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Spanish music mourns passing of Pacheco and Morente

Spain has lost a legendary producer and an iconic flamenco singer in recent weeks. Between them their careers covered everything from ballet to The Smiths.


Enrique Morente in action. He added a dazzling array of influences to traditional flamenco.

As 2010 comes to a close, the Spanish cultural firmament has been dimmed by the loss of two of its brightest stars: in November record producer Mario Pacheco died, and then in December flamenco singer Enrique Morente passed away.

Pacheco, who died of cancer aged 60, founded Nuevos Medios, the groundbreaking record label behind the “new flamenco” scene in the 1980s. The label, which has a catalogue of more than 900 records, launched the careers of many of Spain’s most original musicians, making flamenco fashionable, and shedding the genre’s image as tawdry spectacle or the preserve of experts.

Best remembered for reviving the fortunes of flamenco through its stellar roster of artists such as Pepe Habichuela, Ray Heredia, Aurora, La Barbería del Sur, Moraíto Chico, Diego Carrasco, Pata Negra, and of course, Ketama, Pacheco was among the first in Spain to hook up with independent European labels such as ECM, Hannibal, Cherry Red, Rough Trade, and Factory Records, whose boss, Tony Wilson, Pacheco had met in Manchester. In 1985, he organized The Smiths’ first Spanish tour.

Pacheco’s eclectic approach led him to become involved in the Songhai project in 1988, a fusion of traditional Spanish and African music that prefigured the world-music phenomenon, and produced Ketama’s international hit Vente pa’ Madrid.

Morente, who would have celebrated his 68th birthday on December 25, began his career in the 1960s, and like Pacheco, was determined to breathe new life into the flamenco world, bringing in new concepts and new melodies, taking new directions, and chipping away at the rigid formulas that were confining flamenco’s growth.

Here was a man with courage and vision, steeped in the traditional cante jondo, and yet brave enough to adapt flamenco to other forms, working in choral music, ballet, theatre, opera, orchestral music, poetry, and even rock, yet always remaining true to his origins.

Inevitably, it was Nuevos Medios that brought Morente to a wider audience, releasing his groundbreaking album Negra, si tu supieras in 1993, featuring a roll call of flamenco’s greats, among them Pepe Habichuela, Tino Di Geraldo, José Miguel Carmona, Paquete, Bola, and Montoyita.

The following year, Morente was the first flamenco singer to receive the Culture Ministry’s National Music Prize. In 1995, he was awarded the Gold Medal by the “Cátedra de Flamencología de Jerez de la Frontera” and the Compás del Cante award in Sevilla.

On his pioneering album Omega, Morente collaborated with Lagartija Nick, a rock outfit from his native Granada, and again attracted stellar guitarists such as Vicente Amigo, Tomatito and Cañizares in a project that included Federico García Lorca’s poems and songs by the singer’s friend Leonard Cohen.

Shortly before his death he was working on El barbero de Picasso, which is scheduled for release in March 2011.

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Published: Dec 27 2010
Category: Culture, Featured, Music
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
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