Biography

It is said that he was born in Ayamonte (Huelva). According to official records, the grandson of "La Pitinga", son of a sailor and fisher, like his grandfather -then his father left the ship and entered the Civil Guard. In that world and that atmosphere, he chose flamenco and soul.

Huelva is a province of great cantaores, and some of the best voices that flamenco has given were born there. He learnt the cante in his family, because he belongs to one of the sagas with a great flamenco tradition, such as the ‘Valencias’ and the ‘Carpios’.

After moving from Huelva to Madrid, Pitingo first worked in Barajas airport, unloading cases, in fifty degrees heat to five below zero in winter, he took the cases singing bulerías and Caracol’s fandangos, and this is how he earned his living. Antonio was a winner in the making.

One evening, his foster aunt Salomé Pavón decided to take the young Pitingo to an underground bar in the Madrid flamenco scene, El Mago / The Magician… every Wednesday the bar is frequented by the major names of the cante – Enrique Morente, Carmen Linares, Pepe ‘Habichuela’, Diego Carrasco; the élite of flamenco, and Vicente over-seeing everything, packed with flamenco lovers. Antonio Pitingos career was born there.

It is said that Ricardo Pachón wanted to sign him, but it took him three years, and Antonio made his major debut with ‘Gomaespuma’ at the “Flamenco for Everybody festival”; with Chano Lobato at the “Veranos de la Villa” (Sabatini Gardens); in Barcelona at “Ciutat Bella”; in Valencia at the Palau and the IVAM (every painter wanted to immortalize him), in Puertollano –a mining town with a strong love for flamenco-, at the Theatre Festival, the actors didn’t want to go to bed, listening to ‘Pitingo’ till dawn; in Almería, Carboneras, Vera, two bullfights in a row, and all the aficionados enjoying with the ‘Pitin’; at the Teatro Español with all the geniuses of ‘Foto España’, art photographers of world renown, the dressing room crowded: “Who is this child who made us cry?”; in Vallekas; Guadalajara, ‘Moderno’ Cinema; the Peñas with his friend ‘El Mami’ (a fantastic guitar player) and, initially as a novice, he succeeded at ‘La Soleá’ in the Cava Baja street, in Madrid (a great flamenco place), and in ‘Casa Patas’ (not less than that) as well; Valladolid, ‘España’ Coffeehouse; in Seville with Riqueni; in Huelva –in your land- and on El Arahal. And now with the unbeatable Flamenco Universal – they are going to launch you to the world, because flamenco is universal.

Singing malagueñas, soleares, seguiriyas, fandangos, “soulbulerías”, and Aurelio’s alegrías. And he has chosen a most difficult path - great, authentic cante, without twists and turns of “little songs”, without reservations. “Such a great cantaor! Such a good bullfighter! So handsome! He sings so well!”, said the girls from California and Chicago when he shared the bill with Paco de Lucía and José Mercé; this is just the truth, and Gerardo Núñez, one of the greatest guitar players, can witness it, at the “New York Latino Festival”, and the “Chicago Tribune”, a major newspaper, published: “The ‘Pitingo’ is a cantaor with depth and wisdom, with a gypsy echo, and he could be a baritone, listening to his astonishing tuning and musicianship”. And that Morente who, at “El Mago”, packed, he asked shouting: “Who is that child singing fandangos from la Calzá?”

‘Habichuelas’ with ‘Pitingo’, “Pitingo with Habichuelas”. That great and wise family of flamenco art, they protect him, and they make great cante, wise and true. It is his first album including songs from his own repertoire, which he is growing since he was a child, composing the kind of music he likes. He is an artist on stage, a true person, a rebellious young man due to his age. A new figure has been born for the eternity, although some time of the “Inner Castle” or “The Dwellings” by Teresa of Jesus can be agreed upon, but Truth and Art always succeed and you, Antonio, you are going to get it.

Art, Wisdom, Time, and Humility. I wish I listen to you one day, because I was told that you are “the best”, and I’ve never met you, I never listened to you. Oh yes! I remember now: at a spa in Baños de Montemayor, with Carlos Yubero, ‘Agujetas’ Jr, and myself clapping hands, as ever. Good luck, champion!

All flamenco wise people believe in you: critics, aficionados, artists… Now, Don Antonio, it’s your turn.

Juan Verdú

Pitingo & Habichuela

Antonio Álvarez Vélez ‘El Pitingo’ belongs to one of the most important flamenco families. He started his musical career as a vocalist with a soul group, and he went on performing in tablaos. He has worked with Gerardo Núñez, Belén Maya, and the Spanish National Ballet. In April 2006 he recorded his first album, ‘Pitingo with Habichuela’, with Juan Habichuela, Pepe Habichuela, and ‘El Camborio’, co-produced by Sadler`s Wells Theatre, and the Instituto Cervantes.

Participants

Juan Carmona `Habichuela`
Antonio Álvarez Vélez, `El Pitingo´

On 17th September 2007 our most interesting flamenco singer sung in Rome as part of the Flamenco Festival in Rome.

‘Pitingo’ is currently recording his second album, “Soulería”, a mixture of flamenco & soul & gospel. Choral parts were recorded in London in October with the London Community Gospel Choir.