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Flamenco Guitar Transcriptions
16 May 2020

Javier Molina, 1955

This article, written by the Jerez aficionado and author Juan de la Plata, was published by the Madrid-based newspaper Dígame on 23 August 1955. The interview was released with three photos of Javier, in one of which he is seen playing the guitar with classical postures. You can see a scanned image of the article here, another interview with Javier here and yet another interview here. Click here for more information on Javier.

He says that singing used to be better, and that modern flamenco is "falling apart"
He became ill when he heard of the death of Ramón Montoya

Javier Molina may be considered the grand maestro of all Spanish flamenco guitarists who are still playing. Despite his eighty-five years of age, he still teaches guitar, and he even plays occasionally for a group of gentlemen who stop by his home from time to time to listen to his captivating performances.

In the Andalusian art of guitar playing, Javier Molina represents three-fourths of a century of absolute dedication to the most flamenco of all instruments. Three-fourths of a century of constant strumming on stages, in cafés cantantes, country taverns and the patios of ranches and estates. Javier began playing flamenco at the age of seven and, since then, has spent his life accompanying flamenco song with his guitar playing. He has appeared onstage and in many other places where his great mastery has been admired at all of the most important fiestas.

With his art, he is the guitarist who most often accompanied the great don Antonio Chacón, the genius who earned the title of don with his singing. Among those of his class and profession, this is more than a simple title of honor and dignity to be bestowed upon any decent person. He played his guitar por seguiriyas for the singing of Manuel Torres (Niño de Jerez), and his exceptional artistic and thoroughly creative qualities have shone brightly alongside the most highly acclaimed singers and dancers of recent years.


Javier Molina was born in Jerez de la Frontera on a street of the typical Santiago neighborhood that is named after the patron saint of the city: "Nuestra Señora de la Merced." He grew up in Jerez, where he still lives, in a house in the San Pedro neighborhood. We went there to see him, in order to hear what he has to say about his life and his art.

Javier's apartment is small, with two or three rooms. On the walls, one can see paintings of the Virgin Mary, guitars, photos from his days of splendor past, of his childhood, a portrait of the bullfighter Lagartijo el Grande, and a painting of our Lord, the "Señor del Gran Poder." Throughout his apartment, one notices that atmosphere of times past that permeates the houses of elderly artists who have nearly completely withdrawn from public life.

Javier greeted us courteously and invited us to sit down. He took out his old but well-conserved guitar and began to play seguiriyas, soleares, alegrías, tientos, farrucas... All playing styles, the dramatic as well as the frivolous, come to life through his talent and artistry; through the smooth and agile hands of a marvelous artist. Without putting down his companion the guitar, he explained to us how he began as an artist. He spoke about playing in public at eight years of age in the Alameda Vieja of Jerez, between performances at a modest puppet theater owned by a blind violinist. Javier made his first earnings there: two pesetas a day!

The old guitarist never learned from teachers, receiving only a few classes from an aficionado friend of his brother, the latter a celebrated dancer who went on to form a trio with Javier and Chacón. The three were unknown at the time and began to perform in public in cafés cantantes, forming part of what were then called "artistic concerts."


This story is from one of those concerts. Javier tells us as he caresses the strings of his instrument.

—"We performed in a colmado in Facinas, a little town in the Campo de Gibraltar area, and when we passed the tray around, a drunk threw in a duro (five-peseta piece). Just imagine how thrilled we were. Nobody would give you that much back then; it was a fortune for us. Since that was something to celebrate, we had a fiesta for this generous member of the audience, and it went on for nearly an hour. So imagine our surprise the next day when we see this drunk from the night before come into the hotel demanding that we give him back the duro! He said that, because he was a 'bit tipsy,' he hadn't realized how much he'd given us. So, naturally, we didn't give it to him, and, after raising a big fuss, he went back to wherever he'd come from."

Since we're into anecdotes, Javier also tells us what happened to a less-than-brilliant singer whom he was accompanying onstage.

