Esther Planas

Copyright 2019

The relation with Flamenco started previously and since childhood with my grandfather, as he played Jotas, but we all know how jota belongs to Arabic tones and roots so its not so surprising I linked that memories with an amazing attraction to either Flamenco or Oriental Arabic sounds including Sephardi and Andalusí.

Later on and vía de Francoist fascist regime, Flamenco will be part of our "folklore" and called "español" as part of a series of dances called as spanish folklore coros y danzas. We also had a sort of celebrity culture that will subsume many gitanos and no-gitanos of the times like Lola Flores who became like the mother flamenca by TV and Magazines imposing presences.

At the same times, we will also start to realise how our own, traditions (be this playing guitar and singing or dancing between us in family meetings or in our little villages "fiestas", was also subsumed under the folklore terms and culturally more and more separated by a spectacle distant use of such habits. Leaving quite reduced the tradition for younger generations who by contrast would be fully immersed in UK and USA Pop icons, music, film industries and so on all of it once more via TV of national supervision/two channels.

With tourism, we also realised we where a sort of "exotic" land, and we where visited and observed by white half naked mostly obese people in shorts every summer time.

Bars and tourist amenities invaded our coast, our beach sea sides and many toys, postcards and all of souvenirs where part of a separation between our reality from inside and habits as traditions that felt natural to become more and more a sort of self conscious identity we could "imitate" or reproduce for the foreigners. In many occasions to be able to eat and to have a job.

Being such, these cultural background, my own grand father and our family of immigrants form my mother's side, became assimilated as an inner crypto-exotic element of our identity. Unknown to us yet why was it that the connection felt so real and intense.

It was around 1977 that a series of sounds started to be more present in my life. I was familiar with a series of musicians and producers at the time from the Zeleste scene (a music bar of big proportions that hosted the progressive, jazz and fusion bands of the times) would play and perform with some of the flamenco figures as Camarón de la Isla.

They called their collaborations a "fusión",and this would produce a few new ways of performing and interpreting flamenco.

This friends and this sounds will influence my interest and inspiration in relation to Flamenco.

Noting that since the 70's that I know Flamenco puro is jealously guarded by Spanish Gitanos based here for centuries and its quite a polemic situation, also its very complex to approach this sounds and music feeling it belongs to us as well.

But the message of the origins of Flamenco which have been proved is that in fact it came out from a shared experience of persecution and this would include Gitanos but also Jews and Arab of Hispanic lands.

Those various tones, and musical structures should explain then why we do share roots and have tones or modes in common.

In the 70's I was a dancer and with intentions of expanding my practice to production and choreography, and ironically wile living and studying contemporary dance in London between 1979/83, I meet this flamenco guitarist Pepe de la Linea (from Cadiz) on a great small hidden bar where actors and dancers like me where going, just off Tottenham Court Road.

With Pepe and his mates I had many nights of witnessing first hand how spectacle, show, and real life will melt and mix.

I became aware how easy was to fake and pretend to be a flamenco as in Federico García Lorca's essay about El Duende, but this is another story that I am including on my ongoing research about Flamenco.

It was around 1985/6 when I started to produce watercolours, drawings.. those where in a way, attempts at include my self as part of a context that was not only of my experiences with and of flamenco's performers and friends, but other quotidian scenes like cooking or just lying under a tree watching the stars.

In 1988 a journalist friend, who had made a great documentary on the Jóvenes Flamencos, invited me to Seville, where as a consequence of the folks I meet then, I would stay for three years, from 1988/91.

It was then when I was introduced to many essential figures from the flamenco scene in Seville.
In this recent documentary from minute 29 there are the main people I meet and had great times with too.

I meet in La Carbonería Paco Lira, his son Pisco, and their cousin, the infamous Juan el Camas (who was very close to Camarón de la Isla). Paco Lira, had been one of the directors of the independent and anti fascist establishment theatre company La Cuadra de Sevilla. He was very active figure on cultural and flamenco related resistance during our Francoist dictatorship. After meeting him, he invited me to live in the "buardilla" of la Carbonería ( his amazing bar/living space and flamenco meeting space) and to be part with a painting show, of the next Bienal de Flamenco de Sevilla on its site.

With Carles Bosch I also went to Jerez de la Frontera, where I was introduced to the barrio de Santiago and some of the vecinos... like Jero, el Niño Jero and others.

Meeting too, during those months, Mario Pacheco (Nuevos Medios) who died recently, and who was a producer of much of "fusión" style flamenco music. I asked him to photograph the project (fashion catalogue of artistic orientation) that I did featuring Antonio Carmona, who then was still the percussionist of Ketama's Nuevos Flamencos and Mario's productions.

My life and the experiences that followed in south Spain where part of a pesquisa about my own real cultural or even racial roots. The fact the we all where in any case just coming from under the same fascist thumb, should give us a clue on how the cooperative and horizontal relations of those times at least between artist, where if not perfect at least very honest and straight forward respectful relations between folk of different racial and social backgrounds.

It was during the 80's that an intense self-exotisation and further claims of "the pure", the real deal came about. To have come to the notions of today which are that all of us "white" spaniards (needed so much to clarify what means this?) have stolen the Flamenco from its one and only makers "the gitanos". At the moment there are such claims going on in the music and flamenco's scene. We wonder what the spirit of the 70's would ever represent under this light. There is much work to do this days in all directions for research and our own identity politics. As for where there is something to gain in capitalist terms even race and the pure is not innocent, in this case the echoes of the cast system from which the Gypsies originate.. resound sadly under their claims.

Here there is a link to a blog started at different point but that are research based and including more works. Fellah Mengu, started as a line of research that consolidates the series of works ideas and production since started in 1980's

http://ellahmengu.tumblr.com/

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