Singers who got along badly, the history of the first tablaos or flamenco fashion according to Ikea, are stories that are part of the anecdote of flamenco before and now.

1888 photo of Café del Burrero. Fuente: Art Museum.

Foto de 1888 del Café del Burrero. Fuente: Art Museum.

Silverio Franconetti was the “culprit” in 1881

1 The first tablao is born

Franconetti was a magnificent Sevillian cantaor and an equally great visionary. In that 1881, he opened what is considered the first singing café in Seville only of flamenco. In it clowns and gypsies met, reflecting what was happening in the streets, that flamenco was spreading through all social strata. Su modelo de negocio era un puro tablao actual y marcó parte de la respuesta a qué es el flamenco.

The critic Antonio Bohórquez explains that, a couple of decades before, there were already cafes with a lot of dancing and singing. Silverio acted in some of them and later directed two. In the latter, he teamed up with a flamenco aficionado named El Burrero (he sold donkey’s milk) and who already had experience in putting on shows geared towards foreigners. Let’s go… A modern-day tablao.

After a few years hand in hand with El Burrero, Franconetti set up his own flamenco café and named it after him. The Silverio café opened its doors in 1881 in the Rosario Street, 4. He gained a lot of fame despite the fact that in his place, as in similar ones in Seville, partying, alcohol and competitions on stage between unknown artists and talents ended in razors.

Silverio himself had a “deadly” confrontation with the fashionable singer, the first Golden Key of the Andalusian capital: El Nitri. He refused to sing in front of Franconetti so as not to give him anything of his gypsy flamenco. Encima, cuando recibió esa llave al cante, que podía haber sido para el dueño del café, se formaron dos bandos, a favor y en contra de uno y otro, que alentaron esa rivalidad.

“Here they drink aliñás and manzanilla (wine from the area) as if it were water.” This is how he describes the atmosphere of the Café dl Burrero Silverio Domínguez in “Ecos de un rincón de España: impresiones de un paseo”.

Flamenco Stories

Antonio Machado and Álvarez Demófilo, 1881

2 Flamenco
is studied scientifically

At the same time that Silverio Franconetti opened his café tablao, the Galician Antonio Machado y Álvarez published a two-volume collection called “Cantes flamencos” under the pseudonym of Demófilo. Era, fundamentalmente, una recopilación de sus artículos publicados durante años en una revista sevillana.

It was, fundamentally, a compilation of his articles published for years in a Sevillian magazine. It analyzes cantes (such as soledades or soleá) and gives them that specific characteristic that differentiates them from other floclórico cantes.

Curiously, more than a century later, his reflections are still in vogue. That is to say, that flamenco is complex, that it seems that it is going to disappear and that those singing cafes do more good than bad. The fact of strengthening the study of flamenco based on scientific analysis would be the beginning of flamencology.

Antonio Chacón and Fosforito El Viejo; Manolo Caracol and Antonio Mairena

3 Historical enmities

You could title this chapter as the movie “Intimate Enemies”. The origin of flamenco owes much to the enmity between two singers exalted according to the time. One is usually payo and the other gypsy; and one pulling to modern and another to very traditional.

Antonio Chacón (Jerez de la Frontera, 1869-1929) and Francisco Lema Ullet, nicknamed “Fosforito el Viejo” (Cádiz, 1869-1940), were one of those cases of confrontation. They sang together for a while until Chacón became the star of Café Silverio and Fosforito at Café de El Borrico. They competed to be the best and the coffees to take to the public. So they ended up being “enemies.” So much so, that the entrepreneurs of these two Sevillian premises had to agree on schedules so that customers could see both.

But, perhaps, the non-couple of those who have run more rivers of ink is that of Antonio Mairena and Manolo Caracol. Mairena (1909-1983), politically left-wing in the Franco era; Manolo (1909-1973), closer to the status quo. Caracol would mess with Antonio if he drank one too many drinks. And we mentioned this because, surely, that’s where a large part of their differences would come from.

On the other hand, they were heads and tails, two different styles. The first, researched and studied cante, being a great representative of the purest, the most jondo. In addition, he specialized in recitals at festivals, which were beginning to gain strength in front of some tablaos increasingly worse seen.

Manolo tenía genes familiares de figuras como la de El Nitri, del que hemos hablado en la parte dedicada a los cafés cantantes. His style was closer and more popular. To put it in some way, easier to understand by all kinds of audiences. Which does not mean that he did not master the art jondo. And, yes, he had his own tablao in Madrid.

Caracol was known and respected from a very young age. Antonio Mairena would already be in the 60s, although he would have the Golden Key of Córdoba and an honorable mention of the Chair of Flamencology of Jerez.

The “Marienistas” and the “caracoleros” formed two very warlike sides. The same thing would happen at the time of Camarón and Menese, for example. In general, these two ways of understanding flamenco have always been present. Or keep the most traditional flamenco 100% or open up to trends.

It is curious that both Chacón and Fosforito as well as Caracol and Mairena, did have one thing in common: the year of birth.

The confrontation between Antonio Mairena and Manolo Caracol would reach the point that, the latter, was not invited to participate in festivals, territory “conquered” by Antonio Mairena.

La Niña de Los Peines painted by Julio Romero de Torres.

La Niña de Los Peines pintada por Julio Romero de Torres.

Pastora Pavón, La Niña de los Peines

4 An exceptional case of cantaora

It was not the first in the history of flamenco, but La Niña de los Peines (Seville, 1890-1969) is exceptional for many reasons. He agreed on those two sides of which we have spoken earlier on these lines. And so they named her “the queen of flamenco”. Another reason: the Ministry of Culture of the Junta de Andalucía declared his voice “Bien de Interés Cultural” in 1996 preserving his main recordings.

And, above all, she is a reference for a successful flamenco woman in a world where women left their careers in singing or dancing after getting married, like Tía Anica La Piriñaca. This great artist could only return to the stage when her husband died. Others ended up leaving their lives along the way, being a brutal case that of La Peñaranda, murdered.

La Niña de Los Peines, married to another cantaor, Pepe Pinto, was a woman of character who tried to face the men who triumphed in those years. For example, Antonio Chacón or Manuel Torre. She was so perfect in all the clubs that they had no choice. Today, she is still considered “the best cantaora of all time”.

The tail gown inspires this Balenciaga bridal model. Foto: Museo Balenciaga.

La bata de cola inspira este modelo de novia de Balenciaga. Foto: Museo Balenciaga.

Ikea Flamenco Fashion

Balenciaga vs. Ikea

5 Flamenco becomes “fashionable”

This year 2023, the Flamencaba collection by Louis Vuitton has been presented. His muse is Rossy de Palma and her accessories pay tribute to the rich culture of flamenco and handicrafts of Andalusia. Loewe has a line of bags with motifs inspired by Andalusian flamenco that are in high demand. Chanel already did it in 1930.

Because, that flamenco is very present in fashion, it is not now, when SIMOF or We Love Flamenco bet on this art as the protagonist of their catwalks. A great exponent of this connection in Haute Couture was Cristóbal Balenciaga (1895-1972). The flamenco costumes (polka dots, bata de cola and ruffles) were constant references in this master of Basque origin.

The flamenco costumes (polka dots, bata de cola and ruffles) were constant references in this master of Basque origin. The Ikea Flamenco Contest, organized in Seville together with the Superior School of Fashion, has already nine editions. In 2023, the winner has been Beatriz González López, with the suit of the image based on sponges of the Swedish store.