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9 February 1927: Birth of celebrated flamenco singer, La Fernanda de Utrera

La Fernanda was famed for her duende-fuelled voice.
La Fernanda was famed for her duende-fuelled voice. / SUR
  • What happened today?

  • Known throughout the world as La Fernanda de Utrera, one of the greatest female singers of the last century evolved from one of the most celebrated gypsy families in the history of flamenco

Fernanda Jiménez Peña, known throughout the world as La Fernanda de Utrera, evolved from one of the most celebrated gypsy families in the history of flamenco. Born in the small town of Utrera, Seville, in 1927, La Fernanda was the granddaughter El Pinini, a legendary 19th century singer remembered for a particular style of singing that is still practised by his family today.

La Fernanda was regarded as one of the greatest female singers of the last century, especially noted for her rough, bronze-tinted voice. She received the title of 'Queen of the Soleá', a sorrowful style of flamenco that would become synonymous with her name.

Being born into such an illustrious flamenco family, it was inevitable that La Fernanda would embark on a career as a singer, although her father - a humble butcher - was not keen for his daughter to earn a living in this way.

She started to sing at the age of twelve, during family celebrations, when the whole house would erupt in a frenzy of riotous song and dance. Her father was mystified by his daughter's knowledge of the old songs, and astounded by the torn and cracked voice that she possessed at such a young age.

Fernanda, and her sister, La Bernarda de Utrera, also a singer of great importance, took the flamenco world by storm. The sisters, both spinsters, began appearing at local festivals and private parties and quickly became the most talked-about singers on the circuit. However, La Fernanda's art was superior, because her voice was what best described the meaning of this predominantly gypsy art. Although the sisters travelled the world in order to promote their art, they both expressed a dislike of the commercial scene.

They claimed to have only ever sung in the commercial flamenco tablaos in Madrid and Barcelona when they needed to earn extra money; when they did not, they preferred to be in Utrera surrounded by close family and familiar faces.

However, La Fernanda's art was too important to be kept locked away in Utrera and she soon began receiving invites to perform on some of the greatest stages in Spain. She was lured to the lucrative flamenco scene that was taking shape in Madrid in the 1970s and it was while in the capital that she caught the attention of the world. She produced a large catalogue of records and these offer some of the most orthodox styles of flamenco ever recorded on disc.

The town of Utrera has numerous monuments dedicated to La Fernanda and her sister: these include a life-size bronze statue, a plaque in a small remembrance park and a street named in her honour.

She became a legend in her own time and her name sits alongside great artists like La Niña de los Peines and La Paquera de Jerez.

La Fernanda de Utrera died on 26 August 2006.