—"The poor fellow hadn't slept for several days because he'd been traveling, and he fell asleep right there onstage. He fell into the orchestra pit, and he went on singing, all covered with blood."


The maestro tells us:

—"I've played for the best and the worst singers."
—"Who was the best, maestro?"
—"There've been good and bad singers."
—"But the best...?"
—"Don Antonio Chacón. He was the most complete singer I've ever met."
—"Did you play for him often?"
—"Just about any time he sang. He was a great friend and a perfect gentleman."
—"How many more famous singers have you accompanied with the guitar?"
—"Tomás el Nitri, Manuel Torres (Niño de Jerez), Caoba, señor Manuel Molina, Paco la Luz, Loco Mateo, Chato de Jerez, the Marrurro brothers, la Serna, Cabeza, Frijones, and a lot more whose names would make an endless list, among them, Juan Breva, Canario, Fosforito, and Mescle, who was worth a whole cortijo (country estate) when he sang and was really funny."
—"Who was better, Chacón or Manuel Torre?"
—"I've already said that don Antonio was the most complete, but I liked Manuel Torres por seguiriyas more. Now then, Chacón was a genius por malagueñas. And those caracoles of his!"
—"What style is that?"
—"A style of alegrías that don Antonio Chacón created and sang como los ángeles (like the angels)."
—"Whom have you accompanied among today's artists?"
—"Niña de los Peines. I toured Spain for two years with her and Estampío and Cojo de Málaga; with Lola Flores, in her first performances in public, when she was sixteen and I gave her dance lessons; and with Manolo Caracol, whom I accompanied in his debut in Madrid when he was still just a child, in the 'teatro del Centro' theater on Atocha Street, with Ramírez, who was a very famous dancer."
—"Did you know Ramón Montoya?"
—"We were close friends and we performed together on many occasions. Every time he was asked who was the better of the two, he'd say I was. He sure could lie, because he was the greatest player of all time. When I heard that he had died, it hit me so hard that I became ill and had to be put to bed."
—"What are the easiest and the most difficult flamenco guitar styles?"
—"On the guitar, the easiest is sevillanas and the most difficult is bulerías."
—"Please tell us about modern singers."
—"There are good ones and bad ones; there always have been."
—"Your favorite?"
—"Manolo Vallejo. He knows the most, and sings the best among today's artists."


—"What do you think of modern singing?"
—"Flamenco nowadays is falling apart. People used to sing much better than they do today."
—"Who's the best modern guitarist?"
—"Without a doubt, Niño de Ricardo."
—"Have you had many students?"
—"Quite a few. I haven't stopped teaching since I retired six or seven years ago. Before that, I taught the daughters of Bombita III and Morenito de Algeciras. After I stopped performing, I taught a few who are professionals today. Some of them are Lápiz, Palma and the Moraíto brothers."


Our conversation with the old guitarist trails off. We've gone upstairs to the terrace so that Pereiras can play some records. Javier complains that the old cafés cantantes have disappeared forever. According to him, they were like universities of cante. He proposes the creation of an educational center to train the voices of inexperienced singers, teaching them to sing well in order to prevent the disappearance of pure flamenco.

He confesses to us that he is a fervent follower of the bullfighter Lagartijo. He tells us about the recordings he has made, and reminds us of the homage to don Antonio Chacón in 1933 in Jerez, the land of his birth, in which Javier took part. Others intervening were Pemán, Julián Pemartín, and all of the Jerez flamenco artists of that time.

We also spoke of another fiesta that had taken place three years earlier to celebrate the bicentennial of Domecq, in the well-known vineyard "El Majuelo," where Julián Pemartín improvised a poem, the beginning of which is:

¿Qué tendrás, noche divina,
que en mi recuerdo te borre?
Tocaba Javier Molina
y cantaba Manuel Torres...
What is it about you divine night,
that blurs my memory of you so?
Javier Molina was playing,
and Manuel Torres was singing...

Ramón Montoya, 1937

This interview, conducted by an uncredited journalist, was published by the Argentinian newspaper La Nación on 11 May 1937. Click here for more information on Ramón.

