Tomatito, Legend of Time | A WorldMusic Review

Led by legendary flamenco guitarist, José Fernández Torres (known around the world as “Tomatito”), and accompanied by his son (José Fernández “Tomatito Hijo”) who played close to his side, a royal Roma lineage tore through Boston’s Berklee Performace Center on Sunday night.

Viva el arte, viva el flamenco puro,” said a character in Tony Gatlif’s 2000 film, Vengo, a film that Tomatito starred in. The line was an affirmation of Flamenco as a tradition of the Spanish Roma, as an art form and way of life that was actively being oppressed by the soldiers who had entered the family gathering to listen to the music in that festive scene. And last night’s concert was just that: pure flamenco, endlessly receptive Flamenco drawing from its many sources of influence.

There was the electrifying cajón performance by Israel Suarez “Piraña,” an instrument of Afro-Peruvian origin that was incorporated into the flamenco tradition back in the 1920’s, modern tap-dance techniques merging with traditional zapateao by José Maya, Islamic and Sephardic chants echoing in the voices of Morenito de Illora and Kiki Cortiñas, and the shaking, trembling, passageway opening tail ends of chords that seemed to hold not only the secrets of the crossings of Andalusia’s cultures, but also the essence of memory and wind. That these chords were played by father and son, side by side, in seamless dialogue announced the passing of the torch to the next generation of Flamenco and the continuity of Spanish Roma culture.

Tomatito comes from a long line of Flamenco masters. He is the son of José Fernández Castro, the grandson of Miguel Fernández Cortés, and the nephew of Miguel Niño: legends of Flamenco guitar. He is also the percussive force that lifted and propelled the dimension-shattering songs of Camarón de la Isla for the last 18 years of his life.

The reverence for Camarón, for the tradition that Camarón embodies, is part of all of Tomatito’s music. When asked in an interview to choose three figures who represent the past, present, and future of Flamenco, Tomatito responded: “Un pasado, Camarón, presente, Camarón y futuro, Camarón.” Camarón is past, present, future, and more.

Like Jazz, Blues, Samba, and Rumba, Flamenco is an art form of lineage. Sound can be traced to particular neighborhoods; patterns of cadence and harmony are almost geographical coordinates. Last names like Morente, Montoya, Amaya, and Heredia simultaneously translate into the sound that people know as Sacramonte, Granada, Cádiz, Jerez de la Frontera, and Utrera: it is a mapping of surnames that represent a particular experience of sound and aesthetic.

Lineages of sound and flamenco artistry took on center stage when Tomatito played a duet with his son and then followed — accompanied by all members of the ensemble — with the classic song, Leyenda del Tiempo, ‘Legend of Time.’ A statement was made: Flamenco has passed on to the next generation and it will never stop. The call of the gitanos, too, will never stop. This was Federico García Lorca’s poem that Tomatito and his idols performed, an affirmation of the impact that the next generation of Flamenco and therefore Roma culture will have worldwide.

To a packed, cheering crowd who interjected at all the right times mid-performance and between songs, the curatory prowess of World Music also merits mentioning. In March, 2016, World Music organized a similar kind of alter-text; self-referencing programming that linked Rosario “La Tremendita” Guerrero, Rocío Molina, and the Farruco family, while building towards a rich musical collaboration between La Tremendita and Mohammad Motamedi. This was, perhaps, World Music’s way of foreshadowing flamenco programing that moves in multiple directions, illuminating its many influences and trajectories.

The WorldMusic calendar is weaving its own map, piecing together the coordinates of a flamenco system for Boston. Soon, the tradition will cross the Atlantic to Pedrito Martínez, the great young Cuban drummer who also has recorded such songs as Volando Voy from that very Camerón album, La Leyenda del Tiempo.

Pedrito Martínez will perform on November 12th at Villa Victoria Center for the Arts in Boston. Click here for more information!

Please follow SiroccoBlue for more writing on Flamenco (this article appears with more photographs on the site).

- Jacob Dyer Spiegel of | November 4th, 2016