Famous Flamenco Musicians - El Fosforito

El Fosforito

Antonio Fernàdez Diaz, Fosforito, was born in Puente Genil, Cordoba in 1932, into a family of flamenco singers and aficionados.

He is considered one of the twentieth centuries greatest artistes; his encyclopedic repertoire of flamenco song has made him one of the basic pillars of the natural school of flamenco. He combines his vast amount of knowledge with his rigorous sense of rhythm in order to reproduce song styles that are rarely sung by other singers. He has revived forgotten styles like the zàngano, from Puente Genil, and brought new life to countless other old forms of flamenco song.

Flamenco history is marked by eras associated with certain singers; Silverio Franconetti, Antonio Chacón, and Antonio Mairena are three of the most revered singers who also studied and preserved many ancient styles of cante.

Fosforito is another of these singers, who since his historic landslide at the 1956 competition in Cordoba has dedicated much of his life to preserving old styles of cante and he has travelled all over Spain giving lectures and recitals on the evolution and nuances of flamenco.

His career took off in 1956, when he took every prize in the non-professional section of the Cordoba Concurso de Cante Jondo, but he spent his early years performing at local fairs, cattle markets and brothels.

His early influences came from people like Tomas and Pastora Pavon, Pepe Pinto, Juan Valdarrama and Enrique Montoya, all people who he would sing with in the 1940s.

In the old days people did not use records to learn the styles of flamenco, they simply listened and learned from the current masters of the song, and this is what Fosforito did.

But Fosforito’s singing career nearly ended before it started; in 1955, after a stomach operation, he lost his voice and it looked as though he might never sing again.

He returned to Puente Genil disappointed and distressed at the thought of losing his singing voice. The ayuntamiento de Puente Genil came to his rescue and brought him a Santos Heràndez guitar and arranged for him to have lessons, but Fosforito new that it was the singing of flamenco that really interested him. On the eve of the Cordoba Concurso de Cante Jondo in 1956, Fosforito decided to try his luck at singing again as his voice had started to return to its previous strength, and because he was desperately short of money.

He was a sensational revelation; winning first prize in all categories, which included difficult styles like the polo, caña, soleá and serrana.

After his success in Cordoba, Fosforito headed to the capital to perform at the Teatro de la Zarzuela with the dancer Mariemma and from here he was employed at the Madrid tablao El Corral de la Moreria.

He went on to perform at most of the top flamenco tablaos and appeared at many of the flamenco festivals in Andalucía sharing the bill with artistes like Antonio Mairena, a life long friend of Fosforito’s.

In 1962 he competed in the third Llave de Oro del Cante competition in Cordoba, although the award went to his friend Antonio Mairena. As one writer said at the time “Whilst the key went to Antonio Mairena, it was Fosforito who helped forge the lock into which it fits”.

Fosforito has had a most brilliant career which has seen many awards and praises bestowed upon him. In 1968 the Càtedra de Flamencologia de Jerez de la Frontera (professorship of flamencology) honored him with the national prize for cante and in 1985 he was awarded the second Compas del Cante.

In 1999 he was presented the coveted El Premio Pastora Pavon, the highest award for flamenco, from the Junta de Andalucía.

His home town of Puente Genil has, since 1967, dedicated their flamenco festival to Fosforito, and as well as making him the towns Hijo Predilecto, (favorite son) they have also given him the Medallia de Oro de Puente Genil.

Fosforito also has twelve flamenco peñas named after him in Spain, one of which is in Málaga, the city where he has lived for many years, and his name is even attached to a peña in Switzerland.

He has to his credit more than thirty recordings, one of which is the vast Antologica del Cante Flamenco, which he recorded with Paco de Lucía in 1969.
The anthology contains forty-eight different song styles and demonstrates his vast instruction of some of the most antiquated flamenco styles including Soleá Apolá, Verdiales, Malagueña de la Trini, Caña and polo, and a Saeta antígua de Puente Genil,

Fosforito plays in a style known as plays a golpe, which is the most ancient and authentic style of flamenco where the singer raps his knuckles and finger nails on a table top to keep the rhythm as he sings.

Fosforito is not a gypsy and he does not have the voz afilla that is normally associated with them, but he does have an exceptional depth and range.
He writes his own lyrics, something rarely done by other flamenco singers, and composes songs for other flamenco artistes, which in the past have included Camaron de la Isla.

In 1999, Fosforito decided to retire from the flamenco scene and a grand tribute concert was held in Madrid to celebrate one of the most respected careers in flamencos history.

However he soon returned from retirement and he can still be seen performing at the peñas and festivals, although today he is more selective to where he performs, unlike his youth when he would play anywhere just to put food on the table.

But the highlight of Fosforito’s career came in 2005 when he was awarded the  fifth Llave de Oro (golden key) in Málaga, forty-three years after he had competed for the third golden key back in 1962.

Fosforito is blessed with the gift that allows flamenco to express all of life’s emotions, a gift that is bestowed on only a few of the true masters of this art.

Recommended Viewing

TVE Puro y Jondo Fosforito
Rito y Geografia del Cante Vol 5

Recommended Listening
Antologica del Cante Flamenco, Fosforito and Paco de Lucía.