At a time when flamenco has succumbed to the commercialism of elaborate staging, there are still places where important dynasties are committed to an artistic vision of an entirely different nature. With the passing of time, the Bienal de Flamenco of Seville has become the greatest showcase of Andalusian art in all the world. For this reason, many spectators come from all parts of the globe, trying to find that romantic spirit in the way of living and understanding of day-to-day life. However, most of these visitors are disappointed to find that the ways described by their elders and in literature have become diluted over the years.
Morón de la Frontera is one of those magical places in Andalusia in which flamenco was just another part of the day-to-day life of its inhabitants. Any excuse or moment in a tavern (centers of social activity for these men and women) became a good reason to celebrate a fiesta. This reason -along with the presence at that time of Diego del Gastor- made Morón one of the most attractive towns for those foreigners who sought direct contact with Andalusian culture.
Diego el del Gastor | Casa Pepe 1968
(Photo: Steve Kahn)
The result of this situation was a generation of young artists that participated in those juergas as spectators, having had the opportunity to meet and befriend some of these foreigners. It is popularly believed that the relationship of Morón with the American aficionados stems from the construction of the air base, located near this town since the mid-fifties. This, however, is not true, since the Americans at the base-unlike those in the town of Rota-never formed a part of town life, residing instead in the Seville suburb of Santa Clara. Their contact with the inhabitants of Morón was therefore negligible.
Despite these facts, a turn of events and the presence of the most original of all gitano guitarists caused Donn. E. Pohren -an avid American flamenco enthusiast- to decide to buy a plot of land on the outskirts of this town to set up a kind of boardinghouse. Enthusiasts from all over the world visited this establishment, most of them American. Five fiestas a week were celebrated, with artists like Juan Talega, Perrate, Fernanda and Bernarda de Utrera, Anzonini del Puerto, Fernandillo de Morón, Antonio Mairena, Joselero, Andorrano, Dieguito, Agustín Rios, Paco, Juan, and especially Diego del Gastor.
Diego el del Gastor | Feria de Sevilla 1967
(Photo: Steve Kahn)
But this establishment was much more than a business endeavor, with contractual relationships being secondary to friendship, fun, and, over all, to a way of understanding life that has unfortunately been forgotten. The experience influenced a generation of young flamenco artists who enriched their lives through that cultural feedback, since they were privileged to be among the first to enjoy the music of their generation that was being created outside of Spain. Only through this premise can one explain the fact that this "hippie culture" is still reflected, resulting from musical preferences that include artists like Jimi Hendrix, Lou Reed, Janis Joplin, and The Rolling Stones, and with which these foreigners created a cultural and musical exchange. Today, this phenomenon is seen as a curious and singular case because it is much easier to explain in this way, reducing it to a series of anecdotes, rather than through logic.
The truth is that this social and cultural movement brought on important effects in the two groups. There is no other easily accepted explanation for the enormous popularity of the Morón style of flamenco guitar in the United States and Europe. There are pages and pages dedicated to Diego del Gastor in Internet. This artist has become legendary, and his followers venerate his memory, even in the most insignificant details. Despite his fame of being eccentric, he was admired by gitanos, payos, Spaniards, and foreigners for, among other things, his total indifference towards money and material objects, which, on occasion, approached contempt.