Spanish gypsies have contributed greatly to flamenco and there are several core gypsy families in Andalucía that gave birth to many styles of flamenco. Amongst these great family dynasties are the families Amaya, Molina, Carrasco, Montoya, Núñez, Vargas, Soto, Torre, Flores, Peña, Jiménez, Pavón, Ortega, Fernández, Loreto, Monje, Heredia, Cortés and García.
Today in the 21st century many of the younger generations proudly carry on their families artistic legacies. The Carmen Amaya family is one gypsy dynasty. The Diego Amaya Flores ‘Diego del Gastor’ family is another. Diego’s great aunt ‘Aniya La Gitanilla de Ronda ‘Aniya Amaya Molina’ (Ronda 1855 – 1933) sang, danced and played the guitar. She invented her own ‘solearillas’ which were cited and performed by her at the 1922 contest of flamenco song held by Federico Garcia Lorca. Aniya’s family ‘Los Negros de Ronda’ were from Grazalema, a province of Cadiz, only 28 km from Ronda. Aniya’s nephew Juan Amaya Cortés (Grazalema 1869 – Morón 1983) traded as a sheepshearer for 30 years, which he had learnt from his father Francisco Amaya Amaya. Juan Amaya Cortés would visit local fairs for trade including the Ganado fair in Grazalema.
When Juan Amaya Cortés’ father Francisco Amaya Amaya (Aniya’s cousin) passed away in 1907 his family continued to wander from town to town and from fair to fair de la Serrania until they arrived to El Gastor in 1912 where they decided to put some roots down. Aniya’s nephew Juan Amaya Cortés continued singing her soleares. Juan was very talented but never dedicated to flamenco professionally. The towns provided a warm atmosphere and hospitality to the flamenco singer. The family were surrounded by lovers of their art and Juan would often sing at family events. The family decided to move once again to Morón de la Frontera around 1920, where they finally settled down permanently.
Juan’s son Diego Amaya Flores ‘Diego del Gastor’ was a guitar genius taught by his brother José. Students would come from all over the world to study with him. Diego‘s nephews Paco, Juan, Agustin and Dieguito are all exceptional guitarists and each have their own personal style. Singing was also traditionally taught from generation to generation and many of Diego’s nephews and nieces became great singers and ‘festeros’ including La Chica de Morón, Mercedes, Andoranno, Fernandillo de Morón and La Niña de Amparo. Juan’s grandson José Rios Amaya ‘Pepe Rios’ was an exceptional gypsy dancer and dance teacher. Juan Amaya Cortes taught Pepe Ríos Amaya everything about gypsy flamenco dance.
Pepe started his artistic career at 12 years of age. He worked in many flamenco companies including those of Manuel Vallejo, Manolo Caracol, Chonca Piquer, Juanita Reina, La Niña de los Peines and the La Paquera. He was also Rosario’s dance partner. He performed in festivals all over, with his wife Amparo Torre (Manuel Torre’s daughter) and his sister in law María Torre. He dedicated almost fifty years of his life to teaching flamenco in Seville in the street Castellar. Amongst his most notable flamenco students were Concha Vargas, Inmaculada Aguilar, Javier Barón, Juana Amaya and his nephew Ramón Barrull.
Ramón Barrull was a genius. Apart from dancing, he played the organ, the guitar and also sang on occasions. Morón de la Frontera named him ‘El niño gran revelación del baile gitano andaluz’. Ramón would often accompany his uncle Pepe to the festivals and fairs and started to perform with his own group at festivals such as ‘El Gazpacho Andaluz’, ‘El Festival de Cante Grande de Ronda’ where he shared the bill with Manuela Carrasco and Camarón de la Isla. In the 1970’s Ramon invented a different kind of flamenco footwork, some say he was well ahead of his time.
Ramón wanted his son Jairo Barrull to follow in his footsteps and to carry on the family tradition, so Ramón’s gran took Jairo along to Pepe Rio’s academy when he was about 4 years old. Pepe showed him the 2-1 flamenco step and then it was down to Jairo’s father to prepare and train him to be a professional flamenco dancer. Jairo performed in family reunions and in the local fairs until he was 7 years old. It was in 1991 in a tribute to Juan Talega at the Festival Gazpacho Andaluz de Morón where he would perform in public for the first time.
Since then, Jairo has travelled around the world proudly upholding his father’s legacy and forging his own dance style. When Jairo was 13 years old he performed at the Vatican for the Pope John Paul II in José Heredia Maya’s ‘Un Gitano de Ley’ and at the Alte Oper of Frankfurt with German juggler Francis Brunn in ‘Incognito’. The German press repeatedly declared him ‘The Hope of Dance’ when he performed at the Berliner Philharmonie in 2003.