TABLAO FLAMENCO CORDOBES HISTORY
Flamenco in Barcelona History
Flamenco bar sor tablaos, heirs to the XIXth century music clubs, are viewed with respect and recognition in the history of this art form, of which in a way they represent a profound popular knowledge. They are a rite of passage for anyone wishing to become a flamenco artist.
How and why?
The financial development undergone by Spain in the 1960s took off with the consumer-driven joy of a society which was just coming out of the post-war. This coincided with an extraordinary generation of flamenco Barcelona artists who would make history. The magnificent Antonio Mairena, with all his mastery, was one of them. Mairena was the guardian of the purity of the form, a purity that had been safeguarded for years within the genealogical tree of the Andalusian gipsy families of the Andalusian lowlands. The complicity and involvement of a number of important intellectuals, with Caballero Bonald as one of the most visible heads, contributed to its recognition, just like the Generation of the 27, led by Federico García Lorca and M. de Falla.
The anthology recorded by Hispavox and directed by Caballero Bonald with Perico el del Lunar is a constitutional declaration showing the path to be followed by this culture.
Although it is not known where the word “Tablao” comes from, what I can tell you is that Madrid saw the opening of “Zambra”, owned by Mr. Casares and Rosita Durán; Manuel del Rey’s “Corral de la Morería” and Pastora Imperio and Gitanillo de Triana’s “El Duende”.
These venues kept the hidden heritage of wine houses and “cabales” meetings, or young rich gentlemen parties. The historic names present at these parties make you sit down and dream away with a liquor glass in your hand.
This was the “boom” of tablaos, which started opening their doors mainly in Seville and Madrid, at the same time becoming a living school where knowledge was transmitted both orally and physically.
“Flamenco through experience”, as our friend the great writer Fernando Quiñones would say.
“This is the school that still prevails at Tablao Cordobes Flamenco Barcelona”
The Black Legend
Except for a few exceptions, the early 70s saw the beginning of the artistic decadence and decline of Tablao. This was due to three main factors:
• The new professional horizon for the artists was broadened thanks to the invaluable help and success achieved by the Spanish ballets of Antonio and Pilar López, Mariemma, Luisillo or Antonio Gades, who opened the stages of thw eorld to this art form.
• Through its distribution, the music industry firmly established the success of great performers, and the appearance of Paco de Lucía and Camarón de la Isla in this industry transcended flamenco Barcelona circles to become a part of our cultural heritage.
• The summer festivals held in every Spanish village with never ending programs and exorbitant amounts of public funds caused the disappearance of great performers from the tablaos. The arrival of mass tourism finished the job of corrupting these stages with extravagant proposals, unbearable clichés and artists turned into mere employees spending over ten or fifteen years in the same show, sometimes with interesting and professional artists but lacking in motivation.
Tablao Cordobes Flamenco Barcelona. 1970 Barcelona
Cordobes is our biography. My wife, Irene Alba, my sister, Mila de Vargas and I were part of the golden age, as a guitarist and bailaoras (flamenco Barcelona dancers) respectively, in the best tablaos and ballets of the time, a cultural and professional baggage that we have incorporated to our own company.
In the 1970s, Barcelona was greatly affected by the proximity of Franco’s death (the dictator), making its social and political reality and inappropriate setting for what flamenco Barcelona tablaos had to offer. Pressured by the need to change, we turned our eyes to the only possible market: the gypsies of Catalonia, southern France and half of Spain.
“Thus was our legend born”
Camarón de la isla, Farruco, Manuela Carrasco, Güito, Chocolate, Juan Villar, La Tati, Manolete, Lole y Manuel or Bambino, to name only a few, were our declaration of intent and the Golden pillar of our origins.
These artists were already very expensive, and our risk-taking approach was successful thanks to the great response that we had, and still have, from the different audiences of each period.
We replaced the classic Tablao routine model by staging it with a combination of the freshness of flamenco Barcelona and a theatrical setting. We changed some habits that were degrading towards the artists, such as dinner during the show or the chats that were typical during the show, displaying a total disregard for the artists.
Causing us to introduce –always ahead of everyone else- many performers who have now become stars in the flamenco world, including among them Eva la Yerbabuena, Belén Maya, Israel Galván, La Susi, Montse Cortés or Miguel Poveda, a never ending list which has marked our lifetime and has left an eternal legacy in history.
In 1972 or 1973 I took my daughter María Rosa, a straight-A honor student, at age 12 to the Seville fair. Thanks to my friendship with the legendary artist agent Antonio Pulpón, who we were staying with, we were able to attend the best and most private flamenco parties. Flamenco with capital letters.
On the last night, in the legendary Oromana stand, a meeting point for the most important names in the world of bullfighting, María Rosa saw Matilde Coral dance to Antonio Mairena’s singing, with that touch of ecstasy there is in “cabales” gatherings (private parties). And that’s the moment I realized that my daughter was about to make an announcement: “Daddy, I want to be a flamenco dancer”.
This wasn’t my plan for her future so, in order to gain time under the promise that she should both study and dance, she danced in Cordobes and other venues for a significant length of time.
María Rosa has inherited the gift from her mother and her aunt. She would have been a great flamenco Barcelona dancer. Instead, she became a very prestigious lawyer and is now the Managing Director of our company and, jointly with her brothers, the General Manager of Cordobes.
I regret not encouraging her to pursue her dream. Who would have told me? This is who we are, and this is Cordobes, a culture experienced in our own flesh, the realization and the constant ambitious and non-conformist search of a perfect ideal. We are now fortunate enough to have been recognized both by the official institutions and by society, as well as by our success in the market itself, all of which have praised our work. However, what we value the most is the recognition and praise we receive from the professionals themselves, those people who have left us their art, a treat for our senses and emotions which will forever impregnate the walls of Cordobes and that is repeated every single day and encourage us to carry on.
Thank you to everyone who has crossed our path. Thank you for helping us become what we are. Thank you.