...and on a whim I recently purchased a 12-volume set called The History of Flamenco. I had just read Fernanda Eberstadt's Little Money Street, and I felt I had to hear some. Or a lot. I've always loved the blues, and flamenco is like it in some ways: it's the music of a marginal group, much of its history is mysterious, purity of tone means little while emotional force means everything (in a wonderful phrase, a great flamenco singer is said to have "the voice that wounds"), and there's a violence in it that doesn't always seem metaphorical. On the other hand, flamenco has a much larger range of forms, and however much I may love Charlie Patton, I can't think of a blues guitar virtuoso who comes close to Sabicas. Anyway, I was just surfing for some information on La Paquera, one of whose tracks is included in the above anthology, and stumbled across this video clip of the same woman, now perhaps an abuela, attacking "Dolor de madre mia" with even more force than she had when she was young. I have no idea if this song is actually sad, although the title would suggest that. I was at work, but the hair on my arm stood up on hearing this, not just because of the emotion, which I can't identify, but because of the indomitable force of the music that bursts out of these old folks. Hunt around for some more clips from Carlos Saura's flamenco films. YouTube also has a lot of odd clips from old movies, in which some cantante in a suit strolls onto the set and lets loose (it doesn't hurt to have a young Paco de Lucia on guitar). For me it's like seeing Howlin' Wolf walk into a Doris Day movie and sing "Commit a Crime."
When I saw the first clip, I thought, "I could listen to this all day." Since then, a month ago, I have been. Here, I've done some of the work for you: Paco de Lucia with El Camaron de la Isla, Juanito Valderrama wandering into some weird dance routine, some younger singers and the great Tomatito tearing it up (also from Saura's film), and finally these two old men singing the slowest form, the martinete. Their intonation isn't perfect. Listen, Maria Callas's intonation wasn't perfect.