo guitar) and the first prize in the Certamen Nacional de Guitarra de acompañamiento ( the national Competition for accompanying guitarists ) of the Fundación Cristina Heeren ( Córdoba 2011.)
This is his second appearance in the finals of Cante de las Minas and he was awarded second prize in the guitar classification in 2012.
The first prize was not awarded in 2012.
Instrumentalist: Piano - Taranta , Bulería
Ildefonso was born in Jaén, but raised in Córdoba, where he graduated as a music teacher.
He is a versatile and adaptable pianist, qualified as an advanced level Professor of piano, Music theory, Transposition and accompaniment in the Conservatorio Superior de Música de Córdoba.
When he finished his own classical studies he transferred to Barcelona, where he studied a wide range of other styles of music, studying Jazz, Latin, Adrocuban and Flamenco, the combination of which enabled him to find work in some of the most important concert halls and salas in Cataluña.
After some time following this course, he returned to the south once again, and focused on becoming a specialist accompaniment to flamenco dance and cante, winning first prize in the 16th National Competition for Spanish dance and Flamenco.
He has performed with artists such as Gerardo Nuñez, José el Frances, Diana Navarro, Juan Ramón Caro, and Raimundo Amador.
As of summer 2012, he is currently touring with Juan Valderrama and his trio, Atrio, on the "Casi Boleros" tour.
In August 2012, he won the second prize in the Cante de las Minas instrumentalist section.
Cante : Soleá, Malagueña
Born in Beas in 1977, he has been singing since the age of 12 in Fiestas, Peñas and Festivals.
In 2003 he began his solo career as an artist, and has performed in Israel, Veneuela, China, Japan and the US.
Since 2006 he has been a singer ( cantaor) with the Ballet Nacional de España as an invited artist.
Between 2007 and 2009 he collaborated with various artists in flamenco productions, and was also invited to give a recital in the Chicago cultural Centre in September of 2007.
He has participated in various peñas and festivals in Seville, Huelva, Almería, Extremadura and Cadíz, and also performed the saeta of exaltation in the Semana Santa of Seville , inside Seville Cathedral.
He has worked alongside Dutch guitarist Tino van del Sman and the Japanese dancer, Yoko Komatsubara, as well as dancers Antonio Márquez and Curro de Bormujos.
Amongst the many honours he has won are:
First prize for Fandangos in the Concurso Nacional Paco Toronjo in Alosno, Huelva
Special prize for best fandango in Alosno in 2001
First prize in the Concurso de cante Flamenco Valencia de la Concepción
Prize for fandangos in the Concurso San Silvestre de Guzmán.
Jesús Corbacho Vázquez
Jesús Corbacho Vázquez was born in Huelva in 1986 and grew up surrounded by flamenco, singing his first fandangos aged just two and a half, joining the peña Flamenca de Huelva as a young boy. Aged just 11, he received the first prize for fandangos in the certamen Paco Toronjo in Alosno in the infant category, a prize which he repeated years later as an adult.
He studied formally in the Fundación de Arte Flamenca Christina Heeren in Seville and has collaborated as an artist alongside many of the major figures in flamenco today, such as Belén Maya, Milagros Mengibar, Merche Esmeralda, Rocío Molina, Pastora Galván, Manuel Liñan, Olga Pericet, Marcos Flores, amongst others.
He has also appeared worldwide in Festivals such as the Bienal de Sevilla, the Flamenco Festival de EEUU , the bienal de Málaga, Festival de Jerez, Cante de las Minas in La Unión, Festival Caja Madrid, and abroad in locations such as the Sidney Opera House, Teatro Chaillot in Paris, Sadlers wells in London and many others.
In 2011 he presented his first solo album, and began to focus on his own career as a solo artist, invited by the Instituto Cervantes to participate in the Festival de Músicas Sadras del Mundo in Fez.
In 2012 he reached the final of the Cante de las Minas de la Unión in the category of Bulerías.
Baile: Taranto, AlegríasBorn in 1993, native of Torres de Cotillas, she has studied Danza Española, terminating her studies in the Conservatorio Profesional de Danza de Murcia.
She has also studied Flamenco with Eduardo Serrano "El Guito", Antonio Canales "La Zambra", Javier Latorre, Carmen Ledesma, Rafael Campallo, Farruquito and others.
She won the First prize for choreography in the Conservatorio de Danza de las Torres de Cotillas, the Insignia de Oro in the Festival Internacional de Lo Ferro in 2007 and was given the award for "andaluza del año" by the Associación flamenca de Torrevieja, Rafael Alberti.
