Tomas de Perrate
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Tomas de Perrate

Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain | INDIE

Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain | INDIE
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Following the course of the river Gualaquivir as it flows down from Seville to Cadiz, to the left, is a small area where the art of flamenco was forged. There is a long list of gypsy families who settled in these parts and who have been responsible for passing down the oral tradition of this art � the Cagancho family, the Pelao family, the Fern�ndez family, the Ortegas, the Vargas... and the Perrates. They sang the ton�, the martinete, the seguiriya, the sole�, the romance and the buler�a, all of which were based on the gypsy polyrhythm (a combination of bars in binary and terciary time). Thanks to these important dynasties, the primitive forms of flamenco have survived to the present day.

The Perrate family of today, who still live within this same area, in the towns of Utrera and Lebrija, have continued the legacy they inherited from their patriarch Perrate and his sister Perrata, through the figures of Juan el Lebrijano, Pedro Pe�a and Tom�s de Perrate.

Tom�s de Perrate and Antonio Moya, the flamenco guitarist in this recording, have a profound understanding of the primitive flamenco forms. Here they combine tradition with innovation, going from a classical �sole� for voice and guitar, following the style of Perrate, to a �seguiriya� for voice, guitar and drums, the first ever performance of its kind.

Antonio Moya, who plays flamenco guitar with such wisdom, is a follower of Diego del Gastor and favourite pupil of Pedro Bac�n. He is joined by a group of musicians who come from the world of rock and jazz but who are also lovers of flamenco: Manuel Nieto on bass guitar, Lolo �lvarez on electric guitar, �lvaro Gandul on harmonica and keyboards, and Ricardo Pach�n Jr. on drums.

These musicians got together in the recording studio of Jorge Mar�n, hidden away amongst the pine trees of Oromana, and the outcome is this CD, in which new ways of interpreting the classical forms of flamenco are developed. The inexorable rhythm of the drums marking the twelve beats of the �seguiriya� is an invitation to those who know how to sing in time, and a pointer to those who claim that the �ton�s� and �seguiriyas� are sung in a free style rather than within this rhythm...

Today, in this worrying period of stagnation in flamenco, of tedious �tanguitos� accompanied by the rhythm of the box (the instrument that has done such harm to flamenco), it is exciting to hear a traditional flamenco singer who masters the classical forms � let�s not forget that he is the grandson of Manuel Torre � and who is keen to explore and innovate while respecting their beauty and intrinsic style.

LISTENING GUIDE

1 �EL PIYAYO� (tangos of Malaga)

Rafael Flores Nieto (Malaga, 1864-1940), whose nick-name was �El Piyayo�, was a gypsy flamenco singer and guitarrist who did his military service in Cuba. On his return, he sold wares in the streets of Malaga, and for his street cries he sang tangos with a distintly Carribean flavour, known as �tangos of Piyayo�. This song was included in the Festivales Flamencos at the height of era of Antonio Mairena, but with an accompaniment in the style of a �garrot�n�, and consequently lost its original �swing�, its strong rhythm, like so many other songs did. In the 1960s, Perrate and Diego del Gastor returned to the Carribean style, and today, Tom�s de Perrate takes these tangos up again, this time with a Jamaican feel, the most up-to-date sound from the Carribean.

2 �BULERIAS DEL PERRATE� (Buler�as of Utrera)

They went so fast in Jerez
That I couldn�t keep up
They went so slow in Triana...
Just a bit drunk, in Utrera,
I felt the urge to sing them

Carlos Lencero

These �buler�as� are a direct tribute to Perrate and to the flamenco style of Utrera. They start with a few bars that set the tempo with rhythmic clapping by El Chicharo, from Jerez. After the entrance of the voice, the guitar makes a short break and moves into the rhythm of the �buler�as� of Utrera. As the words say: �..so fast in Jerez....�

In �fiestas� in Utrera, the singers combine traditional verses of �buler�as� with lyrics from the latest Spanish-style popular songs or �cupl�s�. Such renowned flamenco singers as Fernanda and Bernarda, Perrate, Gaspar de Utrera and, above all, Bambino, have all done this and helped to make a generic flamenco form typical of Utera: the �cupl� por buler�a�.

3 �OLVIDARTE� (cupl� por buler�as)

Original song written by Denisse de Kalaffe , later version by the Cuban Francisco C�spedes, which Tom�s de Perate sings in the rhythm of �buler�as� within the traditional style of Utrera.