Ramón Montoya remembers great singers of cante jondo
The adventurous life of the singer Antonio Chacón

In the early hours of yesterday morning, the celebrated guitarist Ramón Montoya arrived in our city aboard the steamship Campana, from Marseilles. Considered to be the most complete performer of popular Andalusian music, he has come to our capital by way of a contract with the owners of the Maravillas theater, where he will perform in tonight's presentation of regional art as part of the show of the dancer Carmen Amaya. Montoya has taken part in performances of the art of cante jondo for over a quarter century, and his skillful playing has been compared to important flamenco artists such as the Macarronas, Niña de los Peines and Antonio Chacón. In an interview held in the Maravillas theater, the famous guitarist remembered all the "greats" who have venerated the popular singing styles of the Andalusian people. He offered many colorful episodes: some picturesque, others sentimental and yet others involving the actor Manolo Vico, linked to the artistic life of Montoya through several adventurous performances on the Iberian Peninsula. Neither his appearance nor his accent offer clues as to his place of birth. At first sight, with his face lit up, one would say that he is from the north of Spain, yet his manner of speech sounds perfectly Andalusian. Nonetheless, from the very first question, Montoya responds to all questions at length and in detail.

—What region are you from?

—I'm from Madrid, from the Avapiés district, that silly neighborhood that defines the capital of Spain so well. On occasion, I've had to show my personal documents just to prove that I was born in Madrid.

I was supposed to come to Buenos Aires about seven years ago, when García Malla invited me to perform in the Casino theater, but the fear of being at sea—after all, I may be from Madrid, but I was born a Gypsy, as well—kept me from acting on those tempting offers. I remember that Manolo Vico, who knew about this country, told me on several occasions, "Don't be silly, Ramón. Go over to America, you're going to earn piles of money!" But I have to confess that those interesting contracts lost all their appeal at the mere thought of so many days at sea.

Montoya began playing in the cafés cantantes of Madrid

—How did you become a guitarist?

—In the cafés cantantes of Madrid, many or most of which don't even exist any more. From that period, I have warm memories of the Marina café, where I started, located in Jardines Street, number 21. I also worked at the famous Naranjeros café, in Cebada Square; the Gato café, in the street with the same name, the owners of which responded to the colorful name of las hermanas Higorrotas (the Brokenfig sisters); the Magdalena café, also in the street of that name, between the squares of Antón Martín and Progreso; and also the Pez café, in Ancha de San Bernardo Street. In the Marina café, I got to play with the famous Macarronas; Malena de Salud, who was the daughter of el Ciego and, in my opinion, the greatest female performer of male dancing—she would come out in a short jacket with chaps and a calañés hat, a tiny little thing with a great big voice that went perfectly with her art—; Anita Caña, who has very good artistic qualities; la Mejorana, one of the greatest performers of classic flamenco dance; and Antonio de Bilbao, whom they met several years ago in Buenos Aires in the San Martín theater, in Eulogio Velasco's group. That reminds me of the unusual way in which Antonio de Bilbao came to be known in Madrid. It happened on one of those memorable nights in the Marina café. After several artists had performed, some of Antonio's friends got him onstage and asked me to accompany him. From the way he looked and dressed, no one could have suspected what a great dancer he was. He wore a beret, revealing his Basque origin, and when I asked him what he was going to dance, he said, "Por alegrías." I looked at him and thought that it was all a joke, so I responded by playing the same way. But he reacted, and told me confidently:

"No, play it right; I know how to dance!"

And he certainly did know. He was so good that he put all the dancers, guitarists and the public right into his pocket. He caused such a sensation that the owner of the café came straight over and made me contract him. That used to be part of my job at the time, as the official house guitarist. I asked him how much he wanted to earn, and he said, "Two pesetas," which was a good salary back then. But if he'd said fifty we would have given it to him. I was earning seven pesetas, which was also good pay, but I was earning over a hundred pesetas a day because I was playing outside the café. The only thing I can say about Antonio de Bilbao is that, not long after that, he was the king of the Marina café and all of Spain began to praise him. I also have to mention Faico, an excellent interpreter of the farruca. He went to perform in Paris and had a big hit with the La Giralda pasodoble. Ramírez de Jerez put on some great shows there, too, with farrucas and tangos, as well as Monijón, the cousin of Faico.

