March 2, 2014

Paco de Lucia (21 December 1947 – 25 February 2014)

At the risk of sounding like ‘one of those people,’ flamenco music is the purest most authentic music for the guitar.  I usually chuckle when it comes to discussions, debates and assertions about authenticity.  It’s such an academic exercise with so much subjective bias that I’m quickly bored with it.

There are arguments made all the time about the purity and authenticity of flamenco.  The irony is that you will find arguments in the community that it has morphed and changed and is no longer pure and just as many saying change is inevitable, without it flamenco dies, therefore the new stuff is still pure and authentic because it’s simply evolution.  But that isn’t really what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about the perfect genre for the guitar.

String buzz is used purposefully by flamenco guitarists.  I don’t hear it as a detriment to the music as so many do, it’s a part of it, it’s a sound that the guitar is capable of making, so don’t shun it, don’t over-do it, embrace it.  Other techniques the flamencos use: sliding, hammer-ons, pull-offs.  And then there is the rasgueado, a technique still confined primarily to flamenco and yet seemingly so right for the guitar.  And dissonance, for those of you that like that in your American Primitive playing, try listening to Callejón De Las Canteras by Tomatito.  The Taranta form of flamenco is amazing and beautiful.

Flamenco not prissy, board-up-the-ass classical, though it can display all the touch and tone of classical if it wants too.  Andrés Segovia tried to remove the use of rasgueado from the classical school, considering it to have been developed "in the noisy hands of the gypsies."  Flamenco may be the most challenging style of guitar music to learn.

Flamenco uses the guitar’s natural percussive qualities with some tapping, thumping and string buzz.  But at the same time it isn’t centered on that style.  Michael Hedges and Don Ross, sure that’s great stuff.

The flamencos knew the value of percussion 100 years ago.

And, it’s natural, no thumbpick, no flatpick.  Fingers and nails.  Strings and wood and glue.  And soul.

All of this of course has its roots in necessity.  The gypsies were resourceful if not resource laden.  That shaped the way the guitar was played and it’s still there today.  Ah! So the purity is retained!?

And as South American and Cuban influences crept into the music they were again resourceful in saving what might have been a fading folk music by injecting subtle influences.  Paco de Lucia turned it upside down, adding new harmonies and even new instruments.  The cajon was adopted by Paco and is now considered very flamenco and nearly every flamenco performance will have one. Pure  and authentic, or not?
For me that is not the question, because it is still about how the guitar is played.  That hasn’t changed.

Ever since I discovered flamenco music I've been drawn to it.  Primarily the solo stuff, but with a band as well.  It seems to be the music that was meant for the guitar.  It has the power of rock and roll, the pain and sadness of the blues, it has it all.  The guitar in its natural state.  The guitar is incredibly adaptable but for me, flamenco is where all of its natural and best qualities are in perfect balance.

Paco de Lucia has passed out of this world.  If you've never listened to flamenco, give it a try.  Download a Paco concert HERE.

Paco de Lucia & Ensemble
Stadthalle Braunschweig, March 3rd 1988


01 Callejon del Muro (Minera)
02 Gloria al Niño Ricardo (Soleá)
03 El Pañuelo (Bulerías)
04 La Barrosa (Alegrías)
05 improvisación sobre el intro de 'Callejon del Muro' y Rumba
06 Gitanos Andaluces (Bulerías)
07 Casilda (Tanguillos)
08 La Cañada (Tangos)


01 band introduction
02 Rondeña
03 solo de flauta>Alegrías de baile (letras y subida)
04 Alegrías de baile (escobilla y coletilla)
05 Alta Mar
06 encore: Buana Buana King Kong



  1. RIP Paco. Friday nights in San Francisco will never be the same.

  2. It is wonderful article about flamenco music. Thanks for sharing with us. flamenco guitar scales