There was another singer, however, who received almost no attention or obit at all: flamenco great Manuel Agujetas, “El Agujetas”. I only found out because he was mentioned in a New York Times article by veteran journalist Ben Ratliff. He died on Christmas Day, and was 76 years old. Some Spanish newspapers say 78, but since he was born in 1939, I think 76 is correct.
cante jondo, the most powerful of all flamenco song styles, the kind that can melt steel or break glass. Cante jondo is a cry of deep pain, emotional and spiritual, even existential. It harkens back to the moors being expelled by Christian Spain during the reconquista of 1492, the Rajasthani gypsies leaving India for Persia and then finally arriving in Spain so many centuries ago. This style is marked by anguish and an incendiary intensity. This is not nuevo flamenco. Not for everybody, either. It is the real deal.
He was born in Rota, Spain, later moving to Madrid. Agujetas, like many gitano gypsies, worked as a youth as a blacksmith at a forge for his father. There is even a flamenco rhythm called martinete that is based on the blacksmith hitting the anvil with his hammer. Watch this amazing clip of him singing this style in Carlos Saura’s magnificent flamenco documentary Flamenco (1995).
There is also a film documentary about Agujetas, Dominique Abel’s Aguejetas. Cantaor (1998). The soundtrack of the film is available from amazon.com.
I had the opportunity to see Agujetas at the Barnsdall Park theater a few years ago. Although he complained a lot about the air conditioning, his voice was as powerful as ever. The room was filled with flamenco aficionados who had come to hear this great artist.
Here is the post on that 2012 show:
Here is Agujetas in performance in both b&w and color videos. This will give you a picture of what he was like….Moraito is the guitarist. Notice the scar on Agujetas’ face…the result of a knife fight.