Flamenco Guitar, Percussion & Song

Interview with Jose Fernadez Cortes, Justo Heredia Santiago and Miguel Rodríguez Fernandez “el cheyen” one night after a performance here in Monachil.

How do you feel after that? 

Jose -  Relaxed …

Justo -  Really well and relaxed, when things of inspiration turn out well and people leave contented of course you feel happy.

What do you feel about the communication between you? 

Justo -  We’ve practised together so much, always giving it everything we’ve got, day after day, so now things turn out well even without rehearsing, because really everything has already been rehearsed.

Why did you choose to do flamenco? 

Justo -  Because it’s what I like, what I feel and what I can express.

Jose -  And because it’s what we’ve seen in our homes: some sing, others play the guitar …

Miguel -  We grew up with this since we were kids, it’s what we’ve seen and know how to do.

What is flamenco to you?

 Jose -  Its life. We live flamenco twenty four hours a day, walking down the street you walk singing, expressing yourself wherever you are from when you get up until you go to sleep...

Miguel –  though getting up in the morning is a bit difficult for us!

Justo -  Without flamenco we couldn’t exist. Two days without singing or playing the guitar and I’ve got cold turkey - its something that comes from inside, you feel uncomfortable because you want to sing, you want to listen to the harmony.

 Jose -  It’s a way of expressing our sorrows, our joys, our weirdness...

Miguel -  Your weirdness – you’re really weird?

What do you feel when you play or listen to flamenco? 

Miguel -  I feel very well, at home. When you are on stage you feel popular, but only on stage – afterwards you feel just like everyone else. 

Jose –  You feel the moment, with no thought of anything except what you are doing, listening to the singing, watching the dancing, right there with them, attentive to what they are doing and about to do.

When we were walking through the village you remarked on how flamenco it was … 

Justo -  I felt very much at home... inspired by the mountains, you feel bohemian, it brings you nice thoughts and memories … and all this is also transmitted in flamenco, it makes you feel alive and inspires you.

Do you think flamenco is separate from the everyday world?

 Jose -  No, I think you live flamenco day by day, it goes with life, with the times, because if it didn’t go with life flamenco would be like it was thirty years ago, but its evolving at the same pace.

 What do you think about the commercialization of flamenco?

 Justo -  Its come on a long way, just look what flamenco was like thirty years ago and what its like now, because its been mixed with everything, with jazz, with blues, with soul, with all sorts of styles. You need to know your base, your roots, but from there you have to evolve more and more and see what you can discover, you don’t what to get stuck … 

Do you think flamenco is degenerating or progressing? 

Jose -  I think its growing, but for a limited public.

Justo -  Here in Spain they don’t value flamenco for what it is.

Miguel -  Most people prefer to listen to some geezer who can’t sing and just makes a noise – that sells more.

But Cameron was very popular here…

 Jose -  Yes, but only at the end. It was only after a lot of work that people understood him.

Justo -  He himself said that people didn’t understand his way of singing

What’s duende? 

Justo –  Duende is something you are born with, when you are born you already have duende. We’d all like to be Cameron but we know that duende

is something that he has, a gift no one else can reach. Duende is something you get when you’re born, and you’re stuck with it.

You went to Korea together – what was it like taking flamenco there? Did they appreciate it? 

Miguel -  They like it more than the Spanish do …

Justo -  They never left us in peace …

Jose -   They made us spend a whole hour autographing their T shirts!

And why is that? 

Jose -  I dunno, maybe because of some relation of their ancestors or something.

Miguel -  Here you play flamenco and people like it, but they don’t like it as much as the Japanese or Chinese do. It does something for them and they go mad with joy, they all want to learn.

Justo -  Here we are too used to flamenco but over there it’s new and fresh, and when people hear it draws their attention and they ask themselves “what’s that?”

Where does flamenco come from? 

Jose -  Flamenco comes from past times, from the mines …

Justo -  It arose from many cultures that lived in Andalusia and from many different kinds of music, to express the feelings and history of the Andalusian people.

Do you see similarities between Arab music and flamenco? 

Miguel -  They have a lot in common, and they say that the moors and gypsies resemble each other in some of our customs, like in the ritual of the scarf when we marry.

They say that the gypsies came from India

 Jose -  Some say they came from Egypt. and some from India, but I think we are the only folk who have no country in particular.

Carmen -  Well you look like you come from India!!

Justo -  Yes, he looks Indian, I agree.

You said that gypsies feel differently from non gypsies – what did you mean? 

Jose -  A gypsy is always a gypsy, in behaviour, customs, and manners.

Miguel -  Publicly they may seem like a normal person like anyone else, but behind closed doors it is different, they keep their real self hidden.

Justo -  There are gypsy customs that non-gypsies should value and not lose. For example, love for your family, for old people, respect for your fellows. You hardly ever see a gypsy in an old people’s home because we respect our elders enough to look after them...

 Can you transmit these values through flamenco?

 Jose -  Teaching is an art, and not everyone can teach, you have to have it in you.

Justo -  Yes you can transmit it if they pay attention and want to learn.

How does learning or teaching flamenco differ from expressing it on stage?

 Jose -  You can learn rhythm, you can learn everything, but more than that you’ve got to have it inside you.

Miguel -  Anyone can learn flamenco, but only someone who really feels it inside can transmit it.

Does flamenco make  you feel more deeply?

Justo -  Well yes, because when you sing a seguiriya you express yourself and it hurts, you feel the sorrow and the agony, but you have to keep going and hold it together.

Why do you like it if it hurts? 

Miguel – Maybe there’s a bit of masochism there.

Jose -  Maybe. There are times when you feel like being sad, your body asks for it.

Justo -  You feel like being alone, solitary and disconnected from everything.

Well, thank you very much. For me that’s it. Do you have anything else you want to say?

Miguel - What we want to say is - can we have some more drinks!