Flamenco 9 – Cantes de Las Minas

This week we have moved east and out of Andalusia into the Region of Murcia. We are going to take a look at the Cantes de Las Minas or Cantes de Levante. The silver, lead and iron ore mines in the mountains that run from the city of Cartagena to the town of La Unión have been the key factor in the economic development of this small, fertile province nestled between Andalusia and Valencia. Tourism may well be the key today – we bet a few of you have heard of La Manga – but before there were plenty of visitors. Cartagena was originally founded by the Carthaginians, conquered by the Romans and was later an Arab kingdom in alliance with those of Córdoba and Granada.

To give you an idea of the area we’re talking about. Here’s a photo of the mountains (as seen from the Mar Menor):

and a map of the mountain region:

Even the specialists find it hard to agree on a name for this type of Flamenco cantes. Some prefer Cantes de Las Minas because they argue that the mines are the link between these different styles, whilst others opt for Cantes de Levante because they are also sung in the Sierra de Granada, in the in-land part of the province of Almería and Jaen, all of which are part of eastern Spain.

The most important styles are Tarantas, Tarantos, Cartageneras and Murcianas or Mineras.

Both these forms descend from the Fandango via Almería. The name could either derive from the Neapolitan Tarantella or from the word Taranto that is the Gypsy name given to people from Almería. Like the Malagueñas they are made up of five line verses in which either the first or second line is repeated. Here is an extraordinary example of a Taranta from Linares, Jaen, sung by Carmen Linares.

The Taranto is very hard to dance as it is slow, intense and very structured with dramatic bouts of taconeo. Here is an example from Merche Esmeralda, a great Bailaora from the eighties:

The Cartagenera is an urban version of the Fandango that, as its name suggests, originated in the city of Cartagena. Its creation is attributed to the professional Cantaores of the late nineteenth century and its most famous and successful exponent was the legendary Antonio Chacón. Here is a recording from 1909 (not a typo) by the great man himself!

And here is an example from 2009. This is a clip from Spanish television Antonio Suárez accompanied by his fifteen year old son on guitar.

The Minera comes from the mines in the mountain range of La Unión in Murcia and the lyrics refer to the life and trials of the miners and it is a harsh and very difficult style to sing convincingly. But if anyone could do it it has to be Camarón de la Isla. Here he is with the incomparable Tomatito doing the honours on guitar. Just look at how hard Tomatito has to concentrate to keep up with him.

Back in a couple of weeks (after Easter): Cantes de Ida y Vuelta

One Response to Flamenco 9 – Cantes de Las Minas

  1. Pingback: The Flamenco Series « Casa Maki

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