The best flamenco singers in Spain
Flamenco is a cultural reference in Spain and perhaps the most internationally recognized artistic genre. Considered Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2010, it is an art that is still very much alive.
Although the show is the most attractive dance, the truth is that flamenco singers have a fundamental role, especially, bearing in mind that flamenco was originally cante (singing), although later dance and guitar were added (as well as other instruments such as the cajon, castanets …).
It is a genre made up of different flamenco styles, more than fifty, it has several artistic branches and, above all, it is an art that has been enriched thanks to the influence and contribution of various cultures and artists.
In this article, we are going to focus our attention on singing and on the best-known flamenco singers outside and within our borders. It is difficult to prepare a list that includes all the flamenco singers who have made history in this art, since there are many artists who have left their mark on flamenco.
Therefore, we have compiled a list with those who are best known and recognized, both by experts and flamenco fans.
Flamenco singers we miss
La Niña de los Peines
Pastora Pavón, La Niña de los Peines, is considered the best flamenco singer in history. A very complete artist who mastered practically all the flamenco styles.
He belonged to a very important dynasty of Sevillian artists. His brothers, Arturo and Tomás, were extraordinary singers who taught him all the cantes jondos. At just eight years old, La Niña de los Peines already wasted her art in the cafes singers of the time.
Representative of the purely gypsy school of Andalusian singing, she devoted himself entirely to singing. Creator of styles such as las Bamberas or Lorqueñas, she took the garrotín of Asturian folklore and turned it into a cante festero by Tangos.
She consolidated herself as an interpreter of peteneras, soleares, tarantas, seguiriyas and tangos, this style for which the letter “Comb your hairyou with my combs” would receive his well-known nickname.
The sound records of La Niña de los Peines were declared in 1999 an Asset of Cultural Interest in Andalusian Heritage and edited in 2004, along with a volume on her life and work.
Camarón de la Isla
José Monje Cruz, artistically known as Camarón de la Isla, is another essential on this list. Considered as one of the main figures of this genre, he devoted almost all his life to flamenco singing. From an early age his cante caught the attention of those who listened to it.
He sang and recorded albums with other references of this artistic genre such as the guitarists Paco de Lucía, Paco Cepero or Tomatito. He was a flamenco revolutionary, as evidenced in his album La leyenda del tiempo, due to the great innovation that his appearance in cante jondo meant. In addition, Camarón de la Isla obtained in 1989 with Soy Gitano the best-selling album in the history of flamenco.
His career has been recognized with many awards, such as the First Prize of the Cante Jondo Festival and the posthumous title, Llave de Oro del Cante.
Manuel Ortega, known artistically as Manolo Caracol, was also an innovator of his time and is considered one of the best flamenco singers of his time, both performing alone and in duet with Lola Flores.
Descendant of a singers flamenco family, he was a great-grandson of Curro el Dulce, nephew of Enrique ‘El Mellizo’ and a relative of ‘El Fillo’, the fandango del caracolero owes his name to this artist.
He triumphed when he was still a child in the famous 1922 Cante Jondo Concurso in Granada, in which he participated as El Niño de Caracol and won first prize.
Manolo Caracol stood out and gained recognition with the recording of the double disc Una historia del cante flamenco (A history of flamenco singing) (1958), in which he sang accompanied on guitar by Melchor de Marchena.
The twenty-four songs on this album, from Enrique el Mellizo’s initial martinete a malagueñas to Torre’s seguiriyas or an impressive saeta, are a personal journey through the history of flamenco singing.
Exceptional singer with a rich artistic career, he was acclaimed by the public and critics and knew how to give his personal touch to all the genres he addressed.
Lola Flores, known as ‘La Faraona’, proved to have qualities for singing and dancing from a very young age. At just ten years old, he was already touring the bars of Jerez singing and making a dent. Singer, dancer, actress and artist, in general, is a benchmark for flamenco.
In 1940 she recorded her first album and got her first roles as an actress. Her performances with Manolo Caracol, made Lola Flores begin to be known on a large scale.
Already settled in this genre and gradually becoming an icon of flamenco, Lola Flores created her own company, “Zambra”, a project she shared with the aforementioned Manolo Caracol.
She had a fruitful professional career and became an internationally recognized artist.
Enrique Morente is considered as one of the main renovators of flamenco. He started his artistic career from a very young age singing in the taverns of his city, Granada.
Already in adolescence he moved to Madrid, where he came into contact with singers of the stature of Pepe, that of La Matrona, Manolo de Huelva and Bernardo, that of Los Lobitos, from whom he learned.
In the 1960s, he began to be recognized as one of the solid values of young flamenco, and soon he would establish himself as one of the most complete artists of singing.
With a very personal voice and a vast register, he always looked for new aspects of traditional styles. He composed verses by poets such as Miguel Hernández and Antonio Machado or texts by Jorge Guillén or Lope de Vega, among others. He even adapted some of the songs by Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen to flamenco.
A rich and diverse career in which great recognitions, such as the Prize for Singing of the Chair of Flamenco from Jerez (1972), the National Prize for Popular Music (1978), the National Prize for Music (1995) and the Gold Medal to the merit in Fine Arts in 2006.
Contemporary flamenco singers
Estrella Morente is the daughter of the previously mentioned Enrique Morente and the dancer Aurora Carbonell. Like her father, she is considered one of the best flamenco singing.
She meets all the necessary conditions to be a reference artist: voice, deep knowledge of the roots of singing, sense of rhythm, to which must be added all the legacy inherited from her family.
He began to stand out from a very young age and on his first album he sang to La Niña de los Peines. She has achieved merits such as the National Music Prize, being named Andalusian Ambassador in 2001 or nominated for the Latin Grammy, among others.
José Soto, known artistically as José Mercé, began his first artistic steps on the Flemish Thursdays in Jerez and in the tablao of La Cueva del Pájaro Azul.
With a prolific professional career, at the age of 13 he recorded his first album. He has been part of the company of Antonio Gades and has participated in the movie Bodas de sangre, by Carlos Saura. He has also collaborated with the National Ballet and was the first gypsy singer to perform at the Teatro Real, which made him very popular.
He has kept the pure essence of cante and has also mixed with flamenco versions with Manu Chao, Luis Eduardo Aute, Víctor Jara, Louis Armstrong, Pablo Milanés, Pop Tops and Joan Manuel Serrat, to position himself as a key artist of Spanish music, breaking boundaries and bringing his music not only to the flamenco audience, but also to a younger audience, lover of other musical genres.
Winner of the Córdoba National Flamenco Art Contest in 1986, distinguished with the Andalusian Medal, the Golden Taranto or the Compás del Cante awarded by the Cruzcampo Foundation (2016), are some of the recognitions he has received as the maximum exponent of flamenco singing.
Carmen Pacheco, known as Carmen Linares, is considered a legend of flamenco singing and is one of the most sought-after artists with the most international projection of current singing.
She is the one who has best known how to transmit the inheritance of a feminine tradition of the jondura that was already in the origins of cante jondo. A contemporary flamenco voice. An artist characterized by her interpretive intensity and her own style.
He has worked with artists of the stature of Enrique Morente, Camarón, Carmen Mora and the brothers Juan and Pepe Habichuela. He has taken his art to many countries, performing alongside the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center.
He has, among many other awards, the Andalusia Silver Medal (1998), two Music Awards (2002 and 2011) and the Fine Arts Gold Medal (2006). It should be noted that Carmen Linares is the only woman in flamenco art to win a National Award for Performance Music (2001).
Many flamenco singing artists leave us on the list who have been and are a benchmark for this art.