4 �SEGUIRIYAS DIDACTICAS�

The title of this song, literally �Didactic Seguiriyas� is half-ironic and half-serious. Tom�s de Perrate, Antonio Moya and Ricardo Pach�n Jr. show that this song-form has a defined rhythmic scheme - and can b - Ricardo Pachon



The gypsy tradition at the festival will be guarded by Tomás de Perrate, a member of the famous Perrate singers’ dynasty from Utrera, one of the major singing centres in the Seville province. He is a grandson of the great Manuel Torres, of whom it was said that when he was inspired he would ‘cut out your innards and drain the blood from your body’.
- Amsterdam / Utrecht 9-12 November 2006


Tomás de Perrate took a long time to bring out the legacy he guarded within. But when he felt cante's call, there was no turning back. The Utrera-born cantaor takes to his time the legacy from his father Perrate de Utrera and his grandfather Manuel Torres, capturing it in his performances and his recordings. The latest is ‘Perraterías’, a record produced by Ricardo Pachón, who left his trademark on some of the most emblematic albums by Camarón. As surprising as it may seem, this cantaor with an old-time echo was a rock drummer and he's inspired as much by Manolito de María as by Tom Waits. “If there's a natural evolution of flamenco, I think I'm a good example, since I belong to one of the greatest cantaor families, but I can't deny myself�.

What was the process of making ‘Perraterías’ like?

I think Ricardo Pachón had the desire to work with me. He was around a lot with my father - Perrate de Utrera - and is an enthusiast of that period. In fact, right now he's working on a project to recover old sound archives and in it are my father, Diego del Gastor, Fernanda and Bernarda... And he heard me sing at a Flamenco Fair and he came to meet me right away. When he saw the chance, we got down to making the album. It's a really short production in everything. We created a company; the record is ours and we made it with great pleasure.

Was there an idea ‘a priori’ of the line the album would follow?

Ricardo knew me as a classical cantaor and he thought I was that conventional. The idea was to make a record with guitar and voice. And in fact, I did it. But I didn't want to stick to my guns either because I like many types of music and I saw there were songs things could be put into. Being more revolutionary than me, he saw it right away.

There's that reggae blended with tangos by El Piyayo...

The reggae is recorded with a metronome and a guitar as a reference. Some Málaga tangos were recorded just like I do them in a classical repertoire. Since it was well-measured, it could be orchestrated. And it was clear that I could use some delightful rhythm with the collaboration of the musicians.

Do you think it might shock the fans who know you as a classical cantaor?

I'm very young within cante and I don't think people know me. You have to seek current techniques and it's not that they have to be sought out, but that you yourself are one. I've been singing since 1999, but before that I used to play the drums in a rock group. My house is full of instruments. You can't give up your life no matter how much you're Perrate de Utrera's son or Manuel Torre's grandson. If there's a natural evolution of flamenco, I think I'm a good example. Because I belong to one of the greatest cantaor families, but I can't deny myself and the musical influences I've had. Without meaning to criticize, I love the blues that José Mercé does, but perhaps he has less of that musical culture. I grew up with that.

So it's been completely natural for you, hasn't it?

Yeah. Moreover, working with Ricardo Pachón has been a great pleasure in that sense. He knows perfectly well what's right or wrong with an instrument. Nobody's told him what he has to do, but he does know how to choose. I think he lifts up the profession of musical producer to the category of art. He's even special in his dealings with the musicians: he doesn't command, but it's clear that he's the boss.

There are drums in a seguiriya because you wanted to prove something...

Last night I ended up talking to Diego Carrasco about the same thing. And he doesn't even have the album. He played the guitar for me yesterday and we'd never coincided. He was doing a rhythm for me on the guitar which is completely different from the usual one, but is nevertheless the original one. It's faster, more continuous, and obviously, well-measured... In short, the seguiriya is a cante designed to be done to rhythm; it's not free cante. That got on my nerves, above all when letting myself be accompanied. Because the guitarists are like waiting for you, they like fall behind... No sir; play the rhythm. When recording it, the same. I love the work the three of us have done: guitar, drums and cante. I love Antonio Moya's work in the seguiriya. Ricardo wanted to stick in more things, but I refused; I saw it as finished. I think it's turned out really approachable for all ears. Now then, really tiresome because it's very long. I would've removed some of the lyrics.

