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Biography of Camarón de la Isla | Singers of flamenco

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Its very special Elf, renewal you printed to flamenco and their premature loss have become all a myth.

Camarón de la Isla is a name that is essential to understand the cante jondo from the second half of the 20th century. He is considered one of the best singers of flamenco of all time and, in the opinion of many, a revolutionary of the song that helped, along with Enrique Morente, the rebirth of a genre that was undergoing a serious crisis, transforming it from the inside, while respecting its essence more genuine. His figure, which has crossed the borders of flamenco, as well as his early death and samples of his art that have been recorded have led to the creation of a legend around his person that has spread all over the world.
In 1968 he began an expansion and renovation of its musical language, and from 1979 intensified their efforts to make of the flamenco art a genre more affordable for the public in general. Despite the criticisms of the purists, shrimp felt that it didn't make sense sing something that already had others "as a disk" if it could not give you something of himself, which is what he was doing. His album the legend of time is between its nineteen great LP's, the more remarkable for the great innovation that marked his appearance on the cante jondo.

Camarón de la Isla
José Monje Cruz was born in San Fernando, Cádiz province, in 1952, the seventh of eight children of a Gypsy blacksmith, Luis Monje, who died still a child, and a collared Pratincole, Juana. His nickname, "Shrimp", came to him because of the hand of an uncle, who thought her blond hair and clear skin did not fit the stereotype of a boy cale. He felt since childhood fondness for the world of bulls, and even tried to engage in the art of Cúchares, but he saw that it was not theirs and bowed by singing, something usual in her family (her father sang well), where they venerated figures such as La Perla de Cádiz and the jacket.
In fact, is considered a child prodigy, since singing caused the admiration of all who hear him. With seven years singing in trains and coaches ranging from the island of San Fernando to Chiclana or Sherry, along with teammate Rancapino, and flamenco skills were anchored in countless Flemish parties that his family used to make. Its passage by the schools was very brief, because very soon he began working in the smithy of his father, while he was singing to earn some money to help the tiny family economics.
One of the places most frequented was the sale of Vargas, where Manolo Caracol, reputed genius of singing, recognized his talent, and even encouraged to be present, in 1962, to the competition of flamenco of the Montilla Festival, which won, which began its life as a professional singer, definitively leaving behind his childhood. In fact, his mother faked a role, lying at his age, so he could move to the Seville fair in 1963 when he was only twelve years old; There was heard and praised by the footballer Mairena. His fame, despite age, was already unquestionable.
He worked for Andalusia, Cadiz and at the tavern, the Gypsy of Malaga, and participated in one of the most important events of the universe of flamenco, Mairena Festival. When he was only sixteen years old, the company Miguel de los Reyes took him to Madrid, where for a long time was engaged in a tablao Torres Bermejas called. Many nights, early in the morning, shrimp continued singing in El Palomar, a former sale on the outskirts of Madrid, dedicated, therefore, in body and soul to his profession. His fame grew, so the tablaos went to festivals, where his art could be better appreciated by his followers, who were already beginning to form legion.

Paco de Lucia to Tomatito

It would be in Madrid where met the Paco de Lucía algeciran, with whom he would share a good part of his career, recording a total of eight LPs between 1968 and 1977. With he recorded his first LP, seeing you flowers weep, in 1968, a work that marks the tone of his first recordings, in which shrimp puts his maximum effort to follow the tradition of classical singing more Orthodox, very respectful with the tradition.
However, his restless spirit and his friendship with the young Gypsy values of the time made to seek other horizons for his art. Indeed, it would be in 1979 when the first recording without Paco de Lucía, the legend of the time, key work to understand the particular creative universe of shrimp. The album, the first recorded with his friend Tomatito on guitar, was a true revolution in the world of singing, and the first making contact with the particular Calvary shrimp had to suffer for the rest of his career for critical voices who censored him that he had "betrayed" the orthodoxy and tradition than as weighted had been long ago by their mentors. It is said there followers who, having listened to the disc, flocked to stores to return it because "that wasn't shrimp".

Shrimp with Paco de Lucía
The recording, produced by Ricardo Pachón, who as you bet by artists such transgressors as the brothers Amador (Pata Negra) or Kiko Veneno, moved away, although it is true, of the orthodoxy of guitar, palmas and chorus to introduce elements far to classical singing clubs, with concessions to rock, jazz and Eastern traditions, although it not ceased to be a purely Flemish product.
The disc included instruments hitherto unknown singers disc: bass, drums, percussion, piano Fender, electric guitar, keyboards, zither... (time dare even with all string, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, in his LP Orchestra I am Gypsy, 1989), although shrimp sings on it with the same feeling as in his previous works. San Fernando had the idea to approach singing a little accustomed to conventional flamenco public, introducing instrumentations and stylistic innovations that sounded "better" for young audiences, intended to be a more creative art.
They are famous, in this sense, the ideas expressed in an interview: "flamenco is, but on what has been done you can continue creating without deceiving, without mystify. Why do we have to do all the ' soleá ' exactly the same, as if we were a disk? If I can add something, without distorting what is the sing soleá, enrich it, why not will I do it? "." The change experienced was so deep that even changed his image; He left, thus, soniquete "Island" in its name, presented his album with a cover other than the previous, more "modern", and wore a beard who already accompanied him forever.
Despite the meaning and the enormous influence that had this disk, the care with which it was recorded and the expectations aroused among their creators, it was an utter sales failure (just came to six thousand copies). Still, the disc was a radical change in the flamenco scene; without knowing it, shrimp opened a door that revolutionized the art from the inside and which gave rise to the movement of "the young Flemish" (he liked to call it "Gypsy flamenco rock"), that he has given so many fruits and that so many options it awarded musical miscegenation between different cultures and ways of understanding the Gypsy music. It was not strange that shrimp initiate other collaborations with artists away from flamenco, as Jorge Pardo or Charles Benevent jazz performers, and there are even some recordings that makes forays into rock, as in some of the Alameda group or even alone.

