At some point in my early 20’s I took a voice workshop with a Roy Hart voice teacher who was really into Flamenco. That guy claimed that in the most traditional version of the art form people trained by screaming at the top of their lungs under waterfalls (which drowned out the sound) to build up nodes on their vocal cords. Apparently the reason you did this was because when a singer had a voice that cracked and broke, displayed the jagged edges and rough bits that could only come from a lifetime of wear and tear, you could better feel the pain and experience the singer had when they communicated. Coming out of traditional operatic training, which puts an emphasis on purity and beauty in a way that I sometimes find myself at odds with, I found this aesthetic incredibly liberating. I don’t even care if the story is real. I just like the mindset it proposes.
Years later I found the movie Flamenco by Carlos Saura, which captured iconic Flamenco performers in a super simple set up: just a stage and the artists, unfussily offering the viewer a taste of what it is they do. The first singer that appears in Saura’s movie looks like someone’s grandma: rotund and dressed in a floral housecoat and pearls. I adore the way she stands up without any pretense and proceeds to bust out in the craziest blast of sound you’ve ever heard. Sections of the lyrics she sings are almost laughable in how straightforward they are:
If your name is Dolores
Why don’t you go jump in the river
And gather camarons (aka shrimp) in your skirt
Next up in the song is a guy who looks like your weird nasally uncle and doesn’t even bother moving from the seating area, eschewing the center of the stage. After singing about the door to his soul that he always leaves open, he takes a surprising left turn into a rather more pedestrian set of lyrics:
You threw a lemon at me
And it hit me on the forehead
That’s what love does to you
It makes you cheeky
It’s not fancy, it’s not flashy, but it’s fucking powerful as hell.