She has also travelled to Columbia, Chile, Cuba, Moroccoand Mexicoperforming alongside Manuela Carrasco.
She has appeared in the documental film, "Cuchillos al Viento" made by German Peter Sempel in 2007, and in the documentary XENIUS emitted in 2011 by French and German TV.
She continues to perform in a number of locations, having appeared in the tablao , "Los tarantos" in Granada, in the "Corral de la Morería", the "Villarosa" and the "Casa Patas" in Madrid, as well as in Franceas part of the spectacular, "Emocionesalive, " directed by French artist, Valérie Ruiz.
In 2012 she was a finalist in the Festival Internacional Cante de las Minas.
Dancer, ( bailaora) and choreographer, Sara Baras, opened the gala performances which form a core part of the Festival Cante de las Minas in La Unión this week with her latest spectacular, La Pepa, paying homage to the Act of the Constitution in 1812, an act which aimed to formulate a Spanish constitution, and although this first attempt failed to achieve its aims in the short-term, laid the foundations for the modern Spanish Democratic Constitution.
The piece is set in Cadiz, and depicted the opposing sides of war: the sadness, death and destruction, the strength and optimism of youth crushed by the horror of war as young men full of life went to their deaths. Of ordinary families torn apart by war, lovers separated, couples divided eternally, families turned against families, the set sombre and dark, as the youth of Spain passed through to the other side, claimed by war.
Yet also showed the hum of everyday life, set against a background of ordinary people carrying out their daily business in the streets of the City, living, loving and losing, although joined together in ultimate triumph as the first Act of the Constitution was formulated, the figure of "La Pepa" depicted by Sara herself on a pedestal in a blaze of glory in a final caesaresque act of triumph, shining glitter raining down from the sky on her triumphant figure.
Of course, whilst beautifully depicted, the reality of the 1812 Constitution is a little further from this depiction, although the elements of costume, set and performance provided an atmospheric backdrop for the history behind the piece.
In 1808, Spain was faced with the prospect of an unelected French Monarch, as both Carlos IV and his son, Ferdinand VII, a virtual prisoner in France, were forced to resign their natural claims to the Spanish throne in favour of Napolean Bonaparte, who in turn, passed the throne onto his brother, Joseph.
However, although the elite in Madrid were accepting of this decision the Spanish people rebelled, the result being the Peninsular War, or War of Independence. An interim Spanish government was formed, with representatives from each province of Spain, meeting first in Aranjuez, then Seville, before finally being pushed by Napoleon's forces into Cádiz.
The British supported the Spanish rebels, engaged in their own fight against Napoleon and his plans for European supremacy, protecting the representatives until a Cortes could convene.
By 1810 basic principles were being agreed, which accepted the legitimacy of King Ferdinand as King of Spain, although reducing his powers, but also took steps towards creating a more efficient civil service, reforming the tax system, replacing feudal privileges, recognition of an owners right to use his property as he deemed appropriate and a reduction in the absolute power of the church, the crown and the nobility.
The first constitution was prepared against a backdrop of continued French attack, and promulgated on 19th March 1812 in Cádiz, nicknamed La Pepa by the Spanish as it falls on Saint Joseph's day.
This is a bit convoluted to explain, but Saint Joseph is San José, and anybody named José is nicknamed Pepe, and Pepa is the feminine form of Pepe.
However, when Ferdinand returned to Spain, and power in 1814, his first act as monarch was to abolish the constitution and demolish all the monuments built in its honour.
The Peninsular War left a considerable legacy in the Region of Murcia, French troops firing many churches and virtually destroying many settlements on their passage through the region, and you'll find these wars cropping up frequently in the histories of the towns, usually relating to the destruction and looting of their churches and monuments.
So this was the backdrop to this flamenco spectacular, which took attendees on a journey through human emotions, the human suffering and the final triumph of the foundation of democracy in Spain.
The performance began with a scene of mourning, of death, a backdrop of war, a pale-faced figure carried tenderly onto the stage by a grieving lover, the black-clad chorus twisting and writhing as the earth embraced her body.
Ordinary people, caught in a war, not of their own making, carrying out their daily tasks, country people in simple dresses, in a scene of everyday life, and the gradual refusal to accept suppression, and fight for independence from the suppression of the French.
A black clad figure, cloaked with the black of repression, the cloak cast aside to reveal a red core of rebellion, a spirit of independence which caught the imagination of the townspeople, her dance of red rebellion adopted by the young, who appeared on stage with red handkerchiefs tied to their wrists, followers of the cause.
