The two keys that closed the Candela, epicenter of the 'movida flamenca'

The two keys that closed the Candela, epicenter of the 'movida flamenca'

There are those who think that the Madrid movement was not only that of Alaska and Almodóvar, but that there was also another, flamenco, which had its epicenter in the neighborhood of Lavapies and that, far from being extinguished with the transition, lasted beyond the turn of the century. A move marked by the programming of the San Juan Evangelista college, by the recording adventure of Mario Pacheco and Cucha Salazar at the helm of the Nuevos Medios label, and by the founding of that temple of art that was Candela. The announcement of the sale of the premises, which puts an end to four decades of legend, has aroused a wave of nostalgia among those who knew the golden years of this space on the corner between Olmo and Olivar streets, although the Candela star had already begun to decline much earlier, since the unexpected death in 2008 of its owner, Miguel Ángel Aguilera Fernández.

From a Granada family who emigrated to Villa y Corte, raised in the Orcasitas neighborhood, Miguel Candela He was an acute person, unbeatable at chess, connoisseur of jondo art in all its extension and extremely funny, who also knew how to gracefully scold those who insisted on clapping at the wrong time, and to stand firm when the clumsiest clientele took their feet out of the pot . No one like him knew how to lead that space that had previously been the headquarters of the Peña Chaquetón, and that he kept faithful to its flamenco origin. Thus, the Candela became an obligatory meeting place not only for veteran singers and guitarists, but also for restless young people who had drunk from very diverse music and were eager to promote the evolution of the genre. If Paco de Lucía and Camarón, regular customers, as well as his soulmate, Enrique Morente, had opened a fountain, all the promotion that would come immediately after would drink from it by the hand, from Pata Negra to Ketama -who recorded his video Empty in the same Candela–, passing through La Barbería, Tomasito, Vicente Amigo, Sara Baras or Antonio Canales.

Oky Aguirre, who served there for five years as a waiter, remembers how natural it was to stumble across the most talented people you could imagine in any corner - Rubén Blades, Sade, Compay Segundo, Pablo Milanés or Chick Corea - alongside such familiar figures as the bailaor Pepito El Molilo or the artist John Lane, known as El Pollito de California. "You went to the ice room to get two bags, and you met Paco de Lucía and shared with him as long as you could, before going back to work. Maybe it was only twenty seconds, but it was twenty seconds with Paco," he says. . "The good thing about Candela was that people of all kinds gathered, and everyone had their place: you could be at the bar with King Juan Carlos and next door with an ex-convict who had just been released from prison."

Aguirre worked at the premises from 1994 to 1999, when he had already overcome difficult beginnings, which were even more difficult in a neighborhood, Lavapiés, very hard hit by the crisis of the 1980s. Miguel Aguilera, who had been an expert in electrical installations and had Franco's prison was known for its communist militancy, he had already obtained his doctorate in Madrid at night and was beginning to make his fortune with that magnet for night owls. "I met Miguel when I was selling New Media records at the door of Casa Patas," he says, referring to another famous flamenco venue that closed in May 2020. "One day he told me that an uncle who was leaving had stolen two of me records. From there we gained confidence and it gave me work. " The guy who stole from him, by the way, would end up being an internationally famous cantaor.

Along with Aguilera's irresistible charisma, one of the Candela's main attractions was its cave, accessed through a narrow staircase, and where artists and trusted clients lost track of time. That, added to the fact that Candela eventually obtained a café-theater license, with very elastic hours, allowed it to be a meeting place known to all, Madrid and foreigners. "During those years, there was no artist who came to Madrid who did not go through the Candela. I remember Van Morrison, Sting, Slash, the singer from Spin Doctors [Chris Barron], who then lived incognito in Madrid ... ", Aguirre enumerates." Of course, Miguel was not impressed by anyone. He was able to tell Prince that he was not going down to the cave because that night Ramón el Portugués was down there with a couple of cousins ​​at ease. But Pina Bausch, who loved it, that did fit in. "

The dancer Pina Bausch was met there by César Cabanas, an architect from Madrid who carried out several refurbishment works on the Candela, and who also treasures many memories as a client. "As I was the only one who spoke English, I was the interpreter between Pina and Carmen Linares. I really enjoyed Morente, who was fixed, and Riqueni, one of the finest characters that passed through there. It was a very funny and very complete bar , which revealed to me the gypsy world of Madrid, which I did not know. Not only the singers and the musicians, but also the painters, like Antonio Maya. All the creators of those years passed through his bar ".

