And the wheels of the great flamenco machine keep turning. Some festivals fall by the wayside, others are held for the first time. In small towns throughout Andalusia, old folks sing in the kitchen, and from all over Spain…as well as from abroad…young hopefuls continue to sign up for the Concurso Nacional de Arte Flamenco de Córdoba, an important chance for the coveted prizes that have been awarded every three years since 1956.
We enjoyed the overwhelming honor of the presence of the absolute winner of that first edition,Antonio Fernández Díaz “Fosforito”, maximum representative of the contest and its living history. One hundred and sixty-six aspirants between singers, dancers and guitarists, took part in the initial selection of the legendary event which has had its format and system of prizes changed over the years, adapting to difficult economic times, but with the same commitment and dedication on the part of the organization.
Eleven finalists made it through that first selection, and from among those, three first prize winners were chosen, as well as four second prizes, but winners all.
The evening got underway with the presentation of prizes from this twenty-first edition: in dance, Mercedes Ruiz Muñoz “Mercedes de Córdoba”; guitar, Severiano Jiménez Flores “Niño Seve”; and singing, Manuel Domínguez Gallardo “Manuel Cástulo”. Second prizes were awarded to Jesús Carmona Moreno “Jesús Carmona” for dance, Pedro Heredia Reyes “Pedro el Granaíno” for singing and jointly to Javier Conde and Santiago Lara for guitar.
After a short break for the artists to prepare themselves, the show began with dancer Mercedes de Córdoba por taranto, with Juan Campallo on guitar and singers Enrique Extremeño and Emilio Florido. Temperamental and surprising, yet somehow gentle and feminine when called for, and a strong aroma of Yerbabuena in whose company she has worked extensively, Mercedes proved she was worthy of the first prize in dance.
Next, Manuel Cástulo from Mairena del Alcor, winner of the first prize in singing, with the fine guitar-playing of Niño Elías, demonstrated his Mairena-inspired approach with mining cante, siguiriya and soleá apolá.
With a great deal of excitement from the admiring audience, Niño Seve took his seat on-stage to offer his contemporary perspective on guitar, the flamenco element which has most evolved since the beginning of the Cordoba contest. He demonstrated his accompanying ability with the collaboration of Rocío Segura por siguiriyas, now with a more conventional approach as is only natural, exhibiting knowledge and good taste.
Mercedes de Córdoba returned to dance cantiñas with a long bata de cola which she handled masterfully. With all the winners on stage, Manuel Cástulo sang romances in the style of Antonio Mairena, and a brief fiesta finale was the final scene of this contest which continues to defend its commitment to the most classic type of flamenco.