In a performance with Tomatito
From that moment shrimp presented two faces: one more commercial offering in their recordings, which were gradually being known in much of the world; and another more Gypsy and sober, the live performances. Thus, while their albums were consumed by a public more open and heterodox, his appearances at the festivals became authentic festivals where the public, mostly Roma, attended with genuine devotion and almost mystical fervor.
The phenomenon was on the rise, and at those festivals where it appeared, as in the prestigious song of the Minas de la Union in 1983, his followers, who were already crowd, attending astonished info the spectacle of a shrimp delivered to exhaustion in singing, but once finished their performance (usually completed with a frenzy of applause and cheers, and a singer leaving the stage in full catharsis) the spectators were loud room, without respect to the next artist. Never in the history of singing such mass demonstrations had been given, and that was an unanswerable argument for those who criticized his art (the majority of the public was Gypsy, whose musical instinct is, to the dessert, the final and supreme judge of flamenco); It was, in short, a social phenomenon which, however, not clouded the enormous artistic quality of his career.

The success and the agony

It was also the time that shrimp began to notice the effects of drug use. The singer, in fact, endured his addiction until he had to submit, at the end of the Decade of the 1980s, a priest from detoxification by regular consumption of cocaine and heroin (although never made it through a vein).
This fact was added the serious traffic accident suffered on October 17, 1986 (was seriously injured when it hit their vehicle head-on with other two passenger cars, whose drivers were killed on the spot), by which was sentenced to one year of imprisonment less for an offence of recklessly (although it was not imprisoned, and that it had a history) and his arrest on August 27, 1988 in San Fernando, for insulting and attempting to assault a municipal officer who faulted him the bad parking of your vehicle (was imprisoned for two days).
All this contributed to creating a "black legend" around his person, which caused that rumors and malicious comments that were arise as spreading the fallacy that the singer had contracted AIDS.
In 1989, between March and September, recorded in Seville and in London the album Soy gitano, which helped the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Ana Belén (a Duet singing a song composed by Juan Luis Guerra, "Amor de conuco"). When I recorded a new album with Paco de Lucía, in September 1991, his representative for 20 years and that he only hired her recitals, Jesús Antonio Pulpón, announced that shrimp would act at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Barcelona, but months later, in February 1992, the Organization excluded it from this ceremony, even though it included two of his performances that summer festival of the arts of the Olympiad Cultural (which never came to be produced).

Shrimp in his last appearance
in public (January 1992)
His last public performance took place on 26 January 1992, mayor San Juan Evangelista de Madrid at school. At the end of March of the same year he traveled to Barcelona to record a promotional video of the Spanish Pavilion at the Expo 92 in Seville, and took this trip to undergo tests for a lung condition, so it remained entered five days at the Quiron clinic.
Despite staying at first in secret the results of medical tests on April 8 was transferred to the clinic may of Rochester (Minnesota), to undergo more testing before a possible diagnosis of lung cancer. At the beginning of May 1992 he returned to Spain to continue with treatment of rest, which lasted three months.
On 12 May 1992 announced the publication of which would be his last album, Colt of rage and honey, in collaboration with Paco de Lucía, who in addition to playing led and conducted the production disk, and Miquel Barceló, who made the drawing that served as a cover. For the seventh biennial Arte Flamenco in Seville, which was to be held in the month of September 1992, planned the inaugural show was a mixture of singing and bullfighting, which was borne by shrimp and Curro Romero in La Maestranza.
However, death surprised the singer when, after going to the Hospital Germans Trias i Pujol Badalona, what suffered from serious lung condition could with it. Shrimp was a heavy smoker, and although he had left the cocaine and heroin for four years, could not contain their urge to smoke up to sixty cigarettes a day, what was, without doubt, the main cause of his early death. His funeral was massive; It is estimated that fifty thousand people gathered in the cemetery of his hometown, where his remains were buried in a mausoleum. The artist was married to whoever his partner's life, Dolores Montoya, known by the affectionate nickname of "Sparkle", with whom he had four children, Luis, Gema, Rocío and José "joseiyo".