For those who enjoyed it the most, the Candela was what other mythical places have been internationally for the history of music: Motown, the CGBG, Muscle Shoals, Capitol, Chess, Trojan or The Cavern. Records and video clips were recorded there, but above all there were a thousand and one nights in which spontaneous art, laughter and ethyl fumes were conjured to promote magic. Inglima Fifi, a Sicilian linked to Aguilera by family ties, worked at the bar between 1998 and 2006. "Entering the Candela was entering the universe of Miguel. The place had the same charm and the same magnetism as its owner. The day and time you arrived, something good always happened there. And I myself would blend into the Candela. There were those who told me: you have to see how young you are, and how big you become, "she says.

In her memory, naturally, anecdotes also accumulate: Arcángel singing through malagueñas with the Candela off and empty, late at night, just for Miguel and for her. Victoria Abril wandering barefoot and dancing at her own pace. Joaquín Cortés introducing Naomi Campbell to friends. Almodóvar and Greater Wyoming. Bryan Adams or Lenny Kravitz hallucinating with the atmosphere on any given Monday. Joaquín Sabina in the room where Miguel's mother, Gloria, used to prepare the sandwiches for the parish. The generosity in the tips of Carmina Ordóñez or the Sunday night that began with a meeting of Rafael Riqueni and Niño Josele, who were joined by Rubem Dantas and Jerry González, alone in the premises, until the word spread and It ended up filling up for a memorable impromptu concert. Or the day they gave Alicia Keys a gold record in the cave, "and the singer sang flamenco, while Cigala sang for Alicia Keys. That is recorded, and someone must have it there."

"El Candela was an island that saved us from reality," Inglima concludes. "One day Miguel told me: 'Fifi, one day you will feel proud of having worked here, and of everything you have experienced within these walls.' And he was right."

The journalist Daniel Iriarte also knew that bar for a short period of time, between 2004 and 2005. "He had finished his degree and was looking for money for a documentary, so from Monday to Friday he worked as a telemarketer and on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, also, as a waiter at Candela," he recalls. "I had worked in other bars, but immediately I realized that this was not just any place, neither because of the personality of the owner nor because of the characters that roamed there. On any given Tuesday, at three in the morning, you find to normal people who have gone to dinner and woke up, to the musicians who come to perform and of course to the scoundrel. And they all ended up at the Candela ".

Iriarte assures that the most special moment was closing time, when it was time to make cash and Miguel was left alone with his most intimate friends. Sometimes, of course, the guitars kept playing. "One day when I think Tomatito and Habichuela were there, it was closing time and nobody was leaving. And in the end he told us: 'You go home, how am I going to close if I have all the art from Spain here?" .

"There was art to stop a train, of course, but the night can also be very hard," concludes Iriarte. "Miguel, as short as he was, fought unspeakably to maintain order among people who did not always know how to behave. And he ended up hiring a Ukrainian collaborator, Nico, who was a veteran of the UN mission in Kosovo, because the night in Madrid was sometimes another war. "

The life of Miguel, fighter and hedonist in equal measure, was canceled one morning in 2008 when he fell from the roof of his house in Madrid, from where he used to see the sunrise over Madrid. He had recently fathered a girl named after her mother, Gloria, the woman who helped him start the business, and who continued to come to him many nights into old age.

The year after his death, in the Canal Teatros he was paid a tribute led by Enrique Morente, his great friend, who brought together Carmen Linares, Miguel Poveda, Ketama, El Cigala, Los Habichuela, El Güito, La Tati, Manolete , Grilo, Paco Cortés, Tomasito, Riqueni, Manuel Parrilla, El Bolita, Jerónimo, Nicolás Dueñas, Miguel Ángel Cortés, Javier Ruibal and Juan Diego. It was on that occasion that Enrique sang that letter in memory of his countryman and friend: "The friend of art has not died, / amateurs do not cry, / Miguel Candela has not died, / that is in the heart / of the artists of flamenco ... ".

Miguel's death was the first turn of the key that Candela closed: the place, without the owner who had given it soul and world fame, tried to stay open, managed by his family, introducing novelties such as the installation of a tablao for performances , an option that Miguel had always resisted. It remained a busy place, a reference in all nightlife guides, but its absence was inconsolable.

Meanwhile, the lack of understanding between the heirs - the Aguilera family on the one hand, and the mother and the daughter's legal guardian on the other - of this legacy has led to the second and final turn of the key: "Miguel created the Candela because he had a great need to communicate ", adds Fifi Infglima," and the lack of communication is what has put an end to Candela. " It refers to the sale of the premises, according to sources consulted by this newspaper, for the ridiculous figure of 350,000 euros. A gift price for a piece of the history of Madrid and flamenco.


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