A generation of young artists and researchers unapologetically claim this style and its folkloric as signs of identity and inspiration. The graphic novel Mrs. Concha, based on the life of the singer, illustrates the return of a genre that is now presented in its most modern and diverse veneer.
That a group of indie rock as successful as Old Morla have used a sample of a song by Piquer shell for The Virgin of Humanity, one of the singles that advanced his new album, in a certain way means closing the circle opened by the copla as a popular Spanish expression of the masses almost a century ago.
It is, it is true, an anecdotal encounter. This Madrid formation is made up of six men in their thirties, with an artistic name inspired by The endless story, the best-seller from german Michael Ende, and their sound is closer to the epic and guitar melodrama of British bands like Radiohead or Muse than to the stories of love and disappointment of Argentine Empire or Juanita Reina. And yet it marks an important milestone: the return to mainstream of the copla, and with it a symbolic culmination of decades of marginalization, contempt and neglect of a genre and some artists who, remember, were the indigenous expression par excellence of popular music for most of the last century in Spanish homes.
With its own name
In 2020, it was 30 years since the death of Concha Piquer, a shining star of the starts of the copla and interpreter of some of the immortal songs of the genre. The TVE program Blood ties dedicated a special to the artist. In the key of society and drawing on the rich archive of the public channel, he delved into the Piquer and its character of modern woman with a gathering in which they participated Boris Izaguirre, Nieves Herrero or Encarna Polo.
A year later, the same year in which he died Concha Marquez Piquer, daughter and heiress in more than one sense of the Valencian singer, Carla berrocal public Mrs. Concha (Reservoir Books), the first comic to address the life of a folkloric and the genre that made it universal, and one of the few biographies about a woman who triumphed globally at a time when Spain lived closed in on herself. Mrs. Concha is a gorgeous, formally flawless and conceptually ambitious comic that it works by itself, as a biography and as a love letter to the couplet. Interesting comics and a handful of good or very good comics are published every year, but it is difficult to find what Carla Berrocal proposes – and succeeds – with Mrs. Concha.
Also in 2021 artists like Rosalia, C. Tangana, La Mala Rodríguez, Maria Jose Llergo, Silvia Perez Cruz or Alaska participate in a documentary series about the life and miracles of Lola Flores, a couplet later turned into a pop icon and mass phenomenon, aka Lola from Spain. In this same here and now, C. Tangana recovers the coplero Pepe Blanco for your confirmation disk The Madrileño, groups like Nightingale tour around the country with a proposal that puts in a blender psychedelia, copla and popular sounds, and young and disparate voices such as Queralt Lahoz, Ede or Maria Jose Llergo claim, assume as their own and integrate the song in their musical proposal without asking for permission or forgiveness.
From grandmothers to granddaughters
All of them and all of them came to this sound through different paths. Everyone, in their own way, surrendered to her. Carla Berrocal admits that this type of music had not been part of her life: “in my house you didn’t listen to copla. My father is not very music lover and my mother is Chilean, so we did not have that background musical & rdquor ;. The cartoonist tells how He approached the genre through his grandmother. “I was in a nursing home with quite severe senile dementia and we played tango, rancheras and everything. One day we put verses on it and all of a sudden I started freaking out & rdquor ;, he remembers.
Among all the folkloric ones, the illustrator connected with Concha Piquer. “I saw myself immersed in his lyrics due to his interpretive ability & rdquor ;, he says,“ I began to research myself and I saw that I had had an amazing life. And I thought about making a comic maybe because of the parallelism, because both media were very mistreated & rdquor ;. This love affair with the Valencian singer is not a trivial matter. As it explains Juan Torres Orta, Professor of Physics and Chemistry who has dedicated his life to Andalusian popular song and author of the essay The couplet. The soul of the South (Utopia, 2021), Concha Piquer is “the true creator of the genre, the one who walks the copla all over the world & rdquor ;. Torres Orta highlights how “the Valencian tonadillera, with her endearing accent, her bell-like voice and her finesse and refined taste, was the one that gave the final touches to the genre& rdquor ;. From a tattooed figure of successes, passions and great moments like that of Concha Piquer, Carla Berrocal planned to go further with a book that paid tribute to the song.
“The copla has always had a reading of stale music and looks. Only academic research has valued it& rdquor ;, highlights Berrocal. The cartoonist admits the frustration that this has generated: “In the end it is a musical genre that has been very mistreated and forgotten by this thing that we have in Spain to make a clean slate. Keep in mind that when the Civil War ended, not everyone was in favor of Franco & rdquor ;.
Because the copla, as a genre sung by women and heard mainly by women, and with lyrics composed by homosexual men such as Federico Garcia Lorca or Rafael de Leon, was a nucleus of resistance of losers and disinherited in a time of repression and obscurantism, telling stories of forbidden love and passion at a time when almost everything was punished. The poor and submissive housewives and the community queer of the time they took refuge in a walk on the wild side surreptitious and seemingly harmless. Tattoo, Green eyes or Grief, grief, grief they were the liberator blues tolerated for those and those martyrs of the country who had no other means of escape in a time and a place where everything was against them.
