“Paco de Lucía, the son of the Portuguese”

IMG_0319Three weeks ago I finished reading my first proper book in Spanish (if we don’t count ‘La tesis de Nancy’ as a proper book…). ‘Paco de Lucía, el hijo de la portuguesa’ by Juan José Téllez . The author is a writer/journalist from Algeciras (where Paco is from) and is married to María de los Ángeles Carrasco, currently head of ‘Instituto Andaluz de Flamenco‘. I got the book from A. dedicated to me (!): ‘Para V., estas palabras hechas de música y poesía como Paco’, “For V., these words made of music and poetry, just like Paco”. When I got the book I thought, if he doesn’t know about flamenco and Paco, who does? The book proved to be very interesting, full of anecdotes with Paco and artists of the flamenco scene, and I truly enjoyed reading it. Even though I found it difficult at the beginning because the story line doesn’t follow a perfect chronological order – what made it harder for me to understand – as you read on, the fascinating facts and stories make up for the jumping around in history.

Earlier, I didn’t really understand what’s all the fuss about Paco de Lucía. He is an excellent guitar player but there are many others, aren’t there? When I first started listening to flamenco,  I listened to him a lot and because I never learned how to play any instrument, I couldn’t really distinguish him from others. Ten years later, and also by reading this book, I understood that he was not only a guitar player who made the guitar sound like no one, but his innovations in the music and instruments, his incredible personality and his personal touch changed flamenco forever. It is his merit that the ‘cajón’ is used in flamenco, a box-shaped percussion originally from Peru. It is his merit that the flamenco guitar started a solo career from being only an accompanying instrument. Now there are numerous guitarists performing solo and releasing albums but back in the day, the function of the guitar was to accompany the singer and the dancer.

Listening to his albums, ‘Almoraima’, ‘Cositas buenas’, ‘Luzia’ or the latest ‘Canción andaluza’, if you close your eyes, you will be transported to Andalusia, to the shade of the orange trees, sipping a cold beer with some olives on the table next to you. Isn’t that just wonderful? Not to mention the albums where he accompanies Camarón (‘El Camarón de la Isla con la colaboración especial de Paco de Lucía’, ‘Canastera’, ‘Calle Real’ etc.) or his collaborations with John McLaughlin and Al Di Meola or his encounters with jazz. For more than 20 years he toured and performed with his Sextet sharing flamenco and his virtuosity with the world. Paco has been and could be praised so much more but I don’t think it is necessary. He is undisputedly a flamenco legend.

Juan José Téllez tells the story of Fernando Iwasaki, a Peruvian writer, who didn’t know until arriving to Seville that the music he has known as the music of Paco de Lucía is actually part of a bigger phenomenon called flamenco and there is an entire universe out there of this music.  I love this story. It says all about the greatness of Paco. Just imagine the face of Iwasaki when he heard about the existence of flamenco…

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