What was the bulerías party like with your family?

Oh, what a really nice thing. It was what I wanted to do. My siblings, my nephews and nieces, my wife, some gypsies from Utrera, who aren't really artists... all of them were delighted that I was recording the album. And when I told them to come down to the studio, they went mad. Ricardo asked me what drinks we should buy and I told him no, that we should buy food. And there they were, all friendly... If you pay attention, there are two - www.flamenco-world.com


Discography

Tomas de Perrate and family Fods 2003
Tomas de Perrate Perraterias Flamenco Vivo 2005

Photos

Bio

I am an Andalusian gypsy. In our culture, "el Flamenco" is regarded as the vehicle which conveys the poetic, musical and the spiritual values of our people. It is passed down and adapted from generation to generation within the family, its most intimate and most important milieu.

The historical development of flamenco is generally viewed in terms of the contribution made by individual artists, but it is the family that provides the environment where the individual acquires the habit of listening to and observing the art of flamenco. Certain echoes and forms of musical expression peculiar to specific family clans are a consequence of a natural disposition towards the art of flamenco and living in close contact with flamenco as a part of everyday life awakens the individuals natural gift and develops his or her interpretative abilities.

Although my father, the singer Perrate, is a legendary figure in the world of flamenco, and although I was by his side until his death, I was not brought up with flamenco around me and so did not feel this desire to sing at an early age. Life in our house was overshadowed by my father's illness - he became paralysed and was confined to a wheelchair back in 1972 when he was fifty-five and I was ten and so there reigned a rather sombre atmosphere of misfortune and poverty. For this reason, I never had the opportunity of experiencing those "fiestas" or parties that his flamenco friends went to, nor those family celebrations which took place in most gypsy homes. But I did have my father as a model, his generous attitude, his ability to live life with dignity and his powerful aura which was palpable.

Today, as I feel more committed to flamenco than ever, I hear the voice of Perrate, and his spirit tells me it is good that a person is aware of his place in life and communes with the area where he was born and brought up: his roots. He goes on to say that they, the older generation, were not concerned with taking flamenco outside the home nor turning it into a universal art-form. It is up to us, the younger generation, to do this but, like them, our guiding principle must always be the aesthetic beauty of the music. Now that we have access to so much information about flamenco and its history, we should not be mere imitators of the past, no matter how good that past was, but take on the responsibility for the flamenco of today and the flamenco of the future, adapting it to suit the times we live in.

My father also told me that he knew our flamenco legacy (referring to his own) was no better than legacies of other gypsy clans but that we can be secure in the fact that it has its own distintive style. This differentiation gives our singing originality and at the same time allows us to feel a sense of ownership towards flamenco, our way of living and breathing this art.

This CD is a tribute to all the gypsy families who make up the flamenco scene of today, each within the tradition arising from their part of Andalusia, and especially to the one I belong to, the Perrate family.

Perraterias is so called because it includes songs passed down from different members of my family. The bulerias follow in the tradition of my aunt La Perrata (mother of El Lebrijano, Pedro Pena and Tere Pena) with their slower, more solemn rhythm, far removed from the dizzy speed of interpretations of this song in other areas of Andalusia. In the solea, the intense emotion is conveyed through chromatic vocal inflexions and through the livelier pace, which is faster than is common to other regions. The infundios sagrados or sacred tales originate from our great-uncle Curro El Vereo and have a gentle guitar accompaniment played by my cousin Gaspar de Utrera. With El Piyayo (tangos from Malaga) we recall the creative genius of Perrate and the guitarrist Diego del Gastor and have adapted it transformed this light-hearted, lyrical song in a truly innovative way while maintaining its characteristic feel and rhythm.

We have taken the light-hearted and lyrical song El Piyayo (tangos of Malaga) from Perrate and the guitarrist Diego del Gastor, witness to their creative genius, and adapted it in a truly innovative way while maintaining tis characteristic feel and rhythm.

I would like to thank the producers Ricardo Pachon, Antonio Castro and Juan Moyano, for all the sensitivity they have shown and for having faith in me, and also for their help with the musical production. Finally, special thanks go to Antonio Moya, for being my companion in this venture, for co-writing the music, and for our friendship.

Tomas de Perrate