La Copla Española – Lola Flores

María Dolores Flores Ruiz, better known by her stage name of Lola Flores, was born in Jerez de la Frontera (Cádiz) on 23rd January 1923. She was a singer of Copla and Flamenco, a bailaora and actress and was known as “La Faraona” (The Pharaoh Queen, more or less).
Over the decades her personality, character and performing style were described variously as racial, temperamental, authentic or genius.
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La Copla Española – Olga Ramos

Trinidad Olga Ramos Sanguino was born in Badajoz on 18 July 1918.
When she was only eight her family moved to Madrid, where she studied violin and singing at the Conservatory where, in 1943, she was to win the Chamber Music award.
In the forties she was part of the Orquesta Fémina, performing in several music cafés in the capital such as El Café Universal.
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La Copla Española – Imperio Argentina

Magdalena Nile del Río, whose stage name was Imperio Argentina was born in December 1910 in the Barrio de San Telmo in Buenos Aires. Her father was Antonio Nile, a guitarist from Gibraltar and her mother the Spanish dancer Rosario del Río. She sang and danced from an early age and made her début at 14 at the Teatro Romea in Madrid. The playwright Jacinto Benavente, who was a connoisseur of the genre, was smitten and commented on how much she reminded him of two of the great Divas of the time – Pastora Imperio and La Argentinita – and thus her stage name came into being.
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La Copla Española: Miguel de Molina

Miguel Frías de Molina was born in Málaga on 10th April, 1908. He was raised by six women: his mother, his sister and four aunts and as a child attended a church school.
As a teenager he moved to Algeciras and took up his first job as a cleaner in a brothel. It was here, when one of the prostitutes tried to seduce him, that he understood and accepted his homosexuality. Something that, sadly and scandalously, was to cost him dearly in later life.
At the age of twenty he worked as tour guide, accompanying groups of tourists to shows at the Tablaos in the region. But he knew he had a special talent: a voice and artistic temperament perfectly suited to Copla Española. He became a mainstay of the genre and was its first truly great male voice.
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La Copla Española: Estrellita Castro

Estrella Castro Navarrete was a singer and actress known by her stage name of Estrellita Castro. She was born in Seville on 28th June 1908 in Calle Mateos Gago, the street that leads from the Giralda to the Barrio de Santa Cruz, one of the areas of the city with strongest traditional character.
Estrellita was the youngest of eleven children. Her father was a fishmonger from Galicia. From the age of eleven she attended the Maestro Realito’s dance academy, doing the housework to help pay for her classes. At the age of twelve she danced for the first time in the presence of King Alfonso XIII and Queen Victoria Eugenia. A key figure at the beginning of her career was the legendary bullfighter Ignacio Sánchez Mejías, who saw her dance at a Gala for underprivileged children and gave her a gold coin. She made her début at “Tronío” in the Calle Sierpes and went on to perform at all the major theatres in Spain, Europe, Latin America and even the United States.
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La Copla Española: Concha Piquer

La Copla has evolved as a uniquely Spanish artistic expression, through song, of popular sentiment: sentiment narrated in lyrics that tell stories set to the music of guitars, palillos, pianos or trumpets.

The genre derives from popular verse, from the rhapsodies and songs of medieval minstrels, or those singing in later times in the corrales, finally finding expression in the voices of the great divos and divas of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Copla was born of this fusion between the picaresque Tonadilla and Cuplé, with the added influence, through Flamenco, of an Andalusian and Gypsy spirit, that harks back to its Moorish roots and is a vibrant reflection of diversity of the cultural melting pot that Andalusia has always been: from the olive groves of Jaen to the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts of Cadiz, Huelva and Málaga, the potters workshops on the banks of the Guadalquivir in Seville or the mines of Sierra Morena, the rich taste of Andalusia pervades the genre.
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La Copla Española: From start to finish

The Tonadilla is a traditional Spanish song style that has its roots in the jácaras, songs of arabic origin, that were sung between the acts in Golden Age Spanish theatre, alternating with dance numbers. The jácarandas were picaresque vignettes, stories recounting adventures, and the lyrics were often saucy and very much in the vernacular. Tonadillas were performed throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in the intervals of theatrical performances. This was a purely Spanish art form. The music was important but the songs were interspersed with recitations, with the emphasis on story telling rooted firmly in Spanish and especially Andalusian folklore.

The Tonadilla was created by the flautist and oboist Luis de Misón, born in Mataró in the Province of Barcelona in 1727. The first was performed in 1757 and over 100 of his works are conserved in the Spanish National Library. Another early composer was Manuel García, who also performed his compositions.

In all some 2,000 tonadillas have been catalogued; many with lyrics by respected writers such as Ramón de la Cruz and Tomás de Iriarte.

The singers were known as tonadilleros and tonadilleras, a name later inherited by the cupletistas of the twentieth century.
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The Flamenco Series

We’re about to start a new series on Copla. Before we do, we thought it would be a good idea to round up all the Flamenco posts and put links to them all in one place. You can find them all after the break.

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Worth Waiting For!

The 1993 overall winner of the Lámpara Minera (as well as in the categories of La Cartagenera, La Malagueña and La Soleá), Miguel Poveda, didn’t figure too strongly in last year’s Flamenco series. Not so much an oversight on our part as a (subjective) feeling that whilst being a truly talented artist, his more recent work had lacked a certain bite and edge that we had come to expect from him. We’d also heard rumours that something special was on its way and decided it would be better to wait. We wanted to talk about him in all his glory, not offer some random clips of performances that we were only half enthusiastic about. Well, that “something special” has arrived: his new album, arteSano (a play on words between “artisan” and “healthy or straightforward art”) is a profound and at times highly entertaining trip through some of the key palos of pure, traditional Flamenco.
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A Guitar Play List

A short play list. Some fine Flamenco guitar you might want to listen to over the weekend. Sabicas, Tomatito, Serranito, Manolo Sanlúcar, Pepe Habichuela, Juan Habichuela and Paco de Lucía. Hope you enjoy it!

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