—Which bailaoras do you remember as the best?

—Mariquilla, la Flamenca, in classic styles, on the same level as Macarrona; and Encarnación Hurtado, la Malagueñita.

He considers Chacón to be the most complete performer

—But in cante jondo—Montoya continues—the greatest artist from Spain is Antonio Chacón, or, better said, don Antonio Chacón, because if anyone deserves to be called don, it's him. For me and for many others, Chacón was the absolute best at all the cantes flamencos. Another thing about him is that he wasn't just a flamenco singer, because he could talk about painting, literature and medicine. He took his singing seriously. He could start at eight o'clock in the evening, and go on until the same time the next day with the same enthusiasm and effect. He'd overshadow everyone, and wherever he went, nobody could compete with him. For fifteen years, I accompanied him with this guitar that's been with me now for twenty-seven years, the one that the flamencos call la leona de Montoya (Montoya's lion). Chacón was the greatest singer of the Gypsy style of seguidilla, and, at the same time, he was a gentleman and a friend. When he died, he didn't leave behind a penny, after having earned over two million pesetas. He used all his money to live as the great man he was. In the Levante styles, Manuel Torres was great, also. He was a magnificent singer of the murciana and the cartagenera. Manuel Escacena was another great singer, and Antonio Chacón admired him. Escacena's head was strangely shaped, and people used to compare it to a cucumber. I remember that Chacón once said to me about him, "Montoyita, have a listen to this 'cucumberhead'; he's extraordinary." On more than one occasion, Chacón himself saw to it that a hundred-peseta note was given to Escacena at a party in Villa Rosa, pretending that some other person had given it to him. Good old Antonio Chacón was a kind man. I remember when Chacón introduced me in Seville at a party at the fair. The biggest names in cante of that period were there, and it was me, the great unknown, who accompanied don Antonio. When he introduced me, he just said, "First, you're all going to sing, and then I'll sing, accompanied by Montoya, and I assure you that I'm going to make all of you cry." That's exactly what happened: everyone ended up crying. He admired me so much that he even forgave me for arriving late at a party of the Duke of Medinaceli because I'd insisted on finishing a game of pool. He simply said, "Montoya, are you a pool player or a guitar player?" On another occasion, back in Seville, the Andalusians thought so much of me that they refused to believe I'm from Madrid, and he just smiled and said, "Tell 'em you were born in Seville, will you?"

In Paris, he performed in the Opera Cómica with la Argentinita

The conversation turned to his more recent performances and the scheduled events at the Maravillas theater. Montoya tells us:

—I've just finished performing in Paris for eight months. I was going to come to Buenos Aires after the first three months, but my stay there was extended and they wouldn't let me come here. I performed several times at the Pleyel, in Paris, and twice at the Opera Cómica, accompanying Encarnación López, la Argentinita, who went over really big. That countrywoman of yours is an excellent dancer! In my opinion, among female dancers, she's the most complete artist in Spain, and she sings wonderfully, even with that tiny voice of hers. She's all about pure, top-quality art, and audiences in Paris recognized that, just as they had in Madrid. After that, I performed in Brussels, in London and in Switzerland, and then I headed for Marseilles to board that ship and spend all those days at sea. I don't even want to think about that, because I'll need all the courage I can muster for the return trip.

"For my concert in Buenos Aires, I'll interpret on my guitar—on my leona—pure classic flamenco art, such as soleares, malagueñas, granadinas, mineras, tarantas, rondeñas, bulerías, tango in major and minor, guajiras, farrucas, seguidillas and la rosa; and I'll perform each piece according to the public's wishes. I've heard many good things about the Argentinian people, and I've looked forward to coming here for a long time."

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