On 13 and 14 June 1922, a music festival-style competition, with its categories and financial prizes, turned the world of flamenco upside down and corrected its predictable path to ostracism.

Foto tomada durante la celebración del Concurso de 1922. Fuente: universolorca.com

Foto tomada durante la celebración del Concurso de 1922. Fuente: universolorca.com

Our most “jondo” poet, Federico García Lorca, made a great fuss when in 1922 he organised the “Cante Jondo” Contest in Granada together with Manuel de Falla and Ignacio de Zuloaga. It only took two days to change the fate of flamenco.

Because that was, after all, the aim of Falla and Lorca, and also of many other intellectuals and artists who were living with horror the drift of Andalusian art with the proliferation of the cafés cantantes. Bringing flamenco out of obscurity and giving it the light it deserved was the result of that contest.

How the competition came about in 1922

The Festival Internacional de Música y Danza de Granada has just brought the curtain down on this July 2023 after a success of attendance and great figures on stage. Since the 2021 edition, it has been giving a special character to the events of the contest to celebrate the 100 years of that Cante Jondo Contest. After all, they have much in common.

That event in 1922 arose from a displeasure among intellectuals of all kinds who met at the Café Alameda in the style of the first flamenco peñas. Manuel de Falla led the proposal to organise a major event that would put flamenco in the spotlight. Next to him, García Lorca. Falla also mobilised, Andrés Segovia, Joaquín Turina, Ravel, Stravinski, López de Ayala and Juan Ramón Jiménez.

Such was the magnitude of those involved that the Granada City Council gave them permission and added a little support to prepare for the competition. The flamenco world (almost all of it…) was thrilled. The festival would be joined by stars of the moment, such as Antonio Chacón, La Macarrona and La Niña de los Peines.

8,500 pesetas in prize money

Well, actually, several prizes of different amounts, the 1,000 pesetas being the largest. The recitals were held on 14 and 15 June in the setting of the Alhambra, in the Plaza de los Aljibes, although this was not the planned venue. The Zuloaga prize of 1,000 pesetas went to El Tenazas; another of the same amount to Caracol; three of 500 to Carmen Salinas, Frasquito Yerbabuena and José Soler. The 300 for Gazpacha, and 125 for the girls Concha Sierra and La Goyita. The guitar prize of 500 pesetas, to José Cuéllar; 250 pesetas, to Niño de Huelva.

This was a great success. A vindication of the primitive Andalusian singing and the first sign of attention that flamenco received from the intelligentsia. A starting point for a profound work of rescue, conservation, and dissemination of this art form. It generated an extraordinary international reputation, especially in Paris, the musical epicenter of the time.

It is true that some of the rules imposed by Falla were not fully understood, and that it was not very clear what was done with the money earned from the tickets, but these are “small nuances” for such a fundamental result. Federico, the poet from Granada, left a priceless gift, anticipating some verses of what would become his Poema del Cante Jondo.

Poster advertising the 1922 Cante Jondo Contest.

Cartel anunciando el Concurso de Cante Jondo de 1922.

Carmen Salinas, Conchita Sierra and Manolo Caracol.

Carmen Salinas, Conchita Sierra y Manolo Caracol.