My Songs & A Poem

Estrella Morente

Released 18 March 2002

  1. Cockles (Alegrías)
  2. At The Top Of The Cerro De Palomares (Tangos)
  3. Moguer (Bulerías)
  4. The Night (Soleá)
  5. Bulerías Of The Bola
  6. Alcazaba (Media Granaina)
  7. For Pastora (Sevillanas)
  8. Pilgrims (Bulería)
  9. Why Do You Deny The Frenzy? (Malagueña)
  10. Pepico's Tangos
  11. Soleá Grana
  12. Gallery (Taranta)
  13. Let Sunday Come (Bulería)
  14. The Flames Reach The Sky (Taranta)

Liner notes

“One of our intentions was to keep the flavour of classic flamenco, while imbuing this ‘deep song’ (cante jondo) with contemporary feeling. More than anything this has to do with attitude. I love the ancestral, what comes to us from the past, the things that for good or bad have happened to those who lived before us. I love to respect that, because learning from the old and wise is to learn from those who have already passed along the road, yet re-capture it with the sound of today,” says Spanish music legend Enrique Morente.

From the moment we hear the first fast-strummed notes of Alfredo Lagos’ guitar, the sharp hand-clapping ‘palmas,’ and then the voice of Estrella Morente as she sings a long, decorative ‘ay,’ we are plunged into the heart of both contemporary and classical flamenco. For Estrella Morente sings “Cockles” (an ‘alegria’ – literally ‘happiness’) with the energy of a generation whose fathers have broken open the prison of tradition, modernising flamenco without betraying its deep roots.

Lagos’ crisp, subtle playing interacts with Estrella’s beautifully light, emotional tones as she stretches notes melismatically, bringing to life the Cadiz verses that tell of a sailor bound for foreign parts, whose only desire is to see his love once more.

“At The Top Of The Cerro De Palomares” takes us straight to the hills of Granada, where both Estrella and this song of popular verses were born. For this spirited tango, Estrella is accompanied by the Carmonas and Habichuelas — cousins and uncles whose names form a roll-call of the most innovative musicians of late 20th century flamenco (notably the Carmonas as Ketama, the cutting-edge flamenco-blues-rock group). They are the extended family she has grown up with in the Albaicin, Granada’s medieval quarter near the spectacular Moorish Alhambra palace. Close by is the Sacromonte hill, where several of Estrella’s songs were recorded in the natural atmosphere of the caves — the traditional hill-side homes of the Gypsy population from whose clans Estrella, like many of Spain’s best flamenco guitarists, singers and dancers, has emerged.

The upbeat atmosphere of the two tangos “At The Top Of The Cerro De Palomares” and “Pepico’s Tangos” — with their lyrics full of popular riddle-like sayings — and the swinging bulerias “Pilgrims” is infectious. They capture Estrella in the bosom of her acclaimed flamenco family, with some songs recorded in the Sacromonte Cueva del Curro and others in La Kaleta, the small studios overlooking the sea in Cadiz. Various recording places were selected to bring out particular atmospheres and the playing styles of the different guitarists.

One of the exceptional joys of the album is that, as well as the more upbeat ‘bulerias’ and ‘tangos’ (rhythms that just ask to be danced to), Estrella sings classic ‘deep song’ in ways that make it definitively her own. Flamenco is nothing more or less than the personal re-creation of traditional forms in a way that speaks passionately in the moment. That Estrella was only 20 at the time of this recording, and could do this so effortlessly without forcing anything, is astounding. It is the reason why the Spanish press heaped nothing but praise upon her and the album.

The record gains its name My Songs and A Poem from “Moguer” — the poem of Nobel Prize-winning poet Juan Ramon Jimenez. Its music, as with most of the other songs on the album, has been composed especially by Estrella’s father, the renowned flamenco singer and producer Enrique Morente.

“It was the line ‘My life was a leap, revolution, permanent shipwreck’ which made me write the music for this poem.” Jimenez, who died in exile in Puerto Rico, came from the village of Moguer in Huelva, the birthplace of Columbus. Like Columbus, he left Moguer for the ‘new world,’ the Americas. Like him, too, he returned but was later exiled. Estrella’s voice takes us on his restless journey. Recorded first in Morente’s home studio in the Albaicin, it was completed in La Kaleta — looking out onto the same sea which infuses the song.

