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Paco de Lucia and the Innovation of Flamenco

by admin on April 24, 2017

Paco de Lucia is often considered among the greatest flamenco guitarists of all time. As Jazz Times puts it, “Most flamenco fans can trace the music’s history to either Before Paco or After Paco.” Indeed, De Lucia’s influence on flamenco is undeniable; he brought what was once considered a limited genre to international fame. Flamenco’s roots date back to 15th century Spain where Asian Gypsies embraced the sounds of native Andalusian culture. Over many years they developed tunes, “cante,” that showcased distinct rhythmic properties. Once “baile,” or flamenco dance, became popular in the 19th century, flamenco transformed into the dark, beautiful, galvanizing genre that it is known to be today. On the other hand, flamenco’s respectability took a hit in the 1950s and much of the 60s when the genre practically became a tourist attraction for Spain’s southern and eastern beaches. Luckily, de Lucia restored dignity to flamenco during the late 60s, as he and his associates began to rejuvenate the genre.

De Lucia was born in Algeciras, Spain in 1947 and was the youngest of five children. De Lucia’s father forced him to practice 10-12 hours per day throughout his childhood, which is why the two are often compared to Wolfgang and Leopold Mozart. At just 15 years old he released his first album with his brother, Pepe, and began touring with various artists throughout his teenage years. However, it wasn’t until the late 60s that De Lucia rose to great fame while touring with flamenco singer Camaron de la Isla. It was at this time that De Lucia began the nuevo flamenco (new flamenco) movement. Nuevo flamenco shares many characteristics with traditional flamenco, although it can feature different kinds of instrumentation and is often influenced by other genres such as jazz, classical, rock, latin, etc. De Lucia often contrasted picados (fingerstyle runs) with ragueados (finger strumming technique) and played with impeccable speed and preciseness. He modernized flamenco music and brought new life to the genre when it was in desperate need.

De Lucia’s smash hit that brought flamenco back into prominence was entitled “Entre dos aguas,” or “Between two waters,” which came off of his Fuente y Caudal (1973) album. The song is a rumba, which is a style of Cuban music that combines African and Spanish elements. The tune features electric bass and bongos as accompaniment, which is atypical in most flamenco instrumentation. While some purists may have been agitated by this, de Lucia still incorporated a great deal of flamenco tradition in his playing. In fact, maintaining tradition was paramount for Lucia; as he once said, “My flamenco is not a fusion.  I have always been careful that it doesn’t lose the essence and the roots and the traditions of flamenco.” He continued to say that various styles have influenced his music, but that they did not change the “philosophy” of flamenco. De Lucia deserves great credit, as was that rare artist who is able to transform a genre while still paying great respect and homage to its roots. In other words, Paco de Lucia was everything a musician should be: self-critical, devoted, respectful, and innovative.

by Ray Damron

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Hope April 25, 2017 at 4:48 pm

I’ve never really known to much about the flamenco genera but I’m definitely curious about it now. It seem like flamenco to Spain is jazz to america, its like the thing they invented and love. Its interesting that he’s compared to Wolfgang and Mozart being that the genera’s are so vastly different. Pace
de Lucia seems to really be the one to thank for the rising again of flamenco, he showed his innovation while still keeping the tradition alive.

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Kaleb Owens April 25, 2017 at 12:57 pm

Pace de Lucia definitely is a legend. I find it interesting how Spaniards seem to be more involved with flamenco than American’s are with Jazz. In Spain, flamenco is a huge deal. I agree with you that Lucia deserves great credit. He was innovative while also showing respect to those who came before him. I thoroughly enjoyed your article.

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