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Mayte Martín, an extraordinary flamenco artist

We meet the gran dama of flamenco in Ibiza recently to headline its nascent flamenco festival.

Mayte Martín has had a lengthy career in music becoming recognised as one of the great modern voices of flamenco; she has touched many other music genres too.

Having been unable to do the first San Antonio flamenco festival last year because of other commitments, Ibiza was delighted to welcome her for the second year of the new event called Festival Brisa Flamenca - a big coup for the organisers.

Martín started singing as a child, winning a competition at just 10 years of age. After this she sang at flamenco gatherings in Barcelona, going professional at age 16.

During her long career, she has worked alongside many artists and won many awards. She has also taken part in things as diverse as an homage tour to Leonard Cohen and sung Latin American bolero. Ibiza Spotlight caught up with her.

Ibiza has a reputation of having a free-spirited nature: the same could be said of you as an artist, is that true?

'My main interest is artistic. There are times when I am called to perform at various places and I'm paid for it, but I do my work as if I weren't being paid, as if it were my hobby. I don't do it as a profession. In other words, I always do what I want, and choose when to do it. That's why I chose to use crowdfunding for my new album, because if you are an artist who does not bow to the commercial demands of record companies, you have to look for other ways of getting out there. When you are an independent artist using other promotional means, you don't work as much. You are not being mediated as an artist either, which has an effect on your finances. Naturally, you need support from your public, those that follow your career and want to support an artist who is not focussed on how many records they will sell, how many tickets they will sell or how famous they will be.'

So, you effectively left the [music] market?

'I have always been outside of the market and I have never been bound by its parameters. In the end, what happens is that the record labels want you to want to make money for them, with them. If that's not your priority, it stops being theirs as well. For that reason, we don't have the same priorities and without those same priorities, I needed another approach.'

Martín with her guitarist at San Antonio's Festival Brisa Flamenca 2018

Do you define yourself as a flamenco artist?

'I see myself as a musician or a person who is dedicated to making music. I got into
flamenco because of family connections and developed a love for it that continues to this day. I do like other things. I am interested in other things. I think I can contribute to other or different stories. I like to compose; I'm a singer-songwriter and I love to share that with people.'

What has defined success in your career?

Being able to defend my freedom [as an artist]. Also, being able to touch the hearts of people with what I do. Many people have come to flamenco for the first time because of my music, because of my records. For me that's success.

Why do you think that flamenco is more and more popular these days?

'Technology and new ways in which people have access to anything via the internet. If it were not for the internet nobody in China would know who this Mayte Martín was because it's unlikely that a record company would have bothered with the Chinese market. The internet has provided the world with access to knowledge of all possible subjects.'

Communicating pasión of the art

What future projects have you got in the pipeline?

'All kinds. I have projects that have nothing to do with flamenco, I have many ideas, but I am not hugely productive. All those ideas are there in a queue, though I do them in a very slow way over a long period of time. I am a perfectionist, so really, I work all the time because when I get involved in something it's my main focus.'

What do you like doing outside of music?

'I like doing nothing, it's fantastic. I'm famous for doing nothing. I find it very nourishing for the soul: creating ideas through letting one's mind go blank for a while. You need to let the mind be fallow, you know, like land that you are always planting on, always producing crops without resting. In the end, the land stops producing good crops. Well, I believe that people are the same.'

Thanking a grateful public

What is your message for someone who wants to enter the world of flamenco?

'That you do what is true to you and what you believe in: don't only think of selling albums and becoming famous. People seek success alone and the old creative process is now gone: it's done in reverse. The label tells you that if you do x and y, we'll put lots of money into you and you'll have money and fame and be the best seller and be the best. It does not seem to matter if a person has little artistic ability. It seems to be more important that they are good looking and look like a star. An artist is a person who has a natural gift to create art. We artists need to focus on the music first, not last.'

Who would you like to work with?

'With no one. I like to listen to what others do, see what others do, but when artists get together it's very difficult to see the sum part of what they have done. You have your way of doing things which is your own and when you get together with another artist, you can't really be you. I prefer artists on their own, I am an artist! When I have worked with other artists, it's been more by chance rather than strategy. Life brought us together.'

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