For over a decade, a revolution has been taking place in the world of flamenco. It first appeared on the dance scene, where choreographers like Israel Galván and Rocio Molina have overturned the codes and the rituals, tested the limits and the possibilities, while questioning the history of this culture and its possible links with other styles and disciplines. The Antología del Cante Flamenco Heterodoxo by Francisco Contreras, aka Niño de Elche, is also part of the same reassessment. This work, which should go down in history, has been completed successfully thanks to the supervision of the multidisciplinary artist and intellectual Pedro G. Romero, who is also Galván’s advisor, and of the brilliant singer Rocio Marquez, and thanks to the direction of musician and producer Raül Refree, already partly responsible for the noteworthy albums of Silvia Perez Cruz, Rocío Marquez and Rosalia. But as brilliant as they are, these men working behind the scenes couldn’t diminish Niño de Elche’s protean talent. He arranges harmonies, hums, grumbles, screams or whispers; he sings, enchants and surprises.
The archeological work he has undertaken betrays his deep commitment toward flamenco. A multitude of classic forms are tackled (soleá, martinetes, rumba, seguiriya, fandango…) and emblematic artists are cited: singers Manolo Caracol, Rafael Romero, Lola Flores and Pepe Marchena, dancer Vicente Escudero and poet Federico Garcia Lorca who did so much for the genre. Others, who are very much alive, came to help him, such as guitarist Diego de Morón, or Israel Galván, who made his dancing shoes resonate. The announced heterodoxy is flamboyant and mixes an unwritten broad history of the avant-gardes. The composers (Manuel de Falla, Dmitri Shostakovich, George Crumb and Luigi Nono) are revisited, the popular authors Tim Buckley and Mikel Laboa are covered, the director Val del Omar and the plastic artist Isidoro Valcárcel Medina are roped in. The texts used reveal a culture without borders, an obvious political commitment—when he quotes the situationist Guy Debord or the anarchist Helios Gomez—and a controversial spirit when he distorts the writings of Pope Pius V or of antiflamenco author Eugenio Noel.
In 27 tracks, the chameleon singer, assisted by the agile producer and a few skillful musicians, outlines unused paths, which go from classic flamenco to noise poetry, circus music, cabaret, noisy rock, sound experiments evoking the prehistoric times, in the style of Pierre Schaeffer, or the Middle Ages of Suicide’s electronic music. Here, we are taken by the purity of the singing accompanied by a church organ or a classic guitar; there, we are amused by a vintage tango. The Antología del Cante Flamenco Heterodoxo is sometimes extreme, but never gratuitous, and always well-balanced and surprising. It opens a limitless horizon to flamenco and a historical role to Niño de Elche. © BM/QB