MÁLAGA'S FLAMENCO MASTER
José Losada Sanchez (or El Carrete as he is artistically known) is one of Málaga's most flamboyant flamenco artists. He has toured Europe with some of flamenco's most outstanding dancers including Antonio Gades and La Chunga and today he rubs shoulders with some of the most illustrious flamenco artists of these times.
His story began in Antequera where he was born in 1941. At the age of six he would dance in the streets for money which was tossed to him by passers by in order to help support his family who lived close to poverty. One day he used this money to see a film starring the man who would change his life and shape the way he dances today. This man was the legendary Fred Astaire. El Carrete was so mesmerized by Astaire's dance routines that he soon began modelling himself upon his new-found idol.
El Carrete has danced with some of the biggest names in flamenco during what is considered to be its second golden age, 1950 through until the1970s, He has performed with artists such as Paco de Lucía and Camarón de la Isla, as well as Matilda Coral and La Cañeta de Málaga. In his teens he joined the flamenco group Los Vargas where he spent many years touring with Miguel de los Reyes, La Repompa de Málaga, Niño de Almería and Chiquito de la Calzada. He was also a regular performer at the flamenco tavern, El Pimpi in Málaga.
El Carrete performed in most of the tablaos (flamenco clubs) in Andalucía and especially in El Jaleo, which was one of the most famous flamenco clubs in the Málaga province. Here El Carrete would perform with other masters of the flamenco dance such as El Farruco and Mariquilla and on many occasions his good friend Camerón de la Isla would travel from his home in Cadiz just to see his friend dance.
Years later, José opened his own flamenco tablao in Montemar, Torremolinos, where many of his friends and flamenco artists would appear. Today El Carrete works regularly in the tablao, Los Tarantos in Playamar. It is a small flamenco club on the seafront in Torremolinos, where he performs twice a night. The two main dancers, La Trini and El Carrete, are supported by two younger dancers, one of whom is La Trini's daughter, Carmen, the other her daughter's boyfriend, Cristóbal.
EL Carrete with hat and cane.
Carmen and Cristóbal are the crowd pleasers, displaying youth and vitality in their dance, which although is well-rehearsed, is quite visual and passionate. These dancers are what the tourists come to see but it is the appearance of El Carrete that really grabs their attention.
Appearing from the side door, dressed in a black suit complete with cordobés hat and walking cane, his fingers and arms outstretched, his legs straight, and his head and back almost at a right-angle, he takes two or three steps onto the stage and pauses.
El Carrete starts to move elegantly and humorously around the stage, throwing his hat and cane to one side. He starts with a slow zapateado, which progresses into a frenzied display of machine-gun fire tap dance and like a clockwork toy, he rattles around the small stage, fingers snapping to the rhythm of his feet. Throughout his dance his long fingers are forced through his dark hair then spread like fans across his chest and his piercing gypsy eyes changing to a mischievous smile as he toys with his audience. El Carrete lives for flamenco- it is his lifeline, his inspiration, and his reason for living. Even the way he walks is flamenco.
machine-gun fire tap dance
Many people believe flamenco to be very serious and sombre and at times it can be. However, there is a lighter, even humorous side to it as well. The artists who perform in this manner are known as fiesteros. The fiestero usually has a gift for telling amusing stories; they dance and sing, often inventing the words as they go along.
El Carrete is all of these. He's the one who really gets the party going, his rubber like limbs bending and gliding through the music, the gleaming smile on a puppet-like face and the personality to hold all together, and at 66, he can still do it with apparent ease.
Andalucía.com managed to catch up with El Carrete for an interview which was held in the flamenco tablao were he works in Torremolinos, and this is what he had to say about his life and flamenco:
AC Hello José, thank you for taking the time to speak with us today; I understand you are very busy at the moment.
JL Yes, I am extremely busy at this moment in time, especially with the second "Bienal de Flamenco" which starts this month in Málaga, but I am never too busy to talk about flamenco.
AC José, tell me, your artistic name is El Carrete, where did this name come from?
JL My stage name came from my mother who was called La Carreta.
AC Was your mother also a flamenco artist?
JL No, neither of my parents were flamenco artists, I was the first one in the family.
AC So you don't come from a flamenco dynasty or clan?
JL No, but my children have followed into the world of flamenco. My son El Carretillo is a flamenco guitarist who has performed for artists such as Remedios Amaya, and my daughter Carmen Losada is also a flamenco dancer.
AC José, you are of gypsy lineage, why do you think that the gypsies seem to be better performers of flamenco, as opposed to the non-gypsy artists?