The youngest, the most fans
“Many of us have that memory: the copla, the cuplé, the bolero or the zarzuela that our grandmothers hummed while they worked. Music that has been looked over the shoulder, as well as those care that facilitated & rdquor ;, he remembers Lidia Garcia. García is a researcher at the Department of Art History at the University of Murcia and an expert in Spanish popular culture. His academic work, his publications on Twitter through his account The Queer Cañí Bot and his podcast Oh bells!, make up an unbiased reading of the couplet and its stars. An enhancement of its cultural relevance, but also of its significance from a feminist perspective and queer. Something that, after a long time, is possible in Spain. “There has been a generational change & rdquor; Garcia points out. “Among those of us who are close to 30 there is a general interest in the song which, in turn, has a lot to do with the intergenerational ties with the women who have preceded us. It does not seem to me coincidence that the music that the grandmothers listened to has been silenced, as happened with the role played by their care & rdquor ;, he highlights.
Among those of us who are close to 30 there is a general interest in the song which, in turn, has a lot to do with the intergenerational ties with the women who have preceded us ”
The researcher points to the decade of the seventies of the last century and the end of the dictatorship as the moment in which “it breaks a little with that so accused account of the social ascent through music and with that journey of the heroine that they had the folkloric & rdquor ;. And add that the imprint of Anglo-Saxon pop and rock as a symbol of rupture and modernity, understandable by the appropriation of the copla that the Franco regime had made, will also mean that popular music ceases to be a method of socioeconomic ascent for women of humble origin and, in general, evolves towards a model dominated by middle-class men- high.
Both Carla Berrocal and Lidia García highlight Pedro Almodovar, Terenci moix or Ana Maria Matute like the pioneers who approached that part of popular culture from a different perspective. Berrocal reflects that perhaps they were not at the right time. “Like Almodóvar, he does have this very interesting resignification and reappropriation of the Spanish, but I believe that now it is beginning to give more and more, precisely for that lack of prejudice& rdquor ;, concludes.
Lidía García rewinds to get to the beginning of the recovery of the song and everything that surrounds it, which places it at the beginning of the 2000s thanks to television shows such as Triumph operation, heirs of the postwar talent shows from which figures such as Rocío Jurado.
Since then, as Carla Berrocal tells us, a connection would have emerged that encompasses a diverse and current audience and interpretations. “There is a generation that has not grown up under the wing of the dictatorship or the Transition, quite freed from prejudice, which is able to recover its own culture without any ideological toll& rdquor ;, account, and of “taking the good of the couplet and giving it a different meaning & rdquor ;.
So they feel it Nightingale, Madrid musical duo composed of Atilio González and Elia maqueda which, in his own words, mixes saetas and psychedelia, copla and electronics, popular proverb and progressive sounds. “We have always said that we are not great connoisseurs of the genre of the couplet & rdquor;, they warn. “Yes, we like and interest us, and above all we believe that there is a whole melodic world in traditional song worth exploring to refloat and spin it & rdquor ;, they clarify.
“The thematic axes of the couplet are the most universal: the love, the tear& rdquor ;, highlights Lidia García. Now they don’t woo you at a fence, they send you a WhatsApp, but the feelings are the same & rdquor ;, he adds. A vision shared by Juan Torres Orta, for whom copla and flamenco are symbols of heritage, universality and miscegenation. “Years go by, and, like everything in life, our songs receive musical influences from all genres. Music, from its ancestors, has always been a pure fusion of cultures and folklore & rdquor ;, concludes the professor.
On this evolution Carla Berrocal reasons how “to make a song in the XXI century as it was done in 1940 does not make much sense. If you are going to do something with a couplet, the logical thing is that you do something super crazy and risk & rdquor ;. From that shore, Nightingale look the other way. “The copla is a genre that was associated with a time of repression, when in reality it displayed a freedom that others would have wanted for themselves & rdquor ;. The duo believes that “The Anglo-Saxon model has been abused, and it is very nice that there is a desire to look within, to what we have close, to the peripheries & rdquor ;.
This evolution has allowed that in 2021 the copla and its architects can be valued from the respect to the classics, modernity, feminism, the queer or all at the same time. It has also allowed a kind of national reconciliation with a genre that has contributed much more than what has been wanted to admit for so many decades in which it has been looked down on its shoulder and it has not been wanted or it has not been known to look back without anger. Songs, documentaries, podcasts and graphic novels of the 21st century are doing that, finally, Spain embraces a way of expressing sentimentality and certain perennial themes that neither decades nor disdain have been able to erase. The song, which never left, has come out of the closet more alive than ever.