Scenes of tender lovers, parted by the fighting, families divided by their loyalties, dances of triumph and sadness, as the youth of the town passed through into another world, scenes of whirling colour, martinetes, guajiras, zapateados, fandangos, seguirillas, soleá por bulerías, malagueñas, tanguillas, farrucas, alegrías and bulerías fusing into a seamless spectacle of light and shade as the story unfolded, concluding with triumph.
And throughout it all, Sara Baras, striking, imposing, strongly silhouetted against the darkness, feet tapping and fingers stretched to impossible elegance as she clicked through one whirling routine to the next. Fluidity and sinuous technical dexterity leaving no-one unmoved.
A true spectacle of masterful flamenco, delivered with passion, soul and style, the perfect start to a week of crisis-busting galas in this year's Cante de las Minas at La Unión.
Sara Baras herself is a top-level flamenco dancer, having danced with many of the most prestigious dance companies between 1988 and 1998, before forming her own dance company in 1998. Since then, she has presented many choreographed spectaculars throughout Spain and within Europe, as well as collaborating with a number of other projects, including audiovisual work.
The second of the Galas at the Cante de las Minas in La Unión featured José Merce, an artist renowned for bringing flamenco to a wider audience who prides himself on performing "flamenco for everybody."
Merce is a popular performer at the Cante de las Minas, with a warm humanity to his performances and a comfortable interaction with the audience which guarantees that the "Catedral del Cante", the former marketplace of La Unión is always packed to bursting whenever he performs.( see Cante de las Minas 2010)
Merce is a native of Jeréz, and at the age of 13, went to Madrid to record his first record, an event which the producer, Manuel Ríos Ruiz wrote at the time, "the consolidation of José Merce as the new figure in the world of cante ensures that the "jondo" miracle of Jerez de la Frontera will now continue."
José Merce has recorded 17 albums since his first debut in 1968, and in this concert celebrated his history as an artist through from his first recordings as a pure flamenco artist, through his most important solo album, “Del amanecer” , recorded in 1998, to his latest album, "Ruido" made in 2010.
This concert was entitled, “Nuevo Amanecer”, new awakening and included a selection of his most popular anthems including “Te pintaré”, “Lío” and “Aire”, all received with great enthusiasm by a packed "cathedral of song" audience.
And of course, no Merce performance would be complete without his best known track, “Al alba”, which was written to commemorate the last execution by firing squad under dictatorship which took place on 27th September 1975.
This version was a little more subdued than other versions he's performed in recent years, the current economic crisis and scenes witnessed in some spanish cities in the last few months an uncomfortable echo for some of the older generation who recall the economic situation of Spain at the time these last executions took place.
However, most of this concert was upbeat and harmonious, melodic and comfortable on the ear of even the flamenco novice, the latter pieces taken from "Ruido" harmonious songs of comfort and reminiscence, "Hojas del limonero," a sweet song of the orchards:
Hojas del limonero,
Dulce aroma al atardecer
Son tus besos caramelo que me empapan de placer
( leaves of the lemon tree, sweet smell of the evening, your caramel kisses envelop me with pleasure.)
Merce has always been a generous collaborator and has appeared alongside many of flamencos top artists, and emerging artists, one of his latest being a collaboration with David Peña Dorantes, who appears in la Unión on Sunday evening, on his latest album, Sin Muros.
Following the performance, Merce unveiled his plaque of honour in the burgeoning stars gallery forming outside the "Catedral del Cante" an area alive with music throughout the festival, temporary bars filled with the odour of tapas and music, exhibitions relating to the worlds of flamenco and mining, art and music fusing as attendees enjoy the atmosphere of this important flamenco event.
The third of the Flamenco Galas at La Unión took place on Saturday night, featuring guitarist Carlos Piñana (al toque) and Juan Valderrama on vocals ( al cante.)
These two artists represent two flamenco dynastic families, and both artists were keen to honour their famous forbears , and pay tribute as part of their performances, offering a memorable evening for flamenco enthusiasts, representing two different points of perspective of the same artform.
Carlos Piñana Conesa was born in Cartagena in 1976, coming from a family with a deep set tradition of flamenco. He is the grandson of Antonio Piñana ( Padre, father) patriarch of the profound and emotional mineras , who won the miner's lamp himself at La Unión in 1961, and son of guitarist Antonio Piñana (Hijo, son), himself a renowned flamenco guitarist.
