Spain is paying tribute to the most legendary singer of flamenco “Camarón de la Isla” (1950-1992). So let us do the same!
© By: Hannet Engel
Painting: Camarón de la Isla by Laura Cameo Moliner, Oil on canvas, 65 cm x 50 cm. artelista.com, CC-BY.
This year it will be 25 years ago that singer José Monge Cruz, alias “Camarón de la Isla” died and left the world with a tremendous legacy of both traditional and revolutionary flamenco singing. That is why his birthplace San Fernando, in the province of Cádiz, has initiated a Camarón year, celebrating it with several expositions, conferences and by awarding a Camarón prize to contemporary flamenco singers.
A flamenco legend
There is so much to tell about Camarón and what he means for flamenco. For a lot of flamenco fans he has been the starting point to get them addicted to flamenco because of his incredible and unique voice. So I will be writing more about him this year. But I will start off with some basic information and inspiration.
Camarón de la Isla got his nickname from the Spanish word ‘camarón’, which means ‘shrimp’, referring to his blond hair and fair skin as a young boy. The second part of his name refers to his birthplace, which is often called Isla de San Fernando. He was born in a gypsy family of eight and grew up singing for money in the famous flamenco venue Venta de Vargas. Camaróns big breakthrough happened when he joined up with flamenco guitar player Paco de Lucía. They formed the most famous flamenco duo of all times.
Watch the video below and get inspired by one of Camaróns big hits from the late seventies ‘La Leyenda del Tiempo’.
You gotta love the music video with Camarón in flared jeans and some funky decor pieces in the background creating the perfect seventies groove.
‘La leyenda del tiempo’ (the legend of time) is one of my favourite Camarón songs because of the exhilarating rhythm (bulería and jaleo in 6/8 and 3/8 times), the surrealistic lyrics by poet Federico García Lorca and the awesome ‘seventies feel’ created by the baseline, synthesizer and drums. This was revolutionary in flamenco and purists were scandalised by this album, that incorporated jazz and rock elements. Some of them even brought back their cd’s saying: “This isn’t the Camarón we know”
Tomatito accompanying on guitar
Did you notice a young Tomatito on guitar performing an awesome interlude? For all you flamenco guitar freaks, watch the video of Tomatito playing this falseta slowly.
I will be writing more about Camarón this year, so keep tuned and I’ll keep you posted!
- Painting: https://www.artelista.com/en/artwork/2408557481623251-camarondelaisla.html
- Año Camarón (ES): http://www.diariodecadiz.es/provincia/Ano-Camaron-promocion-Cadiz-Fitur_0_1101190449.html
- For more on the rhythm of Leyenda del tiempo as a combination of bulerias, bamberas and jota/jaleo (ES): http://www.sinfoniavirtual.com/revista/022/canto_columpio_leyenda_tiempo.pdf
- Review by Don Snowden: http://www.allmusic.com/album/la-leyenda-del-tiempo-mw0000334413