Pastora Pavón Cruz, best known as La Niña de Los Peines (“the Girl of the Combs”), was born in Sevilla, Spain in 1890 and is probably the most important flamenco singer of the 20th century. She never learned to read or write, but began singing at 8 years old and was a prodigy. She was already celebrated in her teens and came to be regarded as a genius of many Spanish song-forms, or “palos”, including: tangos, tientos, malagueñas, tarantas, cartageneras, granaínas, peteneras, and the bambera. Cruz has been compared to historical illuminators of music like Bach, and her mark on Spanish cultural history is indelible.

In 2010, UNESCO declared flamenco one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity; the contribution of La Niña de Los Peines undoubtedly playing a large part in this distinction.

Here she sings an absolutely haunting “saeta”, a revered style of Spanish religious song, here simply titled “Saetas”, and she is joined by cornets, trumpets and a tambourine player. Stark and striking, her voice so thick and impassioned, this kinda of performance slows down time with it’s gravity and almost certainly evokes mortality. This is one of the great songs of all time, and I am so lucky to have found an impeccably clean copy of this Columbia-reissued classic.

 

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