Mayte Martin | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Mayte Martin 

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Flamenco music emerged centuries ago from the Gypsy slums in Andalusia, in southern Spain, and it maintains a strong connection to those roots; many of its greatest practitioners were or are proudly loyal to Spanish Gypsy culture. But as the music installed itself within the cultural landscape of Spain, flamenco lured non-Rom listeners into the once seedy tablaos (nightclubs) that spread north over time. These days, attaching flamenco music to Rom heritage is a somewhat outdated notion: "Flamenco isn't exclusive to any race, nor any place in particular," Barcelona-based singer Mayte Martin said in a 2001 interview. Martin eschews the ruffled, polka-dotted dresses that have become the cliched uniform of the cantaora, instead opting for a tasteful suit, and while she embraces traditional flamenco music, bypassing the fusion experiments of the 80s "nuevo flamenco" movement, she refuses to limit herself to just one style. On Free Boleros, her 1996 collaboration with Spanish jazz pianist Tete Montoliu, she's just as convincing singing romantic ballads as fiery bulerias. On her 2000 album Querencia she keeps things direct and simple; with just guitar, hand claps, spare percussion, and occasional violin as backing, her powerful melismata and throaty wail take center stage. For her Chicago debut, she'll be joined by a five-piece band and acclaimed dancer Belen Maya (see Critic's Choice, Section 2). Tue 2/8, 7:30 PM, Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, 773-935-6860, $25. All ages.

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