Flamenco - El Planeta

El Planeta was born in 1785 in Jerez de la Frontera and he is another of the early singers of which we know very little. Even his place of birth is disputed, some say he was born in Puerto Real; others put his birth town as Arcos de la Frontera.
His name was Antonio Fernandez, but even his last name has remained a mystery and to this day he is simply referred to as El Planeta.

He was a gypsy blacksmith who, it is believed, invented the martinete, a style of flamenco, which at that time was performed in the forges of Triana. He also sung well the Cañas and Polos, two song forms believed to come from the mountain areas of Málaga, an area where El Planeta spent much time. He was also well versed in the siguiriyas, which included the livianas and the cabales, two extremely old styles of flamenco that are little practiced today.

Serafín Estébanez Calderón wrote the only surviving account of El Planeta, in his famous work Un Baile en Triana, which was written in 1831. He described El Planeta as a richly dressed man who had an air of authority, something of a leader, and a gypsy singer who performed the corrida, an andalucian song style often referred to as the romances. He also called El Planeta the “King of the polos”.

The nickname Planeta is said to have derived from the fact that this legend sang of the primitive gypsy belief in the power of the stars. El Planeta was known to have been friend and mentor to Diego el Fillo, another important singer from this period and he is also thought to be one of the main contributors to the Triana school of cante. The main preserver of his styles was Antonio Mairena and also Juan Talega, of whom the writer Don Pohren states was an excellent performer of the siguiriyas of El Planeta.

Pepe Torre, younger brother to the legendary singer Manuel, was also an excellent interpreter of his cante, as he proved on the recording he made with the guitarist Melchor de Marchena.
El Planeta is believed to be one of, if not the, most important and inspirational singers in the evolution of flamenco. He is connected to one of the most important flamenco/bullfighting families in history, that of Ortega, whose members include the mighty Manolo Caracol, probably the most flamboyant flamenco singer ever.

There exists just one picture of El Planeta, a drawing done by D.F Lamayer, which portrays him wearing the typical gypsy attire of that time and carrying a guitar, suggesting that he probably accompanied himself as he sang.

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