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a thread for Sabicas, flamenco guitar

keberoxu 20 Mar 17 - 06:19 PM
Steve Shaw 20 Mar 17 - 07:15 PM
GUEST,Mike Yates 21 Mar 17 - 06:04 AM
Steve Shaw 21 Mar 17 - 06:52 AM
Donuel 21 Mar 17 - 10:11 PM
GUEST,keberoxu 22 Mar 17 - 03:07 PM
Steve Shaw 22 Mar 17 - 03:35 PM
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Subject: a thread for Sabicas, flamenco guitar
From: keberoxu
Date: 20 Mar 17 - 06:19 PM

The Mudcatter starting this thread is no expert. By the agency of some power greater than my own, destiny had me present for two -- count 'em, two -- concert performances by Sabicas. This would be in the 1980's, I believe, when this guitarist was up in years and had long since left the singers and dancers in order to perform in public by himself.

He was about as far away from Manitas de Plata, I have to say, as ... this is scary. I'm about to exaggerate. But seriously: though those two guitarists drew on a musical tradition centuries old that was big enough and fertile enough to nourish them both, they could hardly have been more different. No, I never heard Manitas live, only through the medium of recordings.

Suffolk University, in the heart of Boston, had a concert hall, and the first Sabicas recital I heard was there, in the dead of a New England winter. The place was sold out, but then it wasn't the world's biggest hall. Anyway it got hot as heck in there, all stuffy, and the audience did NOT fall asleep. Far from it. We sat on the edge of our seats, listening for every nuance, every turn of phrase, when we weren't applauding like crazy. And when it was over, and Sabicas really had had enough and wanted to leave now, thank you, -- nobody wanted to go outside.

María Benítez, raised in New Mexico and educated in Spain, was instrumental in bringing Sabicas to New Mexico's state capitol, Santa Fé, for a solo recital. That was the second time I heard him. The story was much the same. Nobody fell asleep. Nobody wanted to leave. Nobody wanted him to stop playing.

Manitas de Plata aside, now: as a non-guitarist, to whom or what may I compare Sabicas' art? I would have to say that hearing Sabicas play flamenco was like hearing Artur Rubinstein play Chopin, and yes, by the grace of the divine, I had that latter experience once.

People used to look askance, I am told, at pianist Rubinstein because his Chopin was so even-tempered and well-balanced, without expressive excess: more classical than romantic. And Rubinstein refused to apologize for that; it was his way with Chopin, regardless of fad or fashion. Sabicas was similarly stable. People looked askance at Sabicas for playing his compositions much the same way every time, note for note, and even for playing too many notes and being too ornate, too formal. But that was his way. If you saw Sabicas onstage you saw a soloist without artifice or pretense. He was not a flashy player. He didn't have to be. He played with the kind of authority that is just as commanding at a soft volume or a slow speed as it is loud and/or fast. And he played with a musicality that any musician, even a non-guitarist like me, could sit up and take notice of. One US critic wrote that he made the guitar sound like an organ! That remark emphasized the wonderful resonance as well as volume. I haven't spoken of Sabicas' impeccable sense of rhythm.

My post is long enough. I hope others will contribute their opinions and memories.

His obituary was in the New York Times; he spent the last decades of his life based in New York City, and the younger guitarist, Paco de Lucia, raised the money to have Sabicas' body flown home to Spain.

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Subject: RE: a thread for Sabicas, flamenco guitar
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 20 Mar 17 - 07:15 PM

Cheers for the lovely post. Flamenco is life itself In its kaleidoscopic ways. We don't get much opportunity to experience it in Cornwall, but we went to an amazing show in a tiny venue in Córdoba last August (the temperature that day was 40⁰︎C but what the hell!) I've been wanting to go to Seville this year but the prospect of that has yet to crystallise. As with opera and the cantatas of Bach, I've saved flamenco for my even older age. It won't be long now!

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Subject: RE: a thread for Sabicas, flamenco guitar
From: GUEST,Mike Yates
Date: 21 Mar 17 - 06:04 AM

Steve, I was in Seville last year. I hope that you get there as it is a fabulous place. While there I came across Manolo Sanlucar. I really like his album "Tauromania" and suggest that you have a listen to him (there are lots of YouTube films of him playing).

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Subject: RE: a thread for Sabicas, flamenco guitar
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 21 Mar 17 - 06:52 AM

Thanks, Mike. I'll have to lean on my sister, who tends to organise these things! I'll look at those YouTubes later.

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Subject: RE: a thread for Sabicas, flamenco guitar
From: Donuel
Date: 21 Mar 17 - 10:11 PM

I am starting to learn the flamenco strum for four strings. I predict it will take 3 months to sound good. I knew a French cellist who mastered it while he recuperated from a skiing accident.

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Subject: RE: a thread for Sabicas, flamenco guitar
From: GUEST,keberoxu
Date: 22 Mar 17 - 03:07 PM

One thing that the twentieth century did for flamenco music, is documentation and research. After the Second World War, there was precious little of same; but between 1945 and 2000, this changed for the better. True, the reporting sometimes leaves things to be desired, there is bias and irrational illogical polarizing in play; but the music is reported on and reproduced, and records preserved in some form.

I know next to nothing about the assertion that flamenco song and dance, both of which predate the instrumental accompaniment historically, originate in India in forms like "kathak." I know the assertion is out there, but I know nothing about whether there is anything to it.

One of the English-language authors who applied himself to flamenco was Donn E. Pohren, a native of Minneapolis, Minnesota, now dead for some time. The military took him to Andalucía, to a base near a little town with the highly unfortunate name of Moron (well it's unfortunate in English anyhow). After returning home to the United States for a time, Pohren bought a one-way ticket back to Spain. He would die peacefully, after a long illness, in a suburb of Madrid. In between he published several books, including a volume of memoirs; these books initially were in both English and Spanish, and have been translated into other languages as well.

The old-timers at whose feet Pohren sat in order to apprentice himself, observed the times changing rapidly and violently; and they feared for flamenco, for the music, the words, the "way of life." They feared change. This attitude informs all of Pohren's writing. That said, he takes music and literature seriously, he pays attention, he studies and asks questions, and the resulting books are richly informative. If nothing else, Pohren's writing can be regarded as an accurate rendering of a certain time in history, and of the music and words as they were then.

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Subject: RE: a thread for Sabicas, flamenco guitar
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 22 Mar 17 - 03:35 PM

Mike, those Youtubes of yer man are devastatingly stunning! He makes even some of the top classical players look like they're involved in hard labour (I know it's not the same, but...) You've cheered me up no end putting me on to him. Got plenty more to watch. Thanks again!

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