The Carocas (satirical couplets) and Ángel Barrios

On February 22, the Granada City Council approved the grant of 12,000 pesetas requested for the organization of the Deep Song Contest of 1922. Manuel de Falla, very happy and tired, wrote to Cambridge to his friend the musicologist John B. Trend: “But this is giving me a lot of work! […] And how much unpleasantness! One of the enemies of the contest is… (who would have thought it!) Ángel Barrios!”.

What happened to Ángel Barrios and his father Antonio Barrios, El Polinario, for them not participate in the final phase of a contest that was conceived in his tavern in the Alhambra and where Federico García Lorca though of photographing in 1918 the four scenes of The Treasure Story with Ángel Barrios, Manuel Ángeles and Miguel Pizarro. A conflict of interests! The Catholic Falla resolved Barrios’ criticism with these words, “Forgive him, Father, for he knows not what he does.”

Meeting at El Polinario: Benito Pérez Galdós (seated at the table), Ángel Barrios (with a violin) and Antonio Barrios 'El Polinario' (seated on the floor). Photo: Archives of the Alhambra and Generalife Board.
Meeting at El Polinario: Benito Pérez Galdós (seated at the table), Ángel Barrios (with a violin) and Antonio Barrios ‘El Polinario’ (seated on the floor). Photo: Archives of the Alhambra and Generalife Board.

Barrios had asked for financial aid for a project of his for concerts and Spanish dances with the title of Dances of Gypsy Art that had certain similarities and that although that year did not have municipal aid, he did get it a year later. In 1923, he celebrated it with the title of Great Festival of Andalusian Song and Gypsy Art Dances. Today nobody remembers it. Despite the clash with Falla, friendships were reestablished in 1924.

But in those days the quarrel was still going on. The carocas (the satirical ditties hung in Granada during Corpus Christi) took advantage of the dispute: “Tal es la fecundidad” [Such is the fecundity] / de sus bellos ideales, [of its beautiful ideals,] / que una culta sociedad [that a cultured society] / va a dejar a la Ciudad [is going to leave the City] / sin fondos municipales”. [without municipal funds”.] And one more: “Granada en su desvarío [“Granada in its madness] / es mar revuelto y sin fondo. [is a troubled and bottomless sea.] / De tu antiguo poderío [Of your ancient power] / sólo te queda ¡Dios mío! [you only have left, my God!] / ser cuna del cante jondo”. [to be the cradle of the deep song”.]

The controversy of Granada transcended to all Spain after the nineteenth century, anti-bullfighting and anti-flamenco writer Eugenio Noel, pseudonym of Eugenio Muñoz Díaz, launched the first commotion in the Madrid press.

Falla and the promoters of the contest still had other headaches to bear, besides the success.