Sordera and Family in Conversation

Web original  London, 1999, 3,000 words; extracts  


V: The bulería's a brilliant example of that.

Vicente: That's how they were sung in Jerez in my father's time in the tabancos where people had a wine or two after work. They'd sing without guitar, just with palmas. The tables were used for percussion because there weren't instruments then.

V: The profession of cantaor must have been very different then?

Sordera: In those days you had to know what you were doing. The public knew and demanded a lot and if you didn’t sing well they chucked tomatoes at you.

V: And what was recording like?

Sordera: We’d have two days to make an LP. Two days with the guitarist and two palmeros. That was it. I would write the cantes on a piece of paper and order them as we went along. Vicente used to come along and do palmas in those days. He was just a boy. We'd go to the studio in the afternoon, have three or four swigs of whiskey to open our throats and start. We didn't rehearse, and there wasn't any real need to. The labels worked that way to save money. The artists took that for granted and worked around it.

V: Flamenco's so difficult to catch well on record, isn't it?

Vicente: It’s very hard to keep the warmth alive in a recording studio. A lot of people say it's a thing of the past. There's a record called Así Canta Jerez, recorded thirty years ago, which is wonderful. My father, Terremoto, Cesnita and four other cantaores sing on it.

Sordera: Nobody believes it when I tell them it was recorded in four hours. They sat us down with the guitarists near the microphones and told us to start.  The microphones stood nearby. One of us would say, "Let's try that". Or, "I'll sing the next one", or "Okay, bulerías now".

Sordera Chico: It works when people are enjoying themselves. That's when el cante just pours out.

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