Art of Camaron de la Isla

You should be considered to shrimp as the key figure of the "new flamenco", name which includes a series of performers and composers that emerged in the last decades of the last century who joined the Flemish tradition, intending to enrich and evolve this musical style from other music rhythms.

Shrimp in concert (1990)
The genius, tear, what came to be called "the Goblin" of the singer's San Fernando is something indisputable, but what really made him unique from other flamenco greats was, without doubt, its versatility, its ability to adopt any suit as long as this would serve to express his art and, above all, its transmission, its ease to reach the audience capacity to thrill thanks to his privileged voice. The way that shrimp felt flamenco, from the inside, putting all your senses in the service of his voice, was a feature that even the best singers of the moment, including Morente, respected and admired him.
All this should add a personality affable and generous, but also with marked features of reserve and shyness; in fact, he never assimilated its success; He didn't become a public figure, a leader of the masses.
The theme of their songs give an idea of the personality of shrimp, plasma where the identity of a people and his own despair; the mention of death is common in the chosen texts and the futility of life, of the existential crisis of his last years, contrast with the song to life, to love and to women in their early stages, but always something is recurring acceptance of her condition of Roma, the vindication of their race and their customs , and the protest by the often degrading conditions, its individuals, suffering from turning around one of his favourite, recurring themes in Gypsy culture: freedom (no wonder, so find allusions to the jail in his songs). Literary support that used more shrimp was the works of Lorca, which sang several poems on different disks.

Home of the legendary album the legend of time (1979)
Basically bats who sang were by joys, tarantos, tangos, fandangos, and, above all, bulerias, although also did the same with soleares, rumbas, malagueñas, pile driving, carols, peteneras, canteens and sevillanas, among others. His detractors encasillaban you in the cantes festive, and blamed him some mediocrity in other clubs, such as the seguidillas or the granaínas; in any case, these criticisms respond precisely to the rigidity of the Flemish who had known shrimp, and not to the broadmindedness of an artist to that I was looking for in every corner of his art to find the way to better reach the public.
Although Paco de Lucía and Tomatito were the guitarists who fundamentally was accompanied, he also partner with Antonio Arenas, Paco Cepero, Sabicas, Ramón de Algeciras, Raimundo Amador and Juan Manuel Cañizares. On the other hand, fruit of his personality always restless, collaborated with various artists, and even intervened in two short films and a feature film made in France, as well as an appearance in the peculiar vision of flamenco by Carlos Saura, in his film Sevillanas.

An early image of Paco de Lucía and Camarón
While his record company not attended too international in the artist's life market, since only his records were exported to France and Japan, the truth is that he made tours of several countries around the world. Thus, it is not surprising that great figures of contemporary music from around the world have recognized their admiration by the figure of shrimp, as it can be the case of Chick Korea, Miles Davis, Peter Gabriel, Mike Jagger, Quincy Jones, David Byrne, Milton Nascimento, Bono (U2 leader) and Gilberto Gil.
Shrimp has probably written the best pages of the history of flamenco with Antonio Mairena and Manolo Caracol. Even today still not heard a new voice capable of measuring with the Prince's Cadiz, although it hurts to them that while he lived were busy replicating that shrimp was nothing more than a copy of this or that.

Discography of Camarón de la Isla


Despite the great sound legacy left by Camarón de la Isla, most are live recordings, which in many cases have not been subject to any census, something unfortunately common in many Flemish artists; many of his recordings were sold in format of cassette tape at gas stations and other centers away from official stores, not always with the desired quality; issues, moreover, are repeated in many of them, collected, often only with the title of shrimp by..., and the corresponding stick.

Camarón de la Isla
Officially published only 17 discs, which includes 164 songs, although only 27 of them appears in the artist in the records of the SGAE. In fact, their record sales were, in life, relatively few (just run 361.000 copies), including their most successful sales, I am Gypsy (first Golden record of the artist, with more than 50,000 copies sold). Most of the income they received came from the recitals.
Upon his death, the shrimp phenomenon made that she is reeditaran and collect the tracks recorded by the artist and much larger, even astronomical sales figures, reached while precisely the lack of authorship has made only a fraction of the money reverts in his heirs. In February 2004 it came to light that is intended to be the definitive collection, a triple CD with the most important topics of the artist remastered with great care.
Official discography
With Paco de Lucía
  • To see you with the flowers cry (1969).
  • Whenever we see each other (1970).
  • Collared Pratincole (1972).
  • Are your eyes two-star (1973).
  • Caminito de Totana (1973).
  • I'm walking (1974).
  • Art and Majesty (1975).
  • Rosa María (1976).
  • Sand Castle (1977).
  • As the water (1981).
  • Colt of rage and honey (1992).
With Tomatito
  • The legend of the time (1979).
  • Calle real (1983).
  • I will live (1984).
  • Shrimp tells (1986).
  • Live Flamenco (1987).
  • I am a Gypsy (1989).
Two compilations, the last one should be added to this already carried out after having killed the artist: self-portrait (remixes and rarities, 1991) and our shrimp, live (1994).

Home our shrimp
Extracted from the website: Biografías y Vidas
Biographies of historical figures and personalities

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