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Remembering the end of 2009: Juan Manuel Mora at Las Tablas de Madrid

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The 11th of December, I had the pleasure of seeing Juan Manuel Mora, a young cantaor from Barcelona, at the Madrid tablao Las Tablas. Far from having that gravelly voice that has come to be expected of purist flamenco singers, Mora has a distinctly young and delicate voice, prettier than it is gut-wrentching, which is more or less appreciable depending on the audience’s mood and expectations.

I’d seen Mora before in the 2008 Flamenco Pa’ Tos galas, where he’d impressed me slightly more than at Las Tablas, probably because of the better sound system, lighting and space, which, like it or not, has a big influence on the audience’s experience, especially with an art form as intimate as flamenco and a show that consists of only two performers: singer and guitarist.

At La Tablas everything worked against Mora: a badly distributed audience, the lack of voice and guitar amplification, and literally hellish lighting that left Mora bathed in an infernal red light. All of this contributed to giving Mora a less professional appearance, making him seem more inexperienced then when I’d seen him a year ago.

However, the show wasn’t a total wash, as Mora’s performance made it very apparent that the more upbeat flamenco styles, such as alegrías and bulerías, are his forte, although he also made some fairly successful attempts at singing cantiñas and peteneras. Yet Mora still has to develop a stronger, more forceful voice and he still doesn’t seem quite as comfortable as he should on stage. But time tends to improve and mature artists when there is a true desire to improve.

-Justine Bayod Espoz

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