Flamenco 30 – Enrique Morente and family

There is so much we could say about the subject of this week’s post but we’ll keep it short. Enrique Morente, who passed away earlier this year, was a true giant in the Flamenco world in his own right: a Cantaor of no little talent and one of the bravest when it came to experimenting both with form and cross-genre fusion. For that alone he would be remembered with respect and admiration. But there was so much more to the man than that. His investigation of the history of Flamenco, of the roots of the lost forms or palos and the work he did both with his own recordings and those of others to bring them back into the public consciousness and revive their popularity was a major and totally decisive contribution to the resurgence the genre has enjoyed in recent decades. Simply put, without Enrique Morente Flamenco would not have traveled as far as it has in the last thirty years and the debt aficionados such as ourselves and many of today’s most successful performers owe him is immeasurable.


Enrique Morente was born in Granada in the neighbourhood of the Albaicin in 1942. As a child he was captivated by the Flamenco atmosphere at family gatherings and in the neighbourhood he grew up in. He learned the basics of the art under Aurelio Selles “Aurelio de Cádiz”. His zeal for learning took him to Madrid when he was 14 or 15 years old. There he spent most of his time in small, dingy clubs where he continued learning from, among others, an octogenarian Cantaor called Pepe de la Matrona, who in turn had studied under the legendary Antonio Chacón. Here, it appears that the seeds of his passion not only for the music but also for the history of the art form were sown.
He became known as Enrique el Granaíno. He made his debut at the Peña Flamenca Charlot in 1964 and got his first real break when he was hired by Mariemma’s company to perform at the Spanish Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair in the same year.

Here he is singing a Tango:

In 1965 he toured Europe and Japan. He very quickly gained the respect of his peers and that same year had been invited to join the cast of Zambra as well as being a regular performer at the Café de Chinitas. He was also in great demand at Festivals and shows around the country and shared the bill with all the leading artists of the day. In 1967 he won first prize at the Malaga Cantaora Gala.
His first album was released that year. On the simply, but eloquently, titled Cante Flamenco he was accompanied by Félix de Utrera. The album was extraordinary because he covered palos that were in no way fashionable at the time, revisiting the work of long forgotten artists and palos such as mirabrás – something quite unexpected from a Cantaor of barely 25 years of age. The album was honoured with a Special Mention in the Cátedra de Flamencología (a sort of Flamenco Hall of Fame) in 1968.
Here is a Fandango:

That same year he released a second album: Cantes Antiguos del Flamenco. This album showed an even deeper respect and knowledge for the older, half forgotten work of his predecessors and the fact that both were released in such quick succession indicates that they were the result of years of study and passionate investigation of the roots of his art. The second album was in no way a hastily put together follow up based on the success of the first. The two together were his calling card.
Around this time Enrique met and started working with the guitarist Manolo Sanlúcar. They would go on to work together on innumerable projects over the years.
Here they are together performing a Seguiriya:

In the early seventies he made successful tours of Europe, Mexico and the United States, performing on more than one occasion at the Lincoln Center. He toured extensively with Manolo Sanlúcar and received innumerable prizes and awards.
He continued investigating both the roots and the future possibilities of the genre. His setting of the poetry of Miguel Hernández to music was a tremendous success. He started pushing the boundaries of his art with collaborations with rock and jazz artists and helped to define the path Flamenco was to follow through the eighties and the nineties. He also looked to Eastern Europe and North Africa for inspiration actively pursuing both the obvious and the less obvious in his zeal to both consolidate the history and broaden the horizons of modern Flamenco.

Here is a clip of him singing Tangos with the Bulgarian Women’s Choir:

His research saved many unrecorded works from oblivion, traditional songs that had been handed down from generation to generation. He catalogued both styles and lyrics that without his efforts would surely have been lost. Here is Enrique, with the Algerian singer Cheb Khaled, performing a Bulería:

Enrique’s legacy would be extraordinary if it went no further. But we have to deal with the small matter of his children before we end this post.
His daughter, Estrella, is already a star in her own right. Here are father and daughter at the beginning of Estrella’s career singing the Tangos Gitanos “El Lenguaje de las Flores”:


Estrella Morente Carbonell was born in Granada in 1980. Her mother, Aurora Carbonell is a Bailaora. She has lived and breathed Flamenco all her life and has inherited her father’s passion for the history and origins of the genre. She has an extraordinary voice that is sublimely suited to the genre. She made her professional debut at sixteen and has not looked back since.
Here she is singing a Bulería at a family gathering in the Caves of Sacromonte in Granada:

In 2001 she performed at the Teatro Lara in Madrid, presenting her first album: ” Mi cante y un poema “. Here is a clip from that performance of her singing Alegrías:

As well as singing with many of today’s leading figures, Estrella has recorded songs for a number of film soundtracks. Perhaps best known of all is the version of Gardel’s Tango Volver that she recorded for Pedro Almodóvar’s film of the same name. Here is a clip of a live performance from Spanish television.

Estrella’s debut album, much like her father’s, saw her covering a wide range of traditional palos. The opening song, the Tangos “En lo Alto del Cerro”, is a fine example of both her exceptional voice and the deep affinity she feels with the music of Granada:

One of Estrella’s most successful projects was “Pastora 1922” which is a recreation of the First Cante Jondo Gala celebrated in the Alhambra Gardens in 1922. The Pastora in the title is Pastora Pavón the legendary “Niña Los Peines”. The last clip in today’s post is taken from that show.


Enrique Morente’s son and namesake is currently taking his first steps on the Flamenco stage. He performs with Juan Habichuela’s grandson. He is aware that his father is a very hard act to follow: “Of course it’s a lot to live up to. But when you’re on stage, it’s about you, you alone”
Here are the two of them together performing a Soleá:

When asked about his children, Enrique said: “It’s funny, isn’t it? The Morente Saga. It seems they’re all the rage now, they’re overshadowing me. What’s more, they sing better than me. But seriously, at the same time it’s a joy, a real joy”
Here is Enrique junior singing Fandangos accompanied by his uncle Antonio Carbonell:

And here, as promised, is Estrella singing and dancing the Bulería “Las Bulerías de los muelles” with which she closes the show Pastora 1922:

One Response to Flamenco 30 – Enrique Morente and family

  1. Pingback: The Flamenco Series « Casa Maki

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