In Andalucía, Spain’s southernmost region and the birthplace of flamenco, during the dog days of summer the sun doesn’t go down until after 10:00 p.m., and it’s only then that any self-respecting flamenco festival kicks into gear. The beer and wine flow, kids play in the dirt aisles between sets and the singers, like vampires, only stop with the first light of morning.
It was with a passion for the art form honed at events like these that guitarist Paco Fonta and dancer Celia Clara began Siempre Flamenco’s Festival de Cante. “We looked around and saw that what was missing from our lives in Miami was the singing,” Celia said. The couple started the project on a shoe string budget, recruiting local artists and crossing their fingers — not only in the hopes that people would show up, but also wondering if the intense, gut-wrenching sounds of pure flamenco singing would resonate with Miami audiences more accustomed to rumbas and sevillanas and other forms of “flamenco lite.”
They needn’t have worried. Marking its 10th anniversary this year, the festival has come far, from its humble beginnings at the Manuel Artime Theater in Little Havana to consistently sold-out weekends at the Adrienne Arsht Center’s Carnival Studio Theater. The line-up of performers that will be on hand from Friday through Sunday looks back to the past as well as forward to the future of this traditional yet ever-evolving art form.
Singer La Susi will be the biggest draw, particularly for aficionados of a certain age who cut their teeth listening to Camarón de la Isla, Lole y Manuel or Enrique Morente. Along with these icons of the 1970s, La Susi helped to usher in a new age of what had been seen as a musty, clichéd art form. Paco Lucía himself discovered her when she was only a teenager singing and dancing in a Madrid tablao. Soon, she was touring with Camarón, the greatest flamenco singing idol of all time, and was given the nickname “la Camaronera” for the way in which she was influenced by his singular style.