Amparo Cortés was born in Seville’s Cerro del Águila. Her grandmother, Engracia Jiménez Reyes, was a daughter of the great soleá singer La Gilica. She had two brother musicians, guitarist Miguel de Marchena and singer Juan El Cuacua. She was also a first cousin of the great guitarist Melchor de Marchena (Melchor Jiménez).
There were in fact numerous well-known musicians on her grandmother’s side. Besides her mother and brothers, there are names such as El Chindo, uncle El Lico and his three sons Melchor de Marchena, Miguel Jiménez and Chico de Melchor.
And Rosario Jiménez, her grandmother’s sister, married her cousin Miguel Jiménez, brother of Melchor de Marchena.
Amparo’s father, Manuel Cortés Jiménez, was better known as dancer and singer Gitanillo de Marchena. His brother Juan Cortés Jiménez had shown great promise as a guitarist, but he vanished mysteriously during the Spanish Civil War. The last thing that was heard of him, shortly before he disappeared, was a brief conversation on a station platform with guitarist Niño Ricardo when both were on their way home from a concert.
Her grandfather Antonio Cortés Heredia also belonged to a musical family, counting well-known performers, such as Tate Cortés, one among many.
Among the present-day descendants of this gypsy family there are quite a few guitarists,
such as the famous virtuoso Enrique de Melchor and his nephew Melchor Cortés Jiménez as well as a grandson of Rosario Jiménez, Eugenio Iglesias Cortés Jiménez who played guitar in the Cristina Hoyos Company, as did his brothers Miguel and Paquito. And last but not least there is Amparo’s own son, José Cortés, who is her current accompanist.
Amparo’s grandparents settled down in Seville, as did her grandmother’s sister and Melchor
de Marchena’s brother. They lived all together in a building with numerous dwellings around an inner patio where all the neighbours would gather to celebrate birthdays and other happy occasions, or just to sing and dance in order to forget the daily worries from living under Franco’s regime.
Amparo remembers how in her youth so many musicians, singers and dancers would visit them and sit in that patio, all people who worked with her father: La Perla de Cádiz, Gordito de Triana, Antonio Mairena, Pepe Pinto, Pepe Marchena, Porrina de Badajoz, Bení de Cádiz, Lola Flores, Paquera de Jerez.
However, just 16 years old, carrying all these memories in a cardboard suitcase, Amparo travelled to Belgium, in order to find a job. In 1978 she met Flemish singer, writer and flamenco guitarist Wannes Van de Velde, her ‘compañero’ as she calls him, with whom she became involved in many flamenco projects.
It was her passion for flamenco that made her open up her little suitcase full of memories
– as she sings in her Sevillana Rosas Negras – and she metamorphosed those memories into her own songs. One such memory, for example, was seeing and hearing her idol Camarón de la Isla in a gypsy procession during Holy Week. This led to her homage Nana a Camarón, which became the opening track on her first CD, Sueños, for which her cousin Enrique de Melchor accompanied her on guitar.
A few years later, in 1999, she plucked more memories from her suitcase and transformed them into a selection of songs for a second CD, Candela. This album opens with a poem dedicated to all gypsies, with whom she feels intimately connected (see also in the Candela CD booklet, Amparo’s biography written by André Fonteyne).
In 2003 she published a collection of poems, Con la moña de jazmines, introduced and translated into Dutch by Wannes Van de Velde. These poems express her love for Andalusia and her nostalgic feelings for all she has experienced there. (See the introduction by Wannes Van de Velde).
In 2005 she released a third CD, Duende y Amores, where she sings of the blessings and disappointments of love and where she specifically focuses on the feelings of women who are so often victims of abuse. The opening track, No soy canastera, is a poem dedicated to the great Andalusian poet Rafael Alberti. Another song, the Sevillana Guitarreo ven y toca, is dedicated to the people of Belgium to whom she feels greatly indebted, more particularly to her ‘compañero’ Wannes Van de Velde, to radio producer Paul Rans and to André Fonteyne, people who have all helped her to achieve her success. There are many more, too many to mention them all, and all good friends of hers.
So this is Amparo Cortés. Part of her heart may still be in Seville, the other part now resides in Belgium, in the company of the countless friends that this country has given her.