Carlos spent his childhood breathing in the essence of flamenco, flamenco in his veins, flamenco in his consciousness, his first classes at the hands of his father, leading to a deep lifelong passion which progressed to studies in classical guitar in the Cartagena Conservatorio de Música, and parallel studies in flamenco guitar.
Soon he began to shine and the awards started to flow, achieving the prized first place in the Cante de las Minas in 1996, followed by a number of other prestigious awards.
Since then he has performed worldwide and collaborated with an impressive list of both Spanish and International artists, recording five of his own solo albums as well as composing a number of pieces for the Ballet Español de Murcia : “Póker Flamenco”, “A Tiempo de Fuego”, “A Compás del Poeta”, “Penélope” and “El Celoso Extremeño”.
He currently divides his time as a master with the Conservatorio Superior de Música de Murcia in the flamenco guitar department, directing the Escuela de Arte Flamenco de la Fundación Cante de las Minas, and organising the annual guitar fiestas of the Certamen Internacional de Guitarra Flamenca ¨Niño Ricardo¨ and the Festival Internacional “Guitarras en el Almudí”.
His performance at La Unión was a breathtaking display of masterful flamenco, the entire concert performed without a sheet of music in sight.
Dexterous and melodic, the notes dripped from his guitar in a succession of smooth, enveloping melodies, alegrias, tarantas, soleás, fandangos, zapateados, guajiras, milongas, jaleos, with atmospheric accompaniment by Miguel A Orengo on drums, José Ramón Velasco on bass and Fernando Velasco on flamenco cajón.
A display of captivating music, framed with the images of the mines painted by local artist Esteban Bernal Aguirre, bathing the musicians in the colours of the earth, rich music honouring the mining past of La Unión.
A luxury for the senses.
This was followed by Juan Valderrama Caballero, born in Madrid in 1972, but who grew up in Seville, again, born into a family of flamenco greats, his father, Juanito Valderrama, one of the most important figures in popular flamenco throughout the years of dictatorship.
This concert was entitled , "Don Juan " and was a tribute to his father, beginning with video footage showing his father singing and concluding with an atmospheric soleá de Triana sung in conjunction with a recording of his father's, his characteristic flat brimmed sombrero hung over the back of a empty chair, picked out by a single spotlight.
Juanito Valderrama was a colourful figure, dying, at the age of 87 after a lifetime dedicated to flamenco.
He was born in Torredelcampo, Jaen, May 24 1916, his parents country farmers,
and as his career developed, he became famous composing his own lyrics, many of his early works recalling his childhood days, accompanying his father's mules to market and extolling the beauties of life amongst the olive groves.
Aged eight he won a singing competition and by 1934, had been recruited into a travelling song company, performing in many places, including Madrid's Cine Metropolitano.
The outbreak of civil war , 1935-37 was a time of convulsion within Spain and no family could escape the bitterness and high feelings which flowed during this period, and Valderrama enlisted in the Republican ranks, taking part in active service in the trenches, although his singing talent led him to follow a more morale building route, including caring for the sick, than that of soldiering.
After the war he dedicated himself to building a career as a flamenco artist, but although his fame brought him in contact the circles of those in power at the time, he still harboured enough loyalty to the Republican cause to write his most famous song, El Emigrante.
El Emigrante is a ballad, written in 1949, at a time when thousands of refugees were leaving Spain as Franco's regime intensified, and eulogises all the good things Spain represented, which these emigrants were forced to leave behind.
Ironically, according to his obituary, he was called to sing this song for Franco himself, following a hunting party, and the dictator was so moved by the lyrics and the rendition that he called for an encore. Valderrama recounts his inner astonishment when asked to perform the piece again, and the comment that his verse was "wonderfully patriotic" made by the dictator, who had obviously failed to understand the true meaning and sentiment behind the yearning lyrics, which was Spain, seen through the eyes of someone who had been forced to leave it and seek work elsewhere.
Thousands of Murcians left Spain during this era, many finding work in the agricultural areas of France as manual labourers, leaving their families behind in their home towns.
He was an innovative performer, and performed a variety of popular song and copla, which he interspersed with the pure cante jondo, the darker, deeper songs of flamenco, which can be so hard on the ears of those first discovering flamenco.
Ironically, his critics derided him for making "an artform into a mass market spectacle", whilst he maintains the stance that popular music was more likely to attract a wider audience, and indeed, at that time, was more likely to result in a few more coins in the singers hat at the end of a performance.
