Flamenco - Silverio Franconetti

Silverio Franconetti

Silverio Franconetti Aguila was born in Seville in 1831, but grew up in the place where his mother was born, Moron de la Frontera, a small town in the province of Seville.

He was a legendary singer who was honored as being the first non-gypsy cantaor to receive any serious attention on the flamenco scene.
Although he was not of gypsy blood he spent his youth mixing with the gypsy population of Morón and he learned his gypsy cante from the nightly juergas that occurred in this old flamenco barrio.

His passion with the flamenco song was apparently started after he heard Diego el Fillo singing the martinetes and siguiriyas whilst working in his forge, and El Fillo became his mentor, and soon Silverio was on his way to becoming one of the legendary figures of cante whose reputation is still highly regarded with aficíonados of flamenco.

Silverio became an all-round singer, performing all styles of flamenco, although he was said to have preferred the cante grandes like the siguiriyas and cañas.
He learnt his cante from some of the most formidable gypsy singers of Seville, but the gypsy population was somewhat amazed at the ease at which he reproduced their style of singing.

Fernando de Triana, a man who had heard Franconetti sing, described his voice as “voz afilla (course and raucous) tempered, charged with duende and, when he wished, sweet as honey
Fernando de Triana was a flamenco singer and also the author of the book Arte y artistas flamencos, a book that is considered as a knowledgeable source, without which we would be somewhat uninitiated concerning the flamenco performers of this period.

Silverios reputation as a serious singer of flamenco was gaining strength and it seemed he could do no wrong in the eyes of everyone who heard him. This was with the exception of his supposed rivalry with Tomas El Nitri, a man that would not recognize Franconetti on the grounds that he was a non-gypsy.
But for reasons unclear, at the height of his career he suddenly quit Spain and crossed the Atlantic to live in Uruguay, where he pursued a career as a picador de toros, as well as spending some time in the Uruguayan army.

Silverio was absent from Spain for a period of ten years, returning in 1864, he quickly resumed his status and continued his life as a flamenco singer of great merit.

As is normal in the world of flamenco, there are conflicting versions for his departure from Spain; some say it was in pursuit of love, others say that he was indirectly involved in a crime which led to his surprise departure.

Another anecdote suggests that was responsible for the death of Juan Encueros, the brother of Diego el Fillo, and that he only returned to his homeland long after the incident had been forgotten.

For whatever reason for his exit, he returned and continued to mesmerize audiences with his cante, which so it is reported, had lost none of its qualities during his absence. He soon opened the exclusive Café Silverios in Rosario Street in Seville, a place where many of flamencos most elite artistes would hang out and perform.

Café Silverios became the top Café cantante in Spain during what is considered flamenco’s “golden age” and Franconetti is said to have only hired artistes who performed the cante grande.

Silverio was described as a kind and generous man who would often be found sitting in the rival Café Burrero, in Seville, admiring Antonio Chacon, a young up and coming artiste that was hired to sing in the Café Silverios and paid a massive twenty pesetas a night. This was an extravagant amount of money for Chacon to be earning at just seventeen years of age, but Franconetti believed that if a cante was performed to this degree of excellence it deserved the correct reward.
Silverio had a reputation as being one of the only people who paid his artistes without any hassle or delay.

Unfortunately for Silverio, the last quarter of the 19th century saw the introduction of the fandangos, a new style of cante that was to sweep across Andalucía and it was during this period that the café scene was also changing. A new, more pleasant style of flamenco became popular diverting attention from the coarse styles of the cante gitano and suddenly the audiences in the cafes were more interested in this new craze.

Franconetti refused to alter his style of flamenco and continued to try and promote only the purest of flamenco in his cafe.
It wasn’t long before the process that attacked, and started the decline of cante jondo, caught up with Franconetti and he too started his down slide. He went from being a relatively rich man, wearing smart suits and a gold pocket watch to near poverty for refusing to forsake his beloved cante.

Silverio was a legend in his own time, only to die of a heart attack, impoverished and virtually forgotten at the age of 68.
Silverio Franconetti is largely considered one of flamenco songs most creative figures; his contributions to flamenco have been phenomenal. He mixed the knowledge he gained in the forges and fiestas of Morón de la Frontera, with melodies and influences he learned in South America, to become, possibly, the most all round singer in flamenco’s history.

Silverio Franconetti died in 1889, a while before modern technology had produced a way of recording his magic, but Federico Garcia Lorca immortalized his legend with a poem, in which he wrote the following.

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