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It is with great sadness that I write of the death of the flamenco cantaor Enrique Morente in Madrid on Monday 13 December 2010.

Enrique Morente Cotelo was born in Granada, Spain in 1942. He will be remembered not only for his superb voice but also for his artistic restlessness which led him to collaborate with musicians that no other flamenco performer of his time had worked with. 

Enrique Morente best sums up his approach, ‘La ortodoxia, y estoy plenamente seguro de ello, a uno de los que le gusta es a mí, pero yo creo que nuevos caminos y, si esto está hecho con sinceridad y honestidad, siempre sirve para ver nuevas experiencias y los errores sirven para ver nuevas ventanas. Cuando se intentan nuevas cosas, todo no va a salir perfecto, todo no va a salir bien, eso siempre es un riesgo, para mí sería mucho más cómodo al estar cantando siempre la malagueña del Canario…’ (La Discoteca Ideal de Flamenco by Ángel Álvarez Caballero, Enciclopedias Planeta, Barcelona, 1995).

His first recording appeared in 1967: on Cante flamenco he was accompanied by the guitarist Félix de Utrera. His second recording followed soon after; on Cantes antiguos del flamenco he was accompanied by the guitarist Niño Ricardo. With these two recordings he made a strong start in the world of flamenco, and he demonstrated his excellent knowledge of traditional cante flamenco. It was however, after this period that his restlessness increasingly began to be apparent. In his own words: ‘Yo soy una persona que me aburre cantar siempre igual y pienso que la ortodoxia hay que cogerla e inspirarse y desarrollarla para hacer cosas que inviten a hacer nuevo arte.’ (ibid.)

UPDATE In 2010 the French government decided to honour Enrique Morente with their highest distinction, that of Knight of the Legion de Honour (Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur).

Unfortunately, fate prevented him from receiving this award in a ceremony originally planned for 17 December 2010. On 31 May 2011, Aurora Carbonell, the wife of Enrique Morente, with their children Enrique and Soleá, received the award from the French ambassador, Bruno Delaye. 

Bruno Delaye spoke of Enrique Morente’s outstanding work as ‘uno de los más grandes artistas de nuestro tiempo’, of his knowledge of his art, ‘un conocimiento enciclopédico de las fuentes’, and his artistic path: ‘desde muy joven quiso trazar su propio camino con la máxima fidelidad al patrimonio’.

© 2010 Thérèse Wassily Saba

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