Going to flamenco festivals is one of the most enjoyable experiences. I had opportunities between 2002 and 2016 to go to several festivals: the Festival International de Música y Danza de Granada, Los Veranos del Corral, Festival Flamenco Cuevas del Sacromonte, Festival de la Guitarra de Córdoba, and Potaje Gitano de Utrera, and in the U.S. , Festival Flamenco International de Albuquerque. All festivals have different charms and allures. In Festival de Granada, you could see flamenco shows or concerts in the most amazing venue: Alhambra - you can enjoy a concert and show in the Palace of Carlos the 5th and the Generalife, the beautiful garden of Alhambra. Also, there was a concert in front of the intricate facade of Cathedral of Granada. In Los Veranos del Corral, you can see a series of shows of well-known artists in an intimate setting in the Coral de Carbon, 14the century monument in Granada. In the Festival flamenco Cuevas del Sacramonte, you enjoy flamenco concerts or films in Cave Museum from where you can oversee the spectacular view of Alhambra. In the Festival de la Guitarra de Córdoba, you can take not only guitar classes but also dance and singing classes and during the festival there are concerts of major flamenco artists. And in the Festival Flamenco International de Albuquerque, you can take a variety of classes and see top-notch flamenco performances every night during the festival. You meet inspiring people there not only from the U.S. but also other countries! All festivals are in fact unforgettable.
But the Potaje Guitano de Utrera was the most unforgettable and a bit adventurous one. At that time I was a big fan of Pitingo who was singing his version of “Killing me softly” and “souleria” songs. I found out that Pitingo, along with my favorite female singer Esrtrella Morente, Esperanza Fernández, and Antonio el Pipa were going to perform at this festival.
I already had bought a ticket of the festival from Hawaii although I was not sure if I will be going by myself or with someone. At that time I was taking classes at Carmen de las Cuevas, Flamenco & Spanish language school in Granada. I was very fortunate to meet Monique and Natsuki from France in the same dance classes. We had fantastic two weeks, going to the Jardines de Zoraya, watching World Cup soccer, going flamenco shows and a concert of Miguel Poveda in Alhambra. I mentioned about the Potaje Flamenco and they wanted to go too. Great! On that Saturday, we went to the school to use the Internet and to buy their tickets but the box office was closed. Because the trip from Granada to Utrera takes about 4 hours by bus; 3 hours to Sevilla and another hour to Utrera, we wanted to make sure that we all could get entrance tickets to the festival. Somehow we ended up calling a flamenco store in Malaga, and the owner suggested that we would give it a try although there was no guarantee for the entrance. He said the people in Utrera are very nice and somehow would take care of us. So we decided to go.
In the bus to Utrera it was hot although there was air conditioning. We booked a hostal in Utrera. An old man on the phone said the hostal was only 5 minutes away by car from the festival site and he could give us a ride to and from the concert. By the time we arrived to Utrera it was already 9:30 pm and we were in front of the concert site. We called the hostal, and he came driving to pick us up to bring us to the hostal but we decided not to go to the hostal right away due to time constraint and we just dropped off our bags in the car and headed out to the ticket window. Surprisingly we all got great seats, although the enormous outdoor site became full of people.
El Potaje Flamenco de Utrera is considered to be the oldest flamenco festival in Spain. It started as a meal and a little flamenco organized by a local church Brotherhood in Utrera in 1957; after finishing their procession in Holy Week they celebrated with a dinner of potaje (garbanzo soup/stew). This get together was the origin of all the flamenco festivals that later developed. Each year this festival pays tribute to a famous flamenco artist. The year 2010 paid tribute to the Fernanda y Bernanda de Utrera, well respected flamenco sisters of the town of Utrera. Also, we had a chance to see the great dance master Matilde Coral dance, showing respect to Fernanda y Bernarda.
The concert took place in a huge patio of Colegio del Salesianos and there were many big tables where you share el potaje with people on the same table, reminiscent to the origin of this wonderful flamenco festival, sharing the love for flamenco through a pot of ‘potaje.’ All the performances were great. Pitingo sang pure flamenco, showing his knowledge of flamenco and that his arte is more than his “souleria” songs.
By the time the event finished it was already 4 in the morning. The venders were selling churros for breakfast. As agreed with the older man at the hostal, we called his number, but he did not pick up the phone (of course he was sleeping!). We asked a civil guard if we could pick up a taxi but was told that there was no taxi in Utrera! Sleeping at the bus station came to our mind, but the civil guard was kind enough to ask a couple he knew to take us to the hostal. The couple was very nice and patient helping us to find the hostal where we’ve never been. (The hostal in fact was more than 10 minutes by car, and not 5 minutes away as the old man told us.) After we found the hostal, it took us a while to find an entrance and after knocking the door, the light turned on in a room on the second floor and finally the old guy came down and opened the door, still half dressed.
It was a long but exciting day with good flamenco. I took a shower and could finally go to sleep. Then I heard “Cock-a-doodle-doo!” It was dawn already! Well I had two hours to sleep as we were supposed to take 8:30 am bus back to Granada so that we would not miss class on Monday.
With sleepy eyes we had breakfast in the café of the hostal. We did not see the old man and told a waiter there that we had to take a bus to Sevilla and then Granada. The waiter took off his apron and grabbed a car key and took us to the bus station. On the way, he did a mini guide of the small town of Utrera, showing us the statues of Fernanda y Bernarda and also Enrique Montoya, singer also from Utrera. What the flamenco store owner in Malaga said was true: the people in Utrera were truly kind and hospitable.
I don’t remember the tientos choreography or footwork I learned. But I remember the moment we practiced footwork while waiting for the bus. I vividly remember the thrilled flamenco adventure I had with Monique and Natsuki, and warm people in Utrera and the taste of the potaje.