Francisco Contreras, Niño de Elche, says that he is not one of the big stages, that if they greet him and stop him now on the street it is thanks to Antón (Antón Álvarez), C. Tangana, and that one day both he and other artists will have to recognize the work that El Madrileño is doing for that. That getting on the stage —as it did a few hours later— on the stage of the Vive Latino macrofestival in Mexico and that the show by the Spaniards put thousands of souls to sing por bulerías and clap their hands is another challenge of experimentation, without prejudice or militancy, how art should be The 37-year-old cantaor, ex-flamenco and ex of almost any conviction, from Elche (Alicante, Spain), has received EL PAÍS in his Mexican landing, which he has made the most of: he has been a jury at the UNAM International Film Festival ( Ficunam), has performed for the first time alone on a more modest stage and closed with the finishing touch: singing the chorus of you stopped loving me before a dedicated audience.
The man who has broken the seams of flamenco, who has pulled the strings until he has dynamited it from within, being a prodigy child of the tablaos and the peñas, but who has ended up linking his art more to Francis Bacon than to any consecrated star of the Spanish genre par excellence; the same one that releases a complain of a cantaor from another era with the same naturalness with which a sheet is hung and carried in a radical performative act of a Holy Week step, he speaks in this interview about the experimental capacity of flamenco, about the golden age that these days, from the film about his way of understanding art —cosmic songwhich will be released in Mexican theaters this year—and of Rosalía as an example of an artist “freed from disciplines and labels”.
Ask. In Spain, still… But in Mexico, how do you explain to people that being ex-Flamenco?
Answer. I always use some metaphor. It’s like I’m a plumber. You take on all the plumbing issues, but then you don’t do it. But, of course, the elemental remains with me, the essential knowledge of that profession or that work. I am no longer in that industry or in those philosophical or even militant conceptions. But it is true that all that residue of so many years working and preparing a speech based on it has remained in me.
P. Some now talk about flamenco being fashionable, what do you think of this?
R. It’s true that flamenco has had several moments of media rapprochement. I think it is true that we are now experiencing one of them. In the 70s there was another, or in the 90s. And now it is true that we have to take advantage of the approach of an audience that understands flamenco, some as something Spanish-Latin, others as root music, world music… Depending on the phenomenon that occurs at that time and the artist that is head in the media, we will find closer or more banal or superficial approaches. But in any case, any approach is positive, without a doubt.
P. Does any flamenco-inspired proposal seem good to you, even if it’s superficial, even if it just follows the trend?
R. Whenever we get that flamenco or music with some creed can be marketed, made known, it’s always positive. I remember that in the 1990s there was a lot of skepticism about proposals that implied they were flamenco and that they could be misleading or could not be honorable in what the official discourse of flamenco could give. I remember abroad people like Gipsy Kings, or other proposals that could be uncomfortable. But there is always something positive there. That he Between two waters of Paco de Lucía has been much more positive for flamenco than negative. Also because I don’t know what can be negative, however superficial something may be, in that mass of people there will always be a small percentage that goes deeper. And if they don’t, nothing happens, it’s not important to go that deep.
P. In an interview for this newspaper with another artist, his partner and collaborator Pedro G. Romero, he said that there is a noble but absurd effort to get flamenco out of the taverns. But is it out yet? What are taverns now?
R. Flamenco is in the taverns, yes. and in the caverns [ríe]. But it has also been present in other spaces since its beginnings: like the ports, the street, it is 100% urban art. In other words, this idea that flamenco was in a cave and came out in the 30s is not real. It is an art that has been commercialized a lot, companies already came to America in the 20th century to tour, records were recorded… It is already a somewhat romantic idea that is not fulfilled as such. In any case, that idea should encourage us to think about where we want to continue getting flamenco from. I like to think that you have to get it from other places, as help, as an urgency. And I still think that it has to be removed from the flamenco peñas, from the flamenco festivals, I think that flamenco doesn’t have a space of comfort there, it’s negative for its development. I still think that they are ultra-conservative spaces that don’t continue to do flamenco well in its social development. That belonged to a stage, to a moment, that has already ended. Recognize his death and from there understand that he has to occupy other types of spaces, because reality demands it.
P. Have you heard Rosalía’s new album? What do you think? The record had only been out a few hours.
R. The truth is that not yet, he hasn’t given me time, did he go out last night? I’ve heard the previews…
P. What do you think that many ask you to return to flamenco, not to do so much reggaeton?
R. It’s a paradox: when he did what he did, those closest to flamenco said that it wasn’t flamenco. And now that he doesn’t do it, why doesn’t he do what he used to do? Rosalía is an artist very free from labels, she shows it. And if she now wants to make a more reggaeton album, she has conceived that joy that is that of an artist freed from disciplines, labels. And these artists must be encouraged, because they are very necessary. Because they don’t work for her public, Rosalía really works on what she wants, according to the discourse that she wants to develop. What she tells you is that an artist is alive. As composer Morton Feldman says: “An artist who is able to suspend his convictions.” And Rosalía is capable of that, because she is a great artist.
P. Just a few years ago, for many classical flamenco artists, combining the genre with electronics, the trap or reggaeton was crazy. Something unthinkable, which Diego commented The Cigala in an interview for this newspaper. He wasn’t the only one who felt the same way. What are they thinking now after listening to you, Rosalía, C. Tangana…?
R. If everything is sensitive to being mixed. And it’s because it’s the meaning that flamenco has always had, it’s born from that, from that unorthodox attitude of those artists, unprejudiced. Flamenco has always been made up of artists who have not tried to reaffirm an identity, on the contrary: the most queer What flamenco has is that it has never sought to reaffirm itself in a clear origin, because it doesn’t have one, and of course there is no objective. Mixing it with other music is the most natural thing flamencos can do. I am an experimental artist because I come from flamenco. If it came from classical music or from jazz, surely he would not be an experimental artist or not so much. And the picture says so, right? There are no artists as radical in other disciplines as there have been in flamenco and that’s why, because it’s an unprejudiced, bastard art of falsification. And that gives us a value, it frees us, we don’t have to defend a tradition, a history, because it is very short. Any flamenco artist who tries to do that runs into contradictions and can even implode. But the rest of us have that liberation, luckily.
P. On cosmic song, the film about his life and his relationship with art and that of other artists, which will be released in Mexican theaters this year, speaks of the flight from coherence, the idea of freedom, of the revolutionary, of anarchism. How do you eat with these principles? Do you feel at any time that you are corrupted?
R. No, I think it will always be more positive for people to have money in their hands than not to have it. Of course, I come from more classic leftist movements and we have always been taught to suspect anyone who has money or who wants to have it. And luckily I have been able to evolve to no. Because there is another type of complexity and relationship with the economy. Of course, being an artist is being a person directly with anarcho-capitalist conceptions, the value that we relate to the world of art has nothing to do with the hours of work, from there we enter into contradictions, and our relations with the industry are paradoxical. But we must also get rid of this idea that money is not pro to a critical culture, for me it is the opposite. It is what gives us possibilities to be critical.
P. And about the flight from coherence, which he repeats almost like a mantra, how do you keep him as a jury at a film festival?
R. I come from movements where coherence was rewarded. A consistent person, in Spain is something very rewarded, someone who does not change his mind. I think quite the opposite, when someone changes their aesthetics, their ways of thinking, they are a mobile person, who questions themselves, the other is a person stuck in single, static thoughts, and I am not at all in favor of that way of being and of be. And when one is a jury I try to analyze from there. Any person who shows his vulnerability is a person for me close to the divine.
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