The first ‘cante jondo’ we hear is the ancient ‘solea’, “The Night,” when Estrella is accompanied by the great flamenco guitarist Juan Habichuela (father of the Carmonas of Ketama, and Estrella’s uncle). Manolo Sanlucar accompanies her for three more classic pieces of the great flamenco repertoire: the ‘media granaina’ “Alcazaba;” the ‘malaguena’ (literally from Malaga) “Why Do You Deny The Frenzy?;” and the final ‘taranta’ “The Flames Reach The Sky.” Recorded in the Punto de la Paloma (Dove Point) studios in Tarifa, the point of Spain close to the coast of Africa, Estrella shows her gift for sculpting deep emotional meaning not just into phrases but into individual words – by allowing her voice to trill, tremble, and subtly shift from the trace of a whisper to mournful cry. Many flamenco musicians over time gain a nickname from their peers: Estrella’s family call her “the nightingale.”

Her other distinguished uncle, Jose Carbonell Montoyita, accompanies her for “Gallery,” an old ‘taranta en tono Rondena’ (from Ronda). Brother of Estrella’s mother, Montoyita has accompanied Estrella since she was a child, taking her with him when he played.

A very special dynamic is established between Estrella and Jerez musician Alfredo Lagos – the main guitarist for the album and Estrella’s main touring accompanist. For flamenco to work, the empathy between singer and guitarist is all. The guitarist exists to evoke precisely the right ambience, so that the singer can realise the meanings intended for the words in performance. Just listen to their interaction on the breathtaking “Solea Grana” when Lagos creates a poignant style which shapes itself to Estrella’s voice. With the versatile Lagos, Estrella moves from deep song to the stirring bulerias “Let Sunday Come,” lifting her skirt to click her heels and dance as she sings.

“For Pastora” — Estrella’s moving composition for Pastora Pavon ‘La Nina de Los Peines’ (The Girl of The Combs), one of the most influential flamenco singers of the 20th century — is a tribute which defines from where Estrella’s own inspiration stems. Its vivid narrative captures Pavon on Good Friday, on a Seville balcony, as the Virgin of the Macarena is paraded past during the Easter Week processions. Pavon’s response to the Virgin is to sing a melody as fine as lace. Estrella hopes this voice, which she has heard in her dreams, has come to her through the breeze of time.

Flamenco has survived for centuries through the capacity of singers to adapt and express traditional words and notes so they resonate with the vitality, joy, and pain of their deepest feelings and experiences, while recalling the emotional histories of those who have gone before them. It is the immediacy of these feelings which gives flamenco — one of the oldest musics of Europe — its power, and which compels the listener into the song. This laying bare of personal emotions, exploring inner worlds of love, vulnerability, and insecurity, is to articulate the soul. This is Estrella Morente’s gift in My Songs and A Poem.


Further Listening

  • Gifted: Women of the World

    Various Artists

    Released 08 October 2000

    This album brings together nine extraordinary female singers from around the globe to celebrate and explore the themes of women’s experience – from the contemporary day-to-day to that of the all-powerful goddess. From different cultures, in different languages and with their own individual spirituality and sensuality, these singers have each created a unique and beautiful statement.
  • Moonsung (A Real World Retrospective)

    Sheila Chandra

    Released 05 April 1999

    Starting off with a reprise of ‘Ever So Lonely’, the Top 20 pop hit she had as a teenager with her band Monsoon, Moonsung gathers together the finest moments from the three albums that Anglo-Indian singer Sheila Chandra made for Real World in the 1990s.

Further reading

Susana Baca’s ‘Palabras Urgentes’ album released today

We're delighted to finally release the new album by Afro-Peruvian legend Susana Baca.

Loney dear UK live dates announced

Loney dear announced as support for the Ane Brun 'After The Great Storm Tour 2021' in the UK. There...

Track of the day: ‘El Gamra’ by Bab L’ Bluz

The track is taken from their award-winning debut album Nayda!

Michael League on the making of ‘Palabras Urgentes’, sending a strong political message and celebrating the rich black history of Peru

Snarky Puppy and Bokanté bandleader Michael League discusses his experience working with Susana Bac...