Manuel Moreno Junquera was born into the heart of the flamenco guitar world in 1956. His family is connected to some of the most illustrious names to come from Jerez de la Frontera, and his father, Juan Morao, and his uncle, Manuel Morao, are two of the most renowned guitarists to descend from this old sherry town.
His father, who was a pupil of Javier Molina, worked in many of Madrid's top tablaos accompanying artists like Sernita de Jerez and Antonio Mairena. His Uncle Manuel was the founder of "Gitanos de Jerez", a company set up to promote up and coming gypsy artists from Jerez de la Frontera. Moraito started his career in Madrid in 1966 playing in the tablao Los Canasteros and La Venta del Gato, and he has become one of today's top accompanists, continuing the saga of his uncle and father.
His professional career started when he was asked to accompany La Paquera de Jerez, and since then he has been in demand by many of the "cantaores" of the times.
His first festival appearance came at the age of just eleven when he performed at a festival in Jerez de la Frontera that was organized by his uncle. The festival was preceded by a Concurso, a flamenco competition, with the prize of a guitar that was donated by Manolo Sanlúcar and which was won by Moraito.
Moraito was a regular guitarist for the Soto family during the many flamenco "juergas" that were held in Jerez de la Frontera during the 1970s. These flamenco sessions would include El Sordera de Jerez and many members of this huge family of royal status within the flamenco scene of El Barrio Santiago in Jerez de la Frontera.
Today he still plays regularly for this family. Moraito is the habitual guitarist for the singer José Mercé, who is the nephew of El Sordera. Moraito is one of the most respected flamenco guitarists of modern times, but he does not just concentrate on the flamenco of Jerez de la Frontera. He has a knowledge and understanding of all styles of flamenco and he is a master with the "bulería", "soleá", and the "siguiriya".
He plays effortlessly but with so much control and such a natural style, as his fingers demonstrate his mastery over his instrument. With his right eye closed shut, the other barely open, he releases a torrent of musical genius thrashing out the "rasqueado" in a thumping rhythm in the "bulería" and making the guitar gently weep through a "siguiriya".
When accompanying the likes of Inés Bácan, a singer from near-by Lebrija, his style is slow and earthy like the time worn voices of the "cantaores" from this area, but he adapts his guitar and his style for the more commercial sound that José Mercé now demands.
He has a special understanding of the different rhythms and "compas" that the towns of Jerez and Lebrija have in their flamenco and he possesses that mysterious gypsy aura, a "duende" (spirit) that is ever present and so natural to the gypsies of Jerez.
He has recorded with dozens of different artists over the years and he has also produced a few solo CDs, one of which, Moraito y Oro was awarded the Grand prix de l'Academie du Disquein in France in 1992.
Moraito is no stranger when it comes to flamenco achievements. He was awarded the "El Primer Premio Nacional de Guitarra Flamenca" (Top National Flamenco Award), in 1972 and again in 1986, and also the Prestigious "Copa de Jerez", which was presented by the Cátedra de Flamencología ("Flamencology" Organisation) in 1984.
More recently he has worked with the prodigy Miguel Poveda in a production called Sin Fronteras, which is a show that was created by the young singer from Badalona. Moraito performs along side Miguel Poveda and El Zambo, another gypsy singer from Jerez de la Frontera who is also part of the mighty Soto clan.
The show was based on the flamenco styles and dances from Jerez, and also includes the Jerez dancer Joaquin Grillo. During this show Moraito performs the deep gypsy styles so famous from this area accompanied by the young voice of Miguel Poveda, which possesses all the antique qualities of El Zambo. Moraito is also knowledgeable with the basic dances of Jerez and on many occasions he will put down his guitar and dance with that indefinable grace that seems to come so natural to those from Jerez de la Frontera.
Today Moraito's son, Diego del Morao is continuing in his father's footsteps and he is fast becoming another guitar legend from the Santiago district of Jerez.