Manuel Martínez: “Now I sing for and for my son, he would like to see me on stage” | Culture

The soul of Medina Azahara wears in Google photos a teenage tipin and a suspiciously blond and leafy heavy rocker’s hair at his venerable seven decades. We have met at the brand new Hard Rock Hotel in Madrid, what less. He arrives with his colleagues in the group, direct from the TV, made up for the cameras with his orange-based good, his little green stripe underlining his blue eyes and platinum hair collected in a loose ponytail. It appears three decades less than it has. Just when talking about his son Manuel Ángel, who died on October 30 at the age of 44 from a cancer diagnosed seven years ago, all his three-year terms come up. His two young daughters smile at their daddy on his mobile screensaver. Life goes on. Meanwhile, he laughs at his shadow.

Blonde hair, blue eyes. More than Cordovan, you seem like a Swede.

Well, they say that Abderramán, the founder of Medina Azahara, was a redhead with blue eyes. I am still a descendant. Not now, but in the seventies and eighties wearing long hair was not normal and they called me a fagot to my face.

He would have a lot of ‘fatal fans’.

You can, but those girls are now mothers and grandmothers. The most beautiful thing about the group is that whole families come to see us. I have always been interested in talking to women because I have had the feeling that they were treated like second-rate people and that has eaten up a lot inside me. I have had five sisters. I have been a feminist without knowing it.

Was he the only boy at home?

No way. We were five boys and five girls. At home I didn’t miss out on eating, but my father killed himself working and, to help, I started working as a jeweler’s apprentice at the age of 12. He earned 12 pesetas a week.

Jeweler before rocker?

As it is. We lived in the train station, because my father was a railroad man, and my mother always had the radio on. The first time I heard the Beatles I was blown away. I was humming and playing with a little group, but hearing Made in Japan, from Deep Purple turned my head around. I bought it, wrote it as it sounded and sang it in full without knowing English. Since then, I knew that I wanted to do something like that, but with our Andalusian roots.

His tribute album to Triana is called ‘Llegó el día’, ¿Qué día?

The day of paying tribute to the companions of Triana, of putting ourselves back on the road, of coming back to life. It is the title of one of the last songs of the great Jesús de la Rosa and it seems that he had a premonition. Soon, he died in a road accident.

Did you imagine yourself like this at 70?

No way. My father died at 52, with his lungs destroyed from working in the cold rooms of slaughterhouses and as a stoker on trains. I thought that if I reached that age it would be a success. But here I am, and I hope for a long time. I have two young daughters and I want to see them grow up.

That is why he created ‘I need to breathe’, the great song of Medina Azahara?

It would have something to do with it, but it had more to do with a need to soothe the soul. During the pandemic, it became with I will resist, in a hymn for many.

What is choking you now?

The mistreatment of women, as I have told you, wars: those of arms and the intimate wars of each one. I understand that the musician has a huge loudspeaker and that you have to talk about things that, in addition to fun, make you think.

From the trident sex, drugs, rock and roll, do you need the three prongs?

Only two. Well, actually, only one. Sex

At 70?

And at 80. All things have their process, and I think that sometime this mental delusion has to end, but I think that, while you are alive, you always want sex and rock and roll.

What about drugs?

I have never been interested. When they ask me why I don’t drink, I say that my father already drank everything for me. It’s that clear. I have seen the reality of a person when he gets drunk. And friends mistreat themselves with them. I’ve seen people get hung up on acid. I’m not interested. I was scared of being hung up.

It’s hard for me to ask you this, but what is it like to bury a child?

Wait wait… [Se quiebra] When you bury your father it is very strong, when you bury your mother, even more so, but burying a son … There will never be anything like it. Furthermore, he was not a normal person. He was the best musician I have ever seen, and as a person, an angel. You cannot imagine how he has lived his illness, he has spent seven years living with it and giving lessons to others.

A long and winding road for the family too, I imagine.

When he found out that he had only a few days left, he locked himself up in a hospital with his wife, said goodbye to all of us, to his friends. He leaves a conscientiously prepared job to come out when he is gone. The second one just came out single from his album [vuelve a quebrarse].

How will you find the strength to go on stage with that pain?

Because I know he would like it. Every time I go up I think about him, every time I sing I think of him. Now I sing by and for him, because he would want to see me strong. If it is true that there is a heaven and the soul is out there, I know that he enjoys that.

The duel has inspired artists. Can something beautiful come out of yours?

It has already come out. I have already composed several songs for him, but they will surely never see the light of day. It is a very intimate thing and I do not want them to think that I am trying to profit. It’s a really tough time. There are songs that I find very difficult to sing because I have sung them with him. I have to look ahead to continue.

Even singing Triana?

There are also some of them that cost: Came the day, Fine is the rain, one that talks about him going away. Those songs, even in rehearsals, it costs me my life to sing them because the feelings rise and cloud me.

So the tour is going to be tough.

It will not be easy, but he will give me strength, for sure.

I want to apologize for giving you this hard time.

Upside down. I feel relieved.

In the end he has not confessed to me the secret of his hair and his type at 70.

Well, you have to take care of it. Do not let it get tangled or dirty. And, above all, use good shampoo. Now, the tipín is pure genetics, there I can not give you any tricks [ríe].


Manuel Martínez (Córdoba, 70 years old) is the only founding member of the Andalusian rock group Medina Azahara who has remained in the group since its creation in the late 1970s. “My colleagues assume that I have to show my face and, for not taking the slap, they take me out first,” he jokes about his artistic longevity. Martínez, a jeweler before he was a rocker, has been the leader and singer of the band for 40 years that signed such well-known songs as ‘I need to breathe’ and that, after the pandemic, returns to the road with ‘Llegó el día’, an album and a tour in homage to Triana, the legendary Sevillian group that languished and disappeared with the death of its singer, Jesús de la Rosa. Now, it is Martínez who, with the album and the tour, pays tribute to De la Rosa and Manuel Ángel Mart, his own son, who died of cancer only a month and a half ago.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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