(Vocals * Flamenco)
New York City College of Technology
Citation: Lestón, Robert. “Enrique Morente.” Hyperrhiz: New Media Cultures, no. 23, 2021. doi:10.20415/hyp/023.r16
Abstract: Enrique Morente, who died in 2010, recruited numerous collaborators for this ground-breaking album, including rock/punk band Lagartija Nick. Morente dedicated his album to two poets: Federico Garcia-Lorca and Leonard Cohen. Each track on the album is one of the poet’s words put to this flamenco-rock fusion, interpreted and translated by Morente himself.
Keywords: Flamenco, fusion, Lorca, Duende, Enrique Morente.
It might seem odd to include flamenco in this Rocktalog, but given the current radio airplay in the U.S., I've been looking internationally to fill my listening pleasure. Dominated by Spanish language artists, so much great music has been coming out of Puerto Rico, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, and Spain, with collaborations among all. Artists like Daddy Yankee (Puerto Rico), Los Angeles Azules (Mexico), Bomba Estereo (Colombia), and Anitta (Brazil) just keep bombarding us with cumbias, trap, Reggaton, bachatas, salsa and hip hop. In the case of Spain, Rosalia Tobella has been bringing the sounds of a flamenco-urbano fusion that’s been scorching the international pop scene.
Rosalía, born in 1992 in Barcelona, is one of the first Spanish singers to have have popularized flamenco through a pop fusion that is commonly known as nuevo-flamenco. Her 2018 album, El Mal Querer (the bad desire), won grand acclaim for genre mixing.
It’s a mystery how I arrived, not at Rosalía, but at Enrique Morente. I'd first heard of him after seeing Enrique’s son, Kiki Morente sing with guitarista Pepe Habichuela, when they performed in New York City some years ago. Kiki sang from his own deeply moving album Albayacín. The audience that night in New York City’s Town Hall was pretty well transported to some before-unknown emotional state, or at least I was.
Was it through pop-star Rosalía, which this Rocktalog was originally going to be about? Or was it through Federico Garcia-Lorca? For me, it you are talking about Flamenco, it's also gotta be about Garcia-Lorca. Flashes of Carmen Amaya dancing, Parilla de Jerez on guitar, Antonio Mairena singing. So many others. The Roctalog for flamenco is deep, hundreds of years that has passed through so many cultures and styles.
So long as there's duende, what Garcia-Lorca called la pena negra, the mystery of death, the pain and suffering of broken love and lost souls, lagrimas de generaciones que constituye el cante jondo or the deep song. Carmen Amaya—she’s got duende, or better, duende passes through her. The cante jondo comes from some other place. I’ve always assumed that it came from the other side of death. Nobody knows what it is. It’s that mystery that you feel in your bones, en tu sangre.
Among the deepest and oldest forms of expression of the cante jondo is the flamenco form called los seguiriyas. Take the following quote from this flamenco historian:
The singer who sings seguiriyas leaves in each line of the copla a piece of his soul; and, if not, he is deceiving the listener, perhaps even himself. If there is one style to which the singer has to give everything, has to give every bit of himself, it is the siguiriya. I have seen José Menese completely overcome, broken, a literal wreck after doing this song and I believe that if the singer sometimes reaches the kind of state of grace that the Gypsies call duende - and I don't know yet what that is - it is in these unique and unrepeatable moments.
We never really understand what the duende is, but it’s felt. Seguiriyas are slow, tragic, inconsolable sorrow and pain, and anyone who has read Garcia-Lorca’s poetry does not need to have listened to cante jondo, but if they have, then nothing more is needed than to have Garcia-Lorca as el guia.
Flamenco developed over hundreds of years in what was the once Arabic occupied region known as Al-Andalus, meaning under Moorish control. Before the Reconquista, the Iberian peninsula was completely under Andalus, and later shrunk to the southern portion of Andaluza, the cities of Cádiz, Jerez de la Frontera, Malagá (donde nacio Garcia Lorca), Sevilla, Córdoba, Granada, y mucho mas.
But this new (and old) sound hitting the international pop scene, couldn't have happened were it not for Enrique Morente and his amazing album Omega. Enrique Morente, who died in 2010, recruited numerous collaborators for this ground-breaking album, including rock/punk band Lagartija Nick. Morente dedicated his album to two poets: Federico Garcia-Lorca and Leonard Cohen. Each track on the album is one of the poet's words put to this flamenco-rock fusion, interpreted and translated by Morente himself.
Flamenco purists hated the album, but it was embraced by the rock scene. Here is una mezcla de magic, some of the best flamenco you can find. With the poetry of Garcia-Lorca and Cohen, mixed with the hard-hitting punk-rock Lagartija Nick. This album is a gift that lifts Flamenco from it's roots in Andaluza and spreads it to the likes of other pioneers, democratizing la pena negra, the Omega, los poemas para los muertos. For the flamenco purists out there, it’s worth noting that there never was a pure flamenco. The influences that go into flamenco are numerous, and the best flamencos are able to capture these multiple influences in their singing, playing, and dancing, for it is the mixture of it all that gives flamenco its sound. Not tonality, and not just the phrygian mode, but the tensions of all kinds of influences: classical, romantic, arabaic, Zyriabic, Mozarabic, Gitano, Berberic, Christian, West African, and to not forget the chants of the Gregorian monks or of the jewish synagogues. Mucho lugares vive en Flamenco: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Mali, Niger, Mauritania, y España.
We may not quite understand Enrique Morente’s Omega quite yet. Heck, most of us have probably never heard of it. But the Spanish music artists have been bringing it to your attention. It’s time that we listen. Es la hora para escuchar.
Morente’s Statement - Translation
We mention many times the word duende. It has duende or it doesn’t have duende. Other times, “it has pellizco, it doesn’t have pellizco.”
The duende wants to refer to the mystery of the transmission of art.
I think it’s very important that the different worlds of art communicate. These days, if art doesn’t do that, I think it’s bad, because we have many different mediums to communicate with others.
I think it’s important that the arts mix with each other because the mixture and the crossing is, I think, the new life.
[musical excerpt to close, from Andalusinando en el Bañuelo del Albaycin. Full work available at youtube.com/watch?v=AJwm-QET1Ns]