Juan Talega was a singer whose roots were in Alcalá de Guadaira, but he spent his life in Dos Hermanas, a small town just outside of Seville. His rough, no frills, gypsy voice is one of the darkest and most haunting voices in the history of this ancient art.
Juan Talega, who was born in 1891, never sung professionally until he was in his seventies and the soleares, siguiriyas, and toñas were said to have been his favorite styles.
He was the nephew of Joaquin El de la Paula, a man that would teach Juan Talega the secrets of the orthodox flamenco song. Joaquin el de la Paula was gypsy cantaor who lived his life in a small cave near the castle in Alcalá de Guardaura, singing for pleasure and rarely for money, but he was to introduce a style of soleá that is still performed today.
Joaquin was an exceptional flamenco legend, molding the song into his own creation, the lyrics being spontaneously invented as he sang His cante was passed down to him through generations of singers, and Joaquin and his brother, Augustin Talega, passed them on to Juan.
Juan Talega spent the majority of his life working as a horse and cattle dealer and only sang at juergas and intimate gatherings; but word of his singing spread through the surrounding towns of Seville and he became one of the most revered singers of the old styles of Alcalá.
Juan Talega won the 1959 Cordoba Consurso de Cante Jondo in the toñas and soleares sections, and he was also one of the judges that resided over the third Llave de Oro contest in 1962. But he was said to be uncomfortable in these surroundings and was only really at ease with intimate private gatherings.
Antonio Gala who witnessed one of Juan Talega’s first stage appearances wrote “ Juan Talega with his facies leonina of an age old leper, was there on stage, cornered, sidestepping, cleaning the dry sphinx of his face with a large handkerchief. He was there and he was not.
Juan appeared at many of the festivals in Andalucía accompanied by guitarist Diego del Gastor, who said that Juan’s fabulous siguiriyas and soleares would leave the audience breathless.
Juan Talega sang styles of siguiriyas that he learned from his father Augustin, and these siguiriyas could be traced back to Diego el Fillo. Agustin Talega was a man who knew more styles of toñas than any other singer alive in his time and this contributed to Juans vast understanding of the cante jondo.
Juan Talegas voice had a ghost like echo of his genealogical past and his martinete and soleares de Alcalá are shatteringly eerie.
Towards the end of his life he would be found sitting on an old chair in the street outside of his home in Dos Hermanas, an olive cane in his hand, which was used to beat out the ryhthm to his song.
Singers would come from miles to listen to his mastery and to steep themselves in the old secrets of his cante. Juan Talega died in Dos Hermanas in 1971.