Sunday, June 05, 2005
Paco de Lucia is perhaps the most universal of flamenco performers.
Flamenco is a form of art which is exclusive to the Spanish culture, strongly influenced by the Gitanos or gypsies in Spain, but has its deeper roots in Moorish musical traditions. It exists in 3 forms, namely the Cante (song), Baile (dance) and Guitarra (guitar playing). Much of the development of flamenco music has been lost due to the tumultuous times involved. The Jewish gypsies were all persecuted by the Spanish Inquisition at the various points in time. It was in such unbearable times that give rise to formation of flamenco music. You don't exactly listen to flamenco music like you listen to traditional classical music. Flamenco is expression of the hard life experienced by the gypsies in Andalusia, reflecting the spirit of dejection, desperation and suffering, yet at the same time, there're traces of pride and hope in the music.
No, it isn't sung or danced or played to impress anyone, it's living emotion, a living tragedy. Purest form of the darkest emotion. Which is probably why it is said that no one outside Spain will be able to fully connect with the music or play that music well. It is not an art form that just anyone can practise, but it requires a deep personal expression of tragedy, an intense feeling of happiness, very emotional experiences that come straight from the heart and soul.
When Paco Pena came to perform a concert for the Guitar Festival '04 in Singapore last year, there were several pieces which blew our minds off. He played his flamenco guitar to the extent that I could feel my adrenalin surging through my veins. It was as if there something inside me which needed release desperately. And I'm sure that was felt by every single one in the audience too. It was pretty much like what happens in a rock concert. But that feeling wasn't caused by the beatings of any drums or screaming of the vocalists like those from a rock concert. People call it the duende - a mysterious force that everyone feels and yet no one can explain. It's probably in the intricate yet elusive rhythm characteristic of flamenco. It doesn't affect just your heart and your mind, it sweeps through your whole body and leaves you thinking if you're still alive...
Classical composers have been influenced by flamenco music, especially Spanish composers. Composers like Manuel de Falla, Joaquin Rodrigo, Isaac Albeniz etc. I haven't been able to play much of their music yet but I'll be practising hard in the meantime to improve my techniques in order to immerse myself as much as possible in such a beautiful culture.