flamenco prizes - llave de oro del cante first golden key award for song
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la llave de oro del cante - first golden key award for song

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first golden key award 1868

Tomás el Nitri

tomas el nitri flamenco singer golden key award



for an interesting discussion of it's in the blood....












continued part 2


The Andalusians love prizes. I always notice the line-up of trophies, plaques and metal cups of different sizes that regale the glass window dresser of some obscure town peña or dance studio. But it matters not. The point seems to be to pat yourself on the back and show the world (or at least your friends) how significant you are...

Nowadays there is a plethora of flamenco prizes that their award has become almost meaningless! Not so in bygone days, when to win a flamenco prize was enormously significant. The Llave de Oro (Golden Key Award) was first awarded at the end of the 19th century to Tomás de Vargas Suárez, "el Nitri". Some history will help you understand how this particular prize has changed in significance over the years.

Around this time, the theatrical "singing cafes" or cafes cantantes were developing the commercial flamenco spectacle where you paid for a meal and a show. Yet the more authentic flamenco song was to be found (as today) in the smaller gatherings, in the private parties organised by friends or a wealthy individual who would pay for the artists. The flamenco meeting places called "colmaos" as well as the public bars ("ventas") as they are known today, also played their part in fomenting the flamenco movida of the time.

It was in such an atmosphere that Tomás el Nitri would have sung, though curiously to us nowadays, there is no official recollection of his artistic life. It is what people said of him, that actually created the legend about him! Despite references to him by writers such as Fernando de Triana and Nuñez de Pardo, there is scarce documentation about his life, unlike the singers Silverio Franconetti and Manuel Molina who are better known. All this happened at the time of the so-called golden age of flamenco.

It is therefore mysterious that he was awarded the Golden Key for Flamenco Song, though his artistry is not in question. He is credited with the creation of a style of seguiriyas through his own verses:

por aquella ventana
que al campo salía
le daba voces a la mare de mi arma
y no me repondía

oleaítas de la mar furiosa
que fuertes venés
y a la mare de mi arma
no me la treé

But the mystery continues...

It is thought that Tomás el Nitri was born in El Puerto de Santa Maria (Cádiz province) in 1850, but nobody knows when or where he died. Nor do we know when or where he received the Golden Key Award, nor indeed by whom... Hearsay has it that he might have received it during the climax of a fiesta de cabales organised by Manuel Molina and Juan Junquera, but it is more likely a group of aficionados (enthusiasts) gave it to him to honour him in 1868 at the Café Sin Techo de Málaga.

A photo does exist as exhibited the the book by Fernando de Triana "Arte y Artistas Flamencas". Again some speculate that the key in question belongs to Málaga bullring....

What is clear is that there was no official body as such that awarded the prize, just a group of euphoric enthusiasts, in contrast to later editions...


Content flamenco prizes golden key award © Simon Zolan 2001



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