Sunday, June 18, 2006

Cante Jondo

Many people are familiar with flamenco dancing and the flamenco style of guitar playing. Fewer people are familiar with flamenco singing, in particular the cante jondo (deep song) which Billboard magazine calls "the Spanish equivalent of the Delta Blues". It is deep, emotional, tortured; singing that would seem fairly natural coming from someone serving serious prison time.

In 1996, the Spanish governement held a flamenco contest open to all prisoners in Spanish jails. 150 inmates submitted demo tapes. Thirty finalists were chosen and escorted to Cordoba for the competition. The prize was to be 5000 pesetas and the reduction of the sentence being served. The winners were José Serrano, serving 25 years for homicide, and Antonio "El Agujetas", serving 15 years on drug charges. The CD Two Cries of Freedom: Gypsy Flamenco from the Prisons of Spain consists of five songs sung by José Serrano, four songs sung by Antonio "El Agujetas", and a duet by the pair. Because of the success of this contest and the release of this recording, both singers have been paroled, and the contest is now held every other year.

To be honest, EscapeGoat doesn't like this CD very much. The one time I had him listen to it, he turned off the stereo halfway through because he just couldn't stand it anymore. I like this CD for the exact same reasons he doesn't like it: these are raw, unrestrained, agonized voices. Antonio "El Agujetas" in particular sounds like he is in some serious pain. (His singing has been compared to a "hurt beast".) His singing is quite often not so much singing as it is growling and moaning. I wouldn't listen to this CD every day, and I certainly wouldn't try to dance to it, but if you want to hear some music with real emotion behind it, you should check this out.

The complete liner notes (my source for a fair amount of what I've just told you) and an additional quote from a reviewer for can be found here.

On a different note, it appears that my algorithm for predicting World Cup scores had a couple of minor glitches. I have fixed those glitches, and can confidently predict that Spanish soccer fans will not be singing the cante jondo, but will rather be dancing in the streets. Their team will beat Tunisia by slightly more than seven tenths of a goal. The final score will be
Tunisia 2:Spain e
pw = gypsy


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