JL Tony, when the gypsies came into this world, we had nothing, just the clothes on our backs, and God gave us the ability to perform this wonderful music and dance to compensate for all the things which we were lacking.
For many gypsies, flamenco is simply part of everyday life; it's our way of transmitting our emotions and expressing our feelings through music and dance. It really is a way of life and many gypsies are surrounded by flamenco from a very early age and they learn the art of flamenco by simply watching their elders perform at family celebrations and parties
AC So do you believe that only those of gypsy blood can successfully learn and perform genuine flamenco?
JL No, I believe that anyone who can feel flamenco in their heart can learn the basics of the art, and with a little determination and passion you will succeed. You need only to look at the thriving flamenco scene in Japan.
AC You also teach flamenco dance in Torremolinos. How many lessons would you say someone would need to start to dance flamenco from scratch?
JL Tony, if you came to my dance school, in just two weeks I could teach you the very basics, but the passion and grace of the dance is something that you must acquire yourself.
ACDo any foreign dance students attend your classes?
JLYes, I have taught all nationalities, even English, if you want to learn I could even teach you, just register with the ayuntamiento and in a few weeks I will have you dancing flamenco.
AC What was the flamenco scene like in Málaga in the sixties and seventies?
JL Málaga had a thriving flamenco scene, especially in the tablao El Jaleo in Torremolinos. Many, many famous artists came to this club to perform, and some of my most memorable nights have been at this tablao.
AC Who in particular do you remember from this era?
JL Oh there were so many, Paco (de Lucía) and Sabicas, two great guitarists, El Farruco, the dancer from Seville, and of course, Camarón de la Isla.
AC I understand that Camerón de la Isla called you by a different name, what was it?
JL (Laughing and grinning widely) The "monster" - he always called me that. He would come to watch me perform with my good friend Manuel Montoya who was cousin to the flamenco singer Pansequito. Manuel and Pansequito are related to Camaron's wife, La Chispa, and they would come to Málaga from La Linea and it would turn into a good fiesta. What nights they used to be.
AC You also opened your own flamenco tablao in Montemar- tell me a little about this club.
JL The tablao was called El Rincon de Carrete and it was in Calle Pez Espada in Montemar just outside of Torremolinos. It was a good club and many artists would come there to perform. We would do the show and afterwards a juerga (flamenco party) would continue until the next morning.
It didn't matter if you had money or not, everyone was welcome and I would supply them with wine, Serrano ham, and cheese and everyone was happy, and they were all there for their love of flamenco.
AC You now work regularly in the tablao, Los Tarantos. When did you start working there?
JL I joined Los Tarantos in 2002 and I have worked there ever since.
AC You obviously enjoy dancing in the tablao and you work most nights but do you ever get tired of it?
JL No, I love to dance, flamenco is my life. I work seven nights a week, two shows every night during the summer, and every night I can't wait to get on stage and perform, especially when the place is packed and the audience responds. I love to entertain and I love flamenco, and these two things give me great pleasure.
AC You mentioned at the beginning of this interview the second Bienal de Flamenco in Málaga, are you participating in this festival?
JL Yes, I am performing in the show Yo no sé la edad que tengo (I Don't Know How Old I Am) which was written by José Luis Ortiz Nuevo and produced by Pepa Gamboa. I am also participating in the closing show, along with dozens of other artists from Málaga, called "Memoriales".
AC I understand that the show Yo no sè la edad que tengo is based on your life?
JL Yes, it's a tribute which is structured around seven stages of my life, The title comes from something my mother used to say to me when I was younger and I would ask how old I was, and she would say "Yo no sé la edad que tienes" (I don't know how old you are.)
AC Where and when is the show going to be staged?
JL Well, we gave a preview of the show at the presentation of the bienal, which was held at the tablao Casa Patas in Madrid, and the show was premiered in Antequera for the inauguration of the bienal in July. The next show will be held in the Canovas Theatre in Málaga on the 27th August.
AC And the other show you mentioned will close the second Bienal de Flamenco in Málaga?
¡Viva el flamenco!
JL Yes, it will be held on the 30th of September at the Cervantes Theatre in Málaga, and the line-up includes many of Málaga's finest artists. La Cañeta, El Tiriri, Antonio de Tolox, Carmen la Terremoto, and Antonio de Canillas are all appearing in this show, along with many other malagueño artists and me, of course.
AC Well José, I know you need to get ready for tonight's show so I won't keep you any longer. Good luck with the show and thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us tonight, God bless.
JL It's been a pleasure and any time you want to speak about flamenco just let me know. ¡Viva el flamenco!