Today, of course, he would have been held up as an innovator, crossing the ranks into a more mainstream market, although at the time his critics derided his transgression from the art of cante jondo.
His first recordings date from 1935, and he recorded 1500 songs during the 60 year period, formally retiring in 1994.
So this concert by his son, Juan, was dedicated to his memory, and the popularity of his father's figure was very evident in the reaction of the crowd at La Unión to the pieces performed in his memory.
His son Juan, has a dual career, both as a successful journalist and TV journalist, as well as a flamenco artist.
Although he began his set with a technically difficult minera, has a characteristically sweet voice, which favours the temporeras, tarantas, milongas and seguiriyas and was supported in this performance by Rubén Levamiegos on guitar, Manuel Luque on cajón and Álvaro Palacín and Adolfo Vega a las palmas ( clapping.)
Following the performance, he unveiled his "Lámpara Juan Valderrama, " his name engraved in stone in the Avenida del Flamenco outside the "Catedral del Cante" in which the performance took place.
Ana María Alías Vega, known better by her stage name of ‘Pasión Vega’, closed the week of gala performances at La Unión with a two hour performance of sweet, rich melodic coplas and canción española, delivered with verve and panache, leaving no-one in any doubt why she acquired the word pasión in her stage name.
Born in Madrid, and raised in Málaga, she first came to public notice in 1993, when she won a competition organised by Cadena Ser, the prize being her first single, “Estos detalles". Following this, she won a National Spanish Television show for young talents, which set her off on a professional recording and performing career.
Her first album came out in 2001, gaining her a gold disc, followed by a platinum disc in 2003 for " Banderas de nadie " and another gold for “Flaca de amor” (2005)
Since then, she has continued to produce best selling albums and tour, achieving particular success in Latin America, both Argentina and Mexico proving receptive markets for her personally feminine blend of modern ballads and contemporary woman about town look.
Her latest album is entitled, SIN COMPASIÓN, produced by Jacob Sureda, with 13 songs, many of which she performed last night:
Manuel Carrasco (Rincones Oscuros), Pedro Guerra (No hay fracaso), Jesús Bienvenido (El flamenquito que perdió las botas, Historia de un fado, Los últimos, Bolero con ron, Habanera Postal), Paloma Ramírez (Y nunca te olvido), Ricardo Rivera (Eso no es amar, Qué fue de ti) and Antonio Romera (A la hora de soñar, Esta eternidad sin ti, La niña Candela) a blend of sweet sentimentality and feminine sensitivity, modern ballads, all delivered in her rich, warm voice, trembling with sensuality.
From the onset she filled the Catedral del Cante with her presence, delivering a characterful performance demonstrating a flair, showmanship and attention to detail which left the group of her fans clutching flowers she had flung into the audience in a tearful state of satisfaction after the show , "what a woman, " they said afterwards, "such a beautiful woman.....!"
Following the presentation to the American Ambassador, washing lines were strung across the stage, draped with sheets, opening with one of her best known numbers, “El corazón al sur”, followed by one of her major hits “María se bebe las calles” . Have a listen, this is Maria se bebe las calles.
Throughout the evening she blended copla and canción española, switching the pace and rhythm of the performance with a number of costume changes, each entering a new phase in her career, setting the scene for a series of numbers which filled the Catedral del Cante with sumptuous spectacle and colours.
With each re-birth of her personality she varied the pace, sensuously crushing a silken cushion as she slid across a rustling bed of undulating satin, bathed in sensual purple lighting, languously draped in a wicker chair with wide brimmed hat, evoking the sweet caress of saharan winds in a summer landscape, vibrant in aqua blue through a flirtatious series of upbeat numbers, provocatively draped in a veil as notes of arabic melodies intertwined with the warm spanish guitar, and dangerously feminine in the number " El flamenquito que perdió las botas" which had temperatures rising throughout the Catedral del Cante with the appearance of a magnificently muscled flamenco dancer, clad in gold flecked black, who dropped a shower of sand from his hands, before embarking on a hair raisingly sensuous display of flamenco, silhouetted in the semi light, wet hair clinging to straining sinews as fans flapped their fans faster in unashamed appreciation throughout the audience.
She concluded the evening by throwing flowers to the audience, leaving the air warm with the trace of her presence, a sweet perfume filled evening, calming the senses, a pleasurable sensation of well being and saturation lingering at the end of a long and beautifully delivered set.
Having caught her breath and donned yet another figure hugging outfit, she unveiled her name, set in stone outside the Catedral del Cante, a luxurious gala, closing this first stage of Cante de Las Minas.