Armando Mateos Fernández is a young singer who’s in the beginning stages of his professional career. He works as an auxiliar at the Fundación Cristina Heeren in Sevilla and performs regularly throughout Spain.
The interview was conducted on January 21, 2018, in the Triana neighborhood of Sevilla, Spain. It will be presented over the course of several posts.
My name is Armando Mateos Fernandez. I was born on the 18th of May, 1989. I was born in Villa Real, Castellón de la Plana in the Comunidad Valenciana and at eleven years old I moved to Estepa, Sevilla, the hometown of my parents which is where I really consider myself to be from.
How does one know if he/she is prepared to work professionally as a musician?
After all things are considered, it’s the public who has the say. You can feel well-prepared or poorly-prepared but it’s the public who decides. It’s true that from the work I’ve done and from where I’ve gone I’ve always felt good. You can say… “That day I was terrible!” But after that there’s the public that values you and makes you see what they’ve seen. It’s not what you think, but what that fan saw and felt. And so a moment arrives when you say… something is happening here. You may not feel good about yourself. You can’t feel good about yourself because you know you need more preparation… more studies… you need to sing much more to develop your vocal cords… your tone… all your references need to be really assimilated. In order to decide if you should do this, you need to listen to the public, not to everything because you can’t believe the first thing they tell you either. But when you do a performance and afterward people want to approach you… to talk to you… to ask you for an autograph and you say… “At my age I’m no one… how are they going to ask me for an autograph!” Well, there’s someone there who sees something in you. So that’s something worth noting.
And one can learn a lot from the stage also, but sometimes I’ve seen people about which you can easily say… this person still isn’t ready.
Of course, you can easily say that.
But also if one has the opportunity to step up on stage to work, he/she has to take it.
Clearly, you have to take it. The question is about how you step up there. Because anyone can have the opportunity to get on stage. If you get up there without any sense of responsibility whatsoever, from one angle or another people will see it. No stage is easy, not one, regardless of how small it is. Responsibility is responsibility. You have to believe in yourself, that’s clear, because if you don’t believe in yourself no one else will.
Sometimes to perform for five friends is more pressure than an auditorium.
Exactly, that’s why I say that to get up on stage serves an important purpose, but it depends on how you do it. It has a lot to do with how someone rises up there… with their personality. Man, if you’re a natural talent it doesn’t matter if you have a sense of responsibility or not. If you’re a talent you’re a talent!
What role do tablaos have in helping young people out today?
Well I have a high opinion of the tablaos. The tablaos have the most pure flamenco, let’s say. You can learn a cante and execute it as a singer in a performance or a recital, but here you get together with a guitarist you don’t know who’s continually studying and pulling out his own music or studying the music of other teachers… who’s always there trying to learn something new… a dancer who’s doing the same thing… you all get together once a week or once every two months or whenever it works out. In the tablaos the same artists aren’t always together. They’re always rotating and so it’s really good that each one studies what they want to show… and then it’s in the tablao where you have to cook things up together! It’s one thing to do things from your home where no one hears you and it’s something else to do it live for people who are there paying to see you. You and three others are there with that responsibility, each one with their own way of seeing flamenco, but each sharing a common language. That’s really important and the tablao gives you that platform.
And it’s really clear that the [Cristina Heeren] Foundation has the intention of giving its students the skills necessary for that work environment.
Exactly, yes. I think it’s good. I think it’s really good. Aside from that there’s another thing; we don’t all have a place in the world of flamenco. Not everyone has a place. And so there’s thing thing called a tablao that gives two or three daily performances and has an audience that’s usually foreigners. Foreigners come here to see this art form and take it in… to feel it… but it might be hard to see the high-level flamenco artists. Maybe it won’t coincide with the dates they’re in Spain or Andalucía. Maybe they can’t afford those types of shows. The tablaos are there daily. Most of the time it’s young people working there. There are veterans too who have the urge to make the most of their day by being an artist and by singing. I believe that the artist we see in the tablao is just as much of an artist as the one we see on television or a big, important festival. I said to you before that no stage is small. So I see the tablao as really important in those aspects, that people do it to learn and because not everyone has a place at the highest levels of flamenco. It’s a way of working every day, to earn a paycheck, and to be happy.
When you’re up there on stage and want to perform your best, do you play for yourself, your fellow musicians, the audience, or something different all together?
I think it’s for all of them a little, because you want to be your best for yourself and you also want to transmit to the audience that you’re changing and advancing too. The public is grateful for that. The public also gets irritated if today they see you one way and five years from now you’re the same person. That’s bores people. I think it’s good because if you advance that attracts the audience. You have to move around as you go forward. You can’t always use the same pattern. You have to move with the trends too. If I wear the same shoes my whole life some seasons they’ll be in style and in others they won’t. It’s the same thing with flamenco singing. And so if you change it up it’s good for the public. It’s good for your group members because they see you advancing and they have to advance too or else they’ll be left behind. So we all grow together. Clearly one can’t always be content with the same thing. I think we’d bore ourselves by always doing the same thing the same way. You have to constantly advance. You have to try and be better.
For additional excerpts of Armando’s interview, click Follow below.
If you would like to support Palabras Flamencas, please click the Donate button below or click here to purchase the author’s album, Punto Lejano. Thank you.