The three days of competitions managed to bring together over a hundred artists, thousands of spectators at Nakano Zero Hall Theatre in Tokyo and millions of followers by way of the media.
The Delegation of the Cante de las Minas Foundation highlights the massive participation of the Japanese, and the extraordinary reception extended by the host country to the most important Flamenco Festival in the world
The International Festival del Cante de las Minas de La Unión blew everyone away in its three-day visit to Tokyo, the capital of Japan, where last weekend the singing, dance and guitar contests were held for the final stages of the contest to be held in 2015.
The figures show the success of the event which brought together more than a hundred Japanese artists, of whom 85 competed for a place in the 55th edition of the La Unión Festival at the Nakano Zero Hall of the Japanese city. In addition, the auditorium, with a capacity for over 1,500 people, had a packed house every day, attracting about 5,000 people to enjoy the candidates’ live
The broad following in the media must be added to this data, meaning that as of today, almost 4,500 news items have been published referring to news of the Cante de las Minas in 2014, with a global audience of over 635 million people worldwide and an economic assessment of over 8
million euros. All these figures are included in the latest reports prepared by the prestigious
consulting firm KANTAR MEDIA for the Cante de las Minas Foundation.
Just five days after returning, the delegation of the Cante de las Minas Foundation took stock of their stay in Tokyo, and the comments are entirely positive.
The Coordinator of the Cante de las Minas Foundation, Manuel José Navarro Jiménez, underlined three issues: first, “the high number of participants in the competitions, mostly in the category of flamenco dance, with more than a hundred participants, of whom nearly a hundred percent were women, as only two men participated. According to Navarro, all of them had “quite an acceptable artistic level, especially considering we’re talking about a country that is not Spain”.
The Coordinator of the Foundation also noted “the extraordinary and massive public response, more than a thousand people for each of the three days in which the contests were held, mostly young people from different parts of Japan’s geography, not only Tokyo”.
Navarro added that “all the contestants proved their unconditional admiration for one of the most unique manifestations of Spanish culture, which is the art of flamenco, remaining glued to their seats at the Nakano Theatre for the three days of the event, a true marathon lasting up to six hours a day”.
Lastly, José Manuel Navarro emphasized “the great respect and admiration now felt by the entire board for the Japanese Flamenco Association, ANIF (as it is known by critics and audiences), the most important competitive flamenco contest in the world, the Festival of La Unión”.
The technical manager of the Cante de las Minas Foundation, Juan Carlos Albaladejo Montoro, also made a more than favorable appraisal of the trip to Japan, emphasizing that he feels he has been “a participant in an important milestone in the history of Spanish culture, because it is very difficult to export culture, and more so to such distant countries with connotations as different as ours. “I think I’ve seen”, said Albaladejo “how flamenco, as a cultural industry, has been able to win the hearts of the Japanese more readily than other sectors such as film or literature. Being part of a foreign mission as Brand Ambassador of Spain has been an honor and a challenge”.
The technical manager of the Foundation, emphasizes from this experience “the great knowledge and deep respect with which the Japanese live flamenco, and as a result, the high level of
interpreters whom we met in the ANIF competition.”
Juan Carlos Albaladejo ensured us that “the Japanese consider the Cante de las Minas the festival of flamenco festivals, its referential event; hence the high expectations and interest aroused by our presence in Japan, and the possibility that the winners of the different disciplines will go on to compete in the finals of 2015 in La Unión. Lastly, he pointed out “the treatment received from the organization, management, and jury of ANIF”, and thanked the Hispanic Japanese journalist and record producer Mariko Ogura for “her magnificent work of coordination between the organizers, the Japanese contestants and ourselves, without which our work would have been much more complicated”.
“I think we have met another challenge in the living history of our event, and the history of Spanish culture in general, which will be endorsed with the celebration, and more lofty aspirations of future events in Japan and other countries of great international prominence ” concluded Juan Carlos Albaladejo.
Juan Vergillos, writer, journalist, holder of the National Prize of Flamenco Studies and regular
collaborator of the Festival, stated that “in these three days, we have seen over eighty flamenco soloists from all over Japan, and I have come to understand what this art-form means for the
Japanese. Particularly for Japanese women, since 70% of the participants were female. In a
traditional society still characterized by rigid structures, flamenco brings freedom, surprise,
improvisation, the possibility of life taking us by the hand and leading us. Where emotions are
under control, flamenco is an opportunity to open our hearts”.
As for his work as a member of the jury of the panel of judges in Japan, Vergillos says “that’s what we valued, or at least what I valued in the winners, more than technique, knowledge of the styles or choreographic structures: dancing from the heart. These are two artists who rather than
imitate Spanish dancers and singers, show their unmistakable Japanese nature”.
The flamenco expert ended referring to the winners of the competitions, and pointing out that “they did not pretend to be something they are not, gypsies from Santiago or Triana, but rather we have two flamenco interpreters who sing and dance like Japanese. There are many ways to be
flamenco, and many flamencos in the world. We went to Tokyo looking specifically for the
Japanese way of being flamenco. And we found it. What I valued therefore was their originality, and a warm glow amidst all the emulation”.
The winner of the singing contest in Japan was Yoko Omori, who sang malagueñas and will
compete in the same category in the Spanish event. As for dance, for the members of the Spanish jury, the winner was dancer Kaori Horikoshi, although Keiko Ishikawa has also been invited to go to La Unión in 2015 having been chosen winner by the Japanese jury, a sign of collaboration and understanding.