A Homage to Macama Jonda: Flamenco as a Tool for Interculturalism

Updated: Feb 18, 2020

On the 7th and 8th February, I had the pleasure of hosting a homage to the 1983 flamenco production Macama jonda, by the poet, flamenco producer and first Gypsy university professor in Spain, José Heredia Maya [1947–2010]. Macama jonda is widely recognised as the first production to bring into dialogue flamenco and Arab-Andalusian music. Based on the story of a Moroccan woman from Tétouan marrying a Gypsy from Granada, the production combined musical fusion, dance, narrative and stage props in one of the first examples of ‘flamenco theatre’. To attract audiences at the time, it brought together a stellar cast of flamenco artists from Granada including the singer Enrique Morente (1942–2010) and dancer Manuel Santiago Maya ‘Manolete’ (b. 1945), along with the Andalusian Orchestra of Tétouan led by the renowned singer and violinist Abdessadaq Chekara (1931–98). At one level, the fusion between the two genres was relatively limited – the production features a number of pieces in which the flamenco ensemble and the Andalusian orchestra are separate. Yet there are key moments of artistic encounter between the two groups – encounters that continue to influence both Moroccans and Spaniards today who develop fusion projects.

The Peña la Platería, Granada

I was delighted to able to present this event at the Peña la Platería in Granada, a flamenco club that I have been attending since my doctoral studies in 2010. For those not in the flamenco know, la Platería is the oldest and most prestigious flamenco peña (a club for traditional flamenco) in Spain. Before becoming a formal association in the 1960s, la Platería began life in 1949 during the height of the Franco regime as a series of tertulias [meetings] between flamenco aficionados and artists in Granada. At that time, it was forbidden for formal associations to be formed and so the peña began its life as a space in which aficionados could listen to recordings and burst into spontaneous song, always attended by someone from within the regime to vigilate proceedings. It is indeed in the context of these early meetings that we start to see the first glimpses of Moroccan involvement in flamenco life of the city, as the Spanish protectorate came to an end in 1956. One of the earliest socios [members] of la Platería was Mohammed Fadeh Benyaich who was studying in Granada at the time and who became deeply involved in the flamenco scene of the city. And indeed, part of the point of this event was to demonstrate the role that Moroccans living in Granada have played in the city’s flamenco scene and how they have carved a space for themselves, especially through flamenco-andalusí fusions.

Presentation on the Friday night

The event was split into two parts. On the Friday evening, I delivered a presentation [see full video below] on the importance, historical context and legacy of Macama jonda. [The full text of the presentation in English translation can accessed here]. I was highly conscious of the fact that a number of the aficionados and artists in the peña had either attended the original event that premiered at the Auditorio Municipal de Manuel de Falla in February 1983 or were the actual artists involved in the production. Therefore, my aim in the talk was to draw attention to some of the unique features of Macama jonda that make it such an important work, such as the line-up of top-rate artists from Spain and Morocco, the fusion of flamenco and Arab-Andalusian music, Heredia’s creation of a new genre of flamenco ‘teatral’ [flamenco ‘theatre’] and some of the technological innovations involved in the audio recording. But I also wanted to bring a new perspective to Macama jonda, by linking it to important social and political events in Spain in the early 1980s, most notably Andalusian autonomy, artistic freedoms during the Transition following the Franco regime and Spanish-Moroccan diplomatic relations. But finally, and perhaps most importantly, I wanted to raise awareness of the continued influence Macama jonda and its artists such as Enrique Morente and Abdessadaq Chekara have had on the contemporary flamenco scene. A number of Spanish and Moroccan musicians continue in the same vein, taking inspiration from Macama jonda and innovating in their own ways, moving forward the musical and cultural conversation between flamenco and Arab-Andalusian music.

The highlight of the Friday evening was the opportunity to watch an original recording of Macama jonda. In 2016, when I was doing research on the show, the Centro de Documentación Musical de Granada kindly digitalised a copy for me of an audio-visual recording that was made of the performance at the Teatro de Lope de Vega in Seville, 1983. This recording is not publicly available, apart from through the library, and so at the time I thought it would be a great idea to try to put together a public