Adieu, Maestro

March 1, 2014 § Leave a comment

Over the years, I’ve grown to love and appreciate flamenco. I had the pleasure of working the sound during a concert by Juan Carmona in Aix-en-Provence years ago, and was impressed by the levels of musicianship, technique, rigor, emotion and physicality which could all coincide in one music, as something rare. Paco helped develop what is known as the “New Flamenco,” incorporating sophisticated harmonic colors from jazz and other musics, while maintaining structures resulting from a long-established tradition—as well as popularizing the cajón from South America, an instrument whose timbre marries perfectly with the acoustic guitar, as if it had always been a part of flamenco. But then, that’s normal; the work of a master, like Paco, or J.S. Bach or Miles Davis, has an inevitable quality to it, a tendency to present itself as the most natural—or the only—way of going about it, so that doing it any other way seems almost inconceivable. There are people who find flamenco too harmonically uniform, or dislike aspects of a certain stereotypical or clichéd idea of it, but these types of complaints often come from those who are simply not listening well enough. Although it has a life of its own, as an oral tradition, flamenco can be more broadly situated among the different styles of music—fusions with local cultures, really—created by communities (in Spain, gitanos) resulting from the voyages of the various Roma, or Romani (still colloquially known by the inaccurate label [or exonym] “Gypsies”) throughout Europe and North Africa—popularized in recent decades by filmmakers such as Tony Gatlif. Like most orally transmitted music, what it may lack in some qualities it compensates for elsewhere, and the various complexities and subtleties can only be noticed when one becomes familiar with it. But this is not something to discuss as much as it is to be heard.

Paco de Lucía (1947 – 2014)

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