surinenglish

25 December 1942: Birth of controversial flamenco singer Enrique Morente

Morente (l) with Canadian songwriter/poet Leonard Cohen.
Morente (l) with Canadian songwriter/poet Leonard Cohen. / EFE
  • Morente's work is now widely recognised by critics, but there are still those who disparage his contribution

Enrique Morente, one of the most controversial singers within the world of contemporary flamenco, was born in the Albaicín district of Granada on Christmas Day in 1942. Since called the 'Pope of Flamenco', Morente, father of celebrated singer Estrella Morente, was a revolutionary artist who changed the course of flamenco history with his distinctive style of singing.

Without renouncing his traditional roots, the singer began performing with musicians from diverse musical genres, which, despite criticism from the dyed-in-the-wool aficionados, shot him from the close-knit circle of the flamenco world into an international star.

Enrique Morente Cotelo, who recorded more than 20 albums throughout his career, began singing as a member of Los Seises, a group of children that uphold a 17th-century religious custom by singing and performing pietistic dances during religious festivals.

He became attracted to flamenco as a child and was inspired by family gatherings in Granada. While still in his teens, Morente headed to Madrid to embark on a professional career and he was soon noticed by some of the old masters, like Pepe de la Matrona and Bernardo de los Lobitos.

He was hired to sing at many of the top flamenco tablaos in the capital and enjoyed long stints at the prestigious El Zambra and El Café de Chinitas.

He soon became a favourite at the summer flamenco festivals and then went on to tour Europe and Japan with several different flamenco companies.

However, Morente’s music strayed away from convention as he continued to mix pure flamenco with different world music throughout the 1970s and ‘80s. One of his most critically acclaimed recordings is the Flamenco Mass, with which he mixed flamenco with other genres like the Gregorian chant.

In 1995, he produced his most controversial recording, Omega, together with Spanish rock band Lagartija Nick. For this much-criticised work, Morente mixed flamenco with punk rock and used lyrics by Leonard Cohen and Granada-born poet Federico García Lorca.

Although Morente’s work is now widely recognised by most critics, there are still those who disparage his contribution.

He died in a Madrid hospital in December 2010 after an alleged surgical error during a relatively straightforward stomach operation.