«So many years fighting for Madrid and I’m leaving through the back door!«, lamented an older Olga Ramos, the ‘Queen of Cuplé’, that June 1999 in which she was forced to abandon what was her place on Calle de la Palma after almost twenty years. More or less the time that has elapsed since then until we met her daughter, Olga María Ramos, one afternoon in May in the garden of her house.
His dogs Polka, Zipri (in honor of his father) and Pipa – “all adopted”, he will clarify at various times throughout the interview – play and tangle between his feet, while with his gestures he draws in the air that temple of the traditional music that was Las noches del cuplé and that was announced like this on a poster of the time: «Madrid already has its corner in Palma, 51». A corner of Madrid in Madrid.
“The public sat here,” he says, pointing to a point in the garden that was momentarily converted into the area of the local tables, next to the stage. “It is where in its day the cows were, because before being what Las noches del cuplé was, it was a dairy.”
The nights of the cuplé
Before being what it was, between 1968 and 1974 it was also the restaurant-show El último cuplé –like the 1957 film by Juan de Orduña, starring Sara Montiel–. There Olga Ramos began as a violinist until a client of the Gran Café Universal – where she performed with her husband, the musician and composer Enrique Ramírez de Gamboa “El Cipri” – recognized her and asked her to sing. Mariblanca. «The rest of the artists ended up leaving because they only wanted to hear her“recalls his daughter.
The owner of the premises, who was a musician, put at his disposal a file with old scores and that was when, in the hands and voice of Olga Ramos, that music that had triumphed at the beginning of the 20th century and that had fallen into oblivion sounded again. «She did a very important job rescuing couplets that had not been sung again. She rescued the genre, she did not limit herself to singing », narrates Olga.
In 1974 the owner of the premises died and, although something similar was opened, it did not work and had to close. Then, in a development of events that in Madrid is as tragically familiar as it is current, the fate of what had been a mecca for native music was none other than to become a fast food restaurant. “A hamburger, specifically,” says her daughter.
“My mother was very sorry, so she invested what she had earned on her last trip to Mexico to rent the premises and buy the decoration.” The cuplé nights were already underway and between 1980 and 1999 the cuplé and chotis performed by Olga –accompanied by her inseparable pianist Magda Martín (alias Fortunata)– They gathered a dedicated audience night after night, as can be heard in this recording of what she called the “chotis-protest.” If you get married in Madridoriginal work of Cipri.
In 1999, with the death of the owner of the premises, the heirs of the property ended the rental and pressured them to leave as soon as possible: “It was an attack against Madrid culture,” Olga says. Ángel del Río, journalist and chronicler of the Villa, wrote that «When Las noches del cuplé closed, Madrid’s old heart stopped«.
The Cuplé Museum: a tribute “to those who achieved it and to those who stayed on the road”
Las Ramos –who at that time could already be seen singing together, despite the matriarch’s initial reluctance, and who were affectionately known as Las Olgas– barely had time to collect their things and put them in bags. Thus, kept and hidden, they remained for a long time until in 2006, a year after their mother died, Olga María decided to dust off that part of her family history –part of the history of Madrid– to convert one of the rooms in her house into the Cuplé Museum and of the branches.
Most of the collection is made up of the furniture from Las noches del cuplé, to which are added his parents’ instruments, many photographs, awards, sheet music, his mother’s costumes, fans, a 19th-century pianola, and Manila shawlsvery old, among which is an Elizabethan natural silk from the 19th century: “I am very moved because she has had them on, and now I do so (she puts on the shawl) and she hugs me,” she recalls moved.
This year, for the first time, part of the collection can be seen until June 15 in an exhibition open to the public at the Alcobendas Art Center (Mariano Sebastián Izuel street, 9), under the name Olga Ramos: the great lady of cuplé.
The value of the collection does not reside only in the objects, but also in the vindication that it supposes of the genre of the cuplé –»It was a true chronicle of its time, because many were based on news or current events, such as The ABC satyr«–, and of all those women who interpreted it: the cupletistas.
«When you talk about couplets, everyone thinks of Sara Montiel, who was a great star. But we no longer talk about La Bella Chelito, Raquel Meller, La Goya or La Fornarina – to whom El Cipri dedicated a beautiful lyrics in the cuplé The Misadventure–:
If you go down to the San Isidro fair / go to the place of silence / where under poppies and blue lilies / Fornarina sleeps her eternal dream. / It may be that her pretty pulchina, to which she gave movement singing, / faithfully watches over her rest, like a sentinel, while the threads of her firmament hang –.
«It is an injustice that these women, who were goddesses, are so forgotten. As long as I live I will always be naming them. Always“Olga asserts. «They were brave women who took to the stage many times out of economic necessity and almost all of them began by doing a paltry couplet, which was the most picaresque. Almost green”, explains Olga María.
The stage allowed them to sing with mischief and ingenuity (to avoid censorship) on topics such as sexuality or masturbation, although the genre also It had other aspects such as the sentimental couplet, the dramatic one, the comic one or the current one..
Olga Ramos did not limit herself to singing: during his performances he also spoke openly about issues such as discrimination against women. In Columbus 34For example, she denounced: «So since we women were discriminated against, masters, marginals, those of us who worked outside the home believed that we wore it on our foreheads. And from that nasti monasti». Francisco Threshold said of her that “Olga Ramos puts a footer for each couplet.” “She was a chronicler of Madrid,” adds her daughter.
A museum for the enjoyment of the people of Madrid
Olga María, who has followed in her mother’s footsteps, is also a cupletista and also calls herself a “cupletologist” (because she also studies, disseminates and writes about the genre): «Cuplé is culture. It evokes an era and its musical importance is enormous: due to the variety of styles it has, the rhythms that accompany it… You can not lose. And here I am, defending him.
In that tireless defense, he has done practically everything: act, give sung lectures, write a book (From Madrid to cuplé: a sung chronicleto which another will be added), set up the museum, open the blog From the cuplé to the magazine (“in which I have not entered again because I have forgotten the passwords”) and even go to Got Talent (you can see a fragment on TikTok). Everything to give visibility to the cuplé.
His dream, however, involves considering the following: it should not be an individual responsibility to value and disseminate something that is part of Madrid’s cultural and musical heritage. That is why he claims that his collection become part of a museum where everyone from Madrid can enjoy it.
In addition, he also considers it important that there is some place where you can go to see and listen to cuplé and chotis: «You come to Madrid and you want to know the city: you want to see it, taste it, smell it, touch it… And the ear? There is no place where Madrid music is heard, and Madrid needs its music“, he maintains.
In recent years, interesting projects have emerged led by young people who they rescue the genre and update it and have another feature in common: approaching it from a queer perspectiveThis is the case of Livianas Provincianas (which define themselves as “rural, yeyés and queer cupletistas”), the podcast and the book Oh bells! by Lydia Garcia@thequeercañibot) and even from the field of drag it has been introduced together with the couplet as part of his musical repertoire.
Regarding the most classical aspect of the genre, of which Olga María is currently its most representative defender, she concludes: «As my mother used to say, I will retire when I have wrinkles in my voice. But if they don’t give me the opportunity to teach it, sing it, expose it… The cuplé will be forgotten. And I want to be the penultimate cupletista. not the last«.
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