Today I will write about a recently created association, the Flamenco National Council (Consejo Nacional del Flamenco).
I want to start stating that its president, Luis Adame, has well-established credentials as a successful businessman. This, together with the extremely high artistic quality maintained for years in his Barcelona tablao “El Cordobés”, are proof of his extended knowledge and expertise, not only artisticly but also in the economic and managing fields.The main goal of the association is to unite, something, until now, so difficult in flamenco, therefore a much more worthy objective. I wasn’t able to attend the presentation event via Zoom, but I’ve been sent the bylaws and statutes, which describe the reason for its constitution and the main goals.
First surprise is the kind of union they seek. They want to gather everyone together, nor only artists and entrepreneurs (bosses), which is in itself contradictory, but everyone else, the whole flamenco industry:
. “una entidad que agrupa y representa la totalidad de los agentes productivos del arte y de las economías del Flamenco, teniendo como base la defensa de sus valores culturales. Su objetivo es vertebrar los intereses de los individuos, agrupaciones, federaciones y empresas en una sola voz, y convertirse en la interlocutora válida ante las entidades, instituciones y foros que influyen, dependen y deciden sobre el Flamenco en cuestiones corporativas, económicas o macroeconómicas, culturales y políticas, tanto a nivel local, regional, nacional e internacional.”
Bosses, or businessmen, and workers, or artists, can not belong to the same association, because they don’t share the same interests. Of course, what they share is making flamenco a respected, renowned, thriving, valued cultural industry, acknowledged at the same level of other national industries (by effective measures and not only words) by the Spanish institutions. But, on their way to this common interest, artists negotiate “in fron of” and not “besides” their bosses, fighting for basic rights still seen as privileges.
I keep reading and I go from surprise to fear.
. “… en una sola voz, y convertirse en la interlocutora válida ante las entidades, instituciones y foros que influyen, dependen y deciden sobre el Flamenco en cuestiones corporativas, económicas o macroeconómicas, culturales y políticas, tanto a nivel local, regional, nacional e internacional.”
There is not “only one voice” in flamenco. One mere entity, formed by such different members, can not claim the right to become the only “valid spokesperson to the institutions”.
How may the interests of, let’s say, a luthier, a bailaora, a cultural managing director, a flamenco designer and a hotel owner, be represented simultaneously? How may working conditions of such different professions be unified, in which way their needs and claims might be given a voice? Isn’t it hard enough to legally normalize the precariousness of so many flamenco artists, left to fend for themselves during and after pandemia? Why don’t we start with the most damaged collective, with less resources, nor only economically, but with less access to improvement, career opportunities, legal counseling, information?
There may not be only one voice in flamenco because it would mean there is only one power. Therefore the power would be accumulated in only one place, group of individuals or institutions. Diversifying power forces dialogue, negotiation, searching for balance. Because the phrase “la defensa de sus valores culturales” (flamenco), raises a worrying doubt: what are the cultural values de “la totalidad de agentes productivos del arte y de las economías del flamenco”? How can they all share the same values? And why would they? What happens to those who have different values, to those for who flamenco is culturally something not coincident with what this unitary voice defends? Would they be set apart, made invisible to the institutions? Would their rights be not respected because they would have less power, because they would be a minority?
Accumulation of power is dangerous. It creates dogmas and authoritarianism. It gives birth to a sort of vertical labor union, which belongs to the past, to a different consciousness in artists. Each entity in flamenco: institutions, critics, entrepreneurs, programmers and agents, artists, etc, has its own structure, his own problems, just and unjust, and each dialogues and negotiates with the rest depending on the power it can sum up in each particular moment. Good will and a sense of cooperation are needed, but improvements will only be attained maintaining the power balance based on diversity and a certain confrontation. We artists have power, not more than anybody else, but it won’t help to give it away. It will help using it to be a worthy representative in the negotiating table, facing the other flamenco entities.
No one can represent everybody at the same time, because they would be representing nobody.