Prisons, drugs and marginalization: the curse of the flamingos, from Rafael Amargo to Las Grecas
December 2, 2020
“In what entertained me / when I was in prisons / was in counting the links / that my caena ‘had,” he sang Enrique Morente. We know that flamenco is an art inextricably linked to poverty, to marginality, to the fartita ‘de to, that’s why it keeps something terribly sentimental, ancestral and enigmatic in its skirts: it is sung with the complaint’ of those who have gone hungry of those who have fallen in love like dogs, of those who have been cornered by the system and at some point have tried to slap him back.
Flamenco -which raises its eyebrow before the Welfare State- suffers and bleeds, it is uncomfortable and true as death: it comes from the ancient voice of the laborers, the gypsies, the bandits and the beggars. It has that hint of rebellion, of the search for freedom, of contempt for authority, of defiance of the boss: “Lord, you’re on horseback / and you don’t say good morning / if the horse limped / another rooster would sing”, as he threw Jose Menese. “A judge asked me / what I was supporting myself on / and I told him stealing / how to keep using it / but I don’t steal that much.” Chimpún.
Flamenco, also heir to the medieval romance: “Yo, poor me / I’m in prisons, / without knowing when it’s day / and even less when it’s night”. That hooliganism. That trap -so many times-. A very clever pillage amassed forever and ever. A flirtation with nighttime and treachery. A taste for excess. For the party understood as a long life of palms and wines and friends and cantes of one and the other, celebrating at least that we are not dead, starting with another song. See you tomorrow.
For all this deep idiosyncrasy something fits the news that the bailaor Rafael Amargo has been arrested for belonging to a criminal gang and for drug trafficking. The curse of the flamingos does not start in him. The child of Granada, born in 75, just after Franco’s death, is a true flamenco, a pure flamenco that, nevertheless, has been playing contemporary dance throughout his career, drinking, without going any further. away from the teachings of Martha Graham’s school in New York.
“Cocaine ruined flamenco”
He admires Antonio Gades and vindicates the theatrical concept of flamenco and the same immerses himself in a tablao that fools around with the plastic or visual arts. He has been recognized as bisexual and as a teetotaler of alcohol and tobacco, although other things – he has winked on occasion – he does consume when he tends. This type of narcotic has also been, unfortunately, very close to this powerful art.
Tomatito and José Mercé have recognized it on occasion: “Cocaine has ruined flamenco”, referring to the fact that the old parties were about drinking, eating and singing, but that the irruption of the white dust of the demons he has ended up taking the life of more than one of his own.
Remember Camarón’s problem with drugs that led him to the psychiatrist Marcelo Camus – although La Chispa, his wife, always said that his real evil “was tobacco” -. Remember also when in 1990 he was sentenced to one year in prison for reckless driving. José Monje caused a traffic accident in which two people died. Speeding. He was distracted, they said. His wife and children were seriously injured. Finally, he did not have to go to jail for lacking a criminal record, but his license was taken away for a little while.
“The jail sounds like seguiriyas”
Emblematic Rafael Riqueni, the Seville-based guitarist Morente’s squire: in 2017 he finally saw a clear sky after two years behind bars for an accumulation of minor crimes and a street assault related to a bipolar disorder that was diagnosed in the mid-nineties. “The jail sounds like seguiriyas,” he said then. Shortly after, he would release with the Granada-born cantaora Estrella Morente an album recorded in the prison of Seville during his internment: in this album they homed La Niña de los Peines.
Las Grecas and José the French
Watch out for the case of the cantaor Luis Heredia Fernández, better known as El Polaco: nine and a half years in prison for trying to kill a neighbor on his farm in a fight over the sewage that flowed into the urbanization. Closer and more familiar is the story of the dancer Farruquito, who served three years in prison for fatally running over Benjamín Olalla when he was driving down a street in Seville. Also speeding. Also, he did not have a driver’s license or car insurance. Then he fled. It is also true that he was an “exemplary” prisoner and that allowed him to benefit from all prison benefits.
Every time “outside of me / I no longer want your love” sounds, something smiles at us: there José El Francés, who in 2002 entered the Valdemoro prison (Madrid) to serve a sentence of nine years and one day for drug trafficking. Just after selling 300,000 copies, winning the category of the Amigo Awards for Best Flamenco Album and taking the recognition from Cadena Dial to the most popular musician of the year. Finally, he came out ahead of schedule and with the support of Ketama and Lolita and Rosario Flores, among others, who promoted him as the “gypsy prince blue” of flamenco.
Chiquetete He was about to step on the train, but the blood did not reach the river: at the last minute he avoided the intentions of his former wife Raquel Bollo. The one that did was the wonderful Tina de Las Grecas, mother of flamenco-rock: in the eighties he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia infused with drug addiction and in one of his seizures he attacked his sister by sticking a knife in her shoulder.
He had five daughters, two of them out of wedlock – revolutionary at that time. She contracted AIDS and ended up visiting the Yeserías women’s prison to stay for a few weeks: she had robbed a hairdresser in Talavera de la Reina. The curse of the flamingos: all full of art, so many full of pain.