The Shrimp Returns: Beloved Flamenco Singer Camarón Stars in a Graphic Novel | Comics and graphic novels
In death, as in life, legendary flamenco singer Camarón de la Isla continues to confuse expectations, cross boundaries, and demand that his blistering, blistering voice be heard.
The revered, loved and sometimes controversial singer died of lung cancer in July 1992, aged just 41. But as the 30th anniversary of his death approaches, born singer José Monge Cruz is reincarnated in the black-and-white pages of a new graphic novel meant to pay homage to Camarón, the music he created, and the band. drawn itself.
Taking its name from one of his last songs, Camarón, dicen de mí is the fruit of five years of work by the writer Carlos Reymán and the illustrator and cartoonist Raulowsky.
The 190-page novel focuses on 10 moments in Camarón’s life, including his early performances as a child prodigy, his pivotal partnerships with guitarists Paco de Lucía and Tomatito, and the recording of his masterpiece. work of New Flamenco from 1979, La leyenda del tiempo.
Camarón, dicen de mí begins with the birth of the singer into a family of gypsy musicians in the small Andalusian town of San Fernando. José, who emerges into the world with howls that predict the resounding chants to come, puts aside his dreams of becoming a bullfighter as his vocal talent inevitably becomes apparent.
His stage name – which translates to Island Shrimp – was the nickname an uncle gave him due to his thinness and pale skin.
In the second chapter, while playing with a calf, he has a premonition of perhaps the most formative moment of his life – the untimely death of his father. For Raulowsky, Camarón’s gypsy heritage and the singer’s loss of a young boy are key to understanding the paradox of the taciturn, introverted man and the passionate performer.
“Through the comic, I tried to understand why he gave himself when he sang; why he sang with so much passion”, explains the illustrator.
“We know very well that flamenco is about pain; it’s like the blues. But where does this pain and feeling come from? It must be something personal, right? I think the early loss of his father must have marked his character very deeply. And he was a Gypsy, and his people had been through a lot. He had internalized all those feelings of sadness.
Raulowsky says he and Reymán opted for a graphic novel because of the simplicity of the form, the visual power, and the way “it crosses the boundaries of verbal language.”
In addition to devouring biographies and documentaries, the couple sought out those who had known Camarón, including Ricardo Panchón, who produced La leyenda del tiempo and agreed to provide the foreword to the novel. Panchón describes Camarón as a “magical gypsy” who would have been amused to see his life sketched in a comic strip that depicts “an adventure that began sadly and ended sadly but was a life as bright as it was fast.”
Despite his drug problems – and the scorn his attempts to fuse flamenco with contemporary music have garnered among purists – Camarón quickly became an icon among the marginalized Gypsy population of Spain and beyond.
“When Camarón arrived, he united gypsy and non-gypsy cultures and became an inspiration to all the poor,” says Raulowsky.
The illustrator’s joy at finally seeing the book appear was tempered by the loss of Reymán, who died a few weeks ago. A photograph of the couple strolling down a street the night in June 2016 when they had the idea for the book is the penultimate image in the novel.
“I’m thrilled because the reception has been great,” says Raulowsky. “But we thought we could enjoy this moment together, and obviously it didn’t work out that way.”
Although the book inevitably ends with Camarón’s physical decline and death, its final pages pay homage to the transformative power of his once mighty voice.
“I think the moment we see him singing during his tragic end really represents his spirit and how, as a man and an artist, he indulged in that spirit,” Raulowsky says.
“He gives himself entirely and he falls apart entirely. He was faithful to the end. »