FlamenGo: Jose Enrique Morente and a Flamenco Dynasty
Flamenco singer, guitarist, and composer José Enrique Morente, 25, is the youngest member of one of the most decorated flamenco dynasties. It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of his father, the late singer Enrique Morente, a giant of this art form. An exceptional creator and interpreter, Morente’s contributions extend to his admirable curiosity and willingness to explore and experiment.
Jose Enrique’s mother, Aurora Carbonell, is a dancer and part of yet another important flamenco family. If that was not enough, his older sister Estrella Morente is arguably the superstar cantaora in contemporary flamenco. Young Kiki, his familiar nickname, has performed with her as a member of her group in some of the great halls of Europe and the United States including Carnegie Hall. His other sister, Soleá Morente, has started her own career in cante.
Pressure? What pressure?
Jose Enrique Morente, who debuted officially in Madrid in 2013, was in Miami to perform as part of the month-long FlamenGo program presented by the Centro Cultural Español. Engaging, low key, and almost shy off stage, Morente spoke after the soundcheck for the May 16 show.
Given your family, was it there any doubt that you would be a singer?
My father wanted me to play guitar, which is why today I can play a bit. So I went to the conservatory, started my career in music — and got tired of the guitar and so many hours of practice. At home you’d hear cante all day long. My father, Estrella, Soleá, so I started to sing.
What was your father’s reaction?
He was very surprised when I told him, ‘Papa, I want to sing.’ [His reply]: “You want to sing?! Do something else. It’s a hard job, very difficult. Have an easier life.” But afterwards he was very happy. He said “Vale, sing, but study for it. Don’t just sing because you can.”
There are quotes of him talking about you saying “He’s going to be a monster.”
Thank you for telling me. He was someone who lived for his family. He always backed us up, always encouraged us, always told us to do what we really loved.
Is the Morente name is a heavy mantle, or something that opens doors?
Both. I’m proud of my name, but also there are some people who demand of me what they heard of the other Morente — who has been a genius. I do what I can. … And then there is Estrella. Watch out with her. She has really put the bar high.
Besides your father, who are the singers you listen and draw from?
I also like the old flamenco singers because those are the ones from whom my father and everybody else have learned: Manuel Torres, Manolo Caracol, [Pepe] Marchena, [Manuel] Vallejo, [Antonio] Chacón. I try to respect flamenco jondo (deep flamenco) but also combine it with other music. These days we are used to listening to music from all over the world so why not?
With so many artists in your family, who is your toughest critic?
My father would acknowledge you when you did things right and if you didn’t, he would tell you and that was that. Estrella hits you hard. She gives you a compliment a year (laughs), but she’s a great mentor.