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Just Back from Cleveland: José Mercé, Flamenco singer

OCCUPATION Flamenco singer
HOME BASE Andalusia, Spain
MIDWEST EXPRESSIONS A star of the Spanish music world, José Mercé recently made his first-ever U.S. visit to take part in the Flamenco Festival, a seven-city tour with a roster of 80 singers, dancers, and guitarists. One of Mercé's stops on his whirlwind tripwas Cleveland, whose art museum is known for its extensive world-music program. "The town spoke to me right away—I could live there."
SPEAKING IN TONGUES Mercé performs in his native language and has created a modern flamenco style that riffs on traditional forms such as the soulful cante jondo (deep singing). "Even though the language barrier might get in the way of some people understanding what I'm singing about, my mission is to make flamenco universal. Growing up, I remember listening to Frank Sinatra and the Beatles—music is the common language." His recent release, Lío, has become the best-selling flamenco album of all time.
THE SUITE LIFE "I'm a maniac about good beds and clean bathrooms. In Cleveland, I stayed at the Glidden House [1901 Ford Dr.; www.gliddenhouse.com; 800/759-8358; doubles from $189], a cozy mansion."
HOME SWEET SPAIN "Andalusia is where flamenco was born. One of the best places to see a performance is in Jerez de la Frontera, at Teatro Villamarta [Plaza Romero Martínez; 34/9563-29313]. I like to hang out at Bar Arco de Santiago [3 Calle Barreras; 34/9563-10047], where you can catch a juerga," an impromptu fiesta.

—Carlo Fornerino

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