When the Spanish singer María José Llergo talks about flamenco, it usually sounds as if she is describing one thing springing from beneath her toes. “The style is rooted in my land,” she stated, in a video name from her place simply exterior Madrid. “It’s in our roots.”
Rising up in rural Andalusia, the place flamenco was born, Llergo first turned keen on music whereas watching her grandfather work on his farm. “I bear in mind him raking the earth, watering the vegetation and singing — all the pieces from tangos to boleros,” she stated, talking in Spanish. Life for him wasn’t precisely simple again then. “My grandparents come from very humble — albeit very completely happy — origins,” stated Llergo, surrounded by household portraits. She comes from that world too.
Llergo, now 29, has developed a voice and singing model of her personal, however she’s intent on protecting regional traditions alive. Infusing electronica and R&B with conventional Andalusian influences — together with flamenco snaps and the off-kilter melodies of cante jondo, a guttural singing model widespread to folks music within the south of Spain — Llergo’s 2020 EP “Sanación” is a testomony to the flexibility of flamenco as a style. “Ultrabelleza,” her debut album out Friday, takes this experiment a step additional.
The report’s lead single, “Rueda, Rueda,” begins with a chant and handclaps earlier than a sprawling pop refrain arrives. On tracks like “Visión y Reflejo,” Llergo even tries her hand at rapping. “María had by no means performed it earlier than,” the Spanish indie singer Zahara, who was one of many album’s essential producers, stated in a video name. “However she managed to do it in a single take once we had been recording the music. It was tremendous spectacular.”
Llergo stated she is aware of she isn’t the primary individual to traverse genres — and she or he’s not simply speaking in regards to the Catalan pop star Rosalía, whose debut album, “El Mal Querer,” is usually credited with catapulting flamenco onto the worldwide stage. (By the way, she and Llergo each studied on the Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya in Barcelona below the identical mentor, José Miguel Vizcay.)
“Flamenco has at all times lent itself to different types. All it’s a must to do to seek out proof of that’s look again at individuals like Lola Flores and Camarón,” Llergo stated, referring to Camarón de la Isla, the singer usually credited because the twentieth century’s “god” of flamenco. “It’s at all times been world.”
In the course of the Nineteen Seventies and ’80s, Camarón de la Isla, a Romani from Cádiz whose stage title is Spanish for “shrimp,” breathed new life into flamenco by including devices not historically discovered within the style, such because the drums and bass guitar, to his recordings. His heartfelt lyrics and acrobatic vocal vary would additionally finally earn him a fame as one of many nation’s prime crooners: In his best-known music, “Como el Água,” he compares the energy of his love for somebody to a river working by means of the sierra.
Llergo tends to talk in that language, too, drawing from the wealthy pure landscapes of southern Spain to inform tales about herself, her hometown and the individuals in it. “I run by means of your physique like water runs by means of a river,” she sings within the synth-heavy “Juramento,” in a nod to her predecessor.
Whereas “Juramento” and different songs on the report don’t essentially sound like flamenco, Llergo is aware of there are other ways artists will pay homage to the style. Drawing clear demarcations round who or what matches into it isn’t certainly one of them. “It’s flamenco’s capability to combine into different genres that makes it extra interesting on a worldwide degree,” she stated.
From the plucky guitar riffs on Madonna’s 1987 hit “La Isla Bonita” to the handclaps, or palmas, on Caroline Polachek’s “Sunset” from earlier this yr, there’s an extended historical past of American pop artists’ experimenting with flamenco. Because the market turns into friendlier to Spanish-language pop, listeners may discover themselves searching for extra of the style.
“People music typically — take regional Mexican music, for instance — is changing into more and more well-liked,” stated Manuel Jubera, Llergo’s A&R at Sony Music Spain, in a current cellphone interview. “So it’s a great second for flamenco to export itself.” Subsequent yr Llergo will convey her music on to the USA with a present on the Luckman Wonderful Arts Advanced in Los Angeles in March and one at Le Poisson Rouge in New York the next week.
“I bear in mind the primary time I went to New York, I couldn’t cease crying and taking movies on my cellphone,” she stated. “I nonetheless take into consideration the way in which the solar displays on the buildings there.” (When she’s on the street, she misses dwelling, although. She beckoned her 1-year-old Chihuahua, Torres, to indicate him off on digital camera, however he was nowhere to be discovered.)
When Llergo was in New York, she discovered herself reflecting on the tradition of her homeland. “I considered Federico García Lorca loads,” she stated, referring to his ebook, “Poet in New York,” written throughout a 10-month stint within the metropolis in 1929.
Like Llergo, García Lorca got here from Andalusia. “And are you aware what the road I grew up in in Pozoblanco known as?” she requested, wanting straight on the digital camera, her eyebrows rising. “Federico García Lorca.”
All these connections — together with ones between America and Spain — are sometimes on her thoughts. “Flamenco is just like the blues,” she stated. It originated in Andalusia’s marginalized Roma communities. “The lyrics inform tales of survival — it’s at all times been a approach for probably the most oppressed to flee.” Llergo, who stated she confronted discrimination at college due to her lower-class background, nonetheless finds solace in them.
Like many individuals, she additionally appreciates the communal nature of flamenco, an thought grounded within the idea of el jaleo, roughly “hell-raising” or inflicting a ruckus, which refers back to the viewers’s hand-clapping, foot-stomping shouts of encouragement throughout a efficiency.
Over time, plenty of individuals have inspired Llergo to boost hell too, and when she appears to the longer term, she will’t assist however really feel grateful for them. “It’s loopy,” she stated. “To assume that when my grandfather was watering the vegetation in his area, he was additionally nurturing me.”