On this first day of Fall, I’m feeling melancholic and a bit of anxiety regarding the events of about three weeks ago. Every Labor Day weekend, there’s a big Flamenco Fiesta/Juerga/Party/Strike that takes place here in San Diego. The first one that I ever attended was back in 1993, after I got back from Spain. It was magical then and is magical now, although I admit that I’ve missed a few of them due to logistical reasons which I won’t go into because of people’s personal business, as well as the gossip that surrounds any group of folks, but especially we Flamencos. Maybe its due to the passion and fire that we have for the art form which often spills over into our personal lives sometimes hurting and sometimes endearing the folks that we love even closer to us. Whatever it is, I’m not going to make any more enemies than I already have by spreading gossip here. So lets’ go on to the Fiesta.
As I mentioned, my first Fiesta was extremely magical, and the ones that I went to after that became even more so, but for me, as I believe life should be, Flamenco changed my perspective on things and making me change in a good and bad way, and so I grew tired of the things I was doing and didn’t know how to get out of the rut. I actually ended up not playing guitar for two years and abandoned the 18 years I spent honing my meager skills playing for dance classes, performing around San Diego for private and public functions, and trying to learn how to play effectively for singers (that last one is still a struggle, but I’m getting there). When I came back to Flamenco, it was with a different vibe. I no longer believed in purity, and the Purists out there can debate me on this later, and I no longer believed in isolating myself from folks, despite how it made me cringe, when they mentioned how much they loved Otmar Liebert or Armik or any other musicians who were doing their thing (Purists, you can crucify me later). I didn’t say, that’s not Flamenco, I simply said, “Oh, yeah that’s cool.” I didn’t say, “You should check out what’s going on at some of the Parties/Juergas I go to.” Why, because even when I’m playing and trying to do my thing, there are those who say, “That’s not Flamenco,” (Purist’s, you know who you are) and the 18 or so years I spent seem in vain, and so, in order to get better at Flamenco when I came back, I left Flamenco, and went into Jazz, Bossa Nova, and even the Blues. It’s been a blast and I’m creating more in Flamenco than I ever did before, but you can come and see me play to better determine that.
My current melancholy comes not from my inability as a guitarist, it comes from the beauty and joy I saw and experienced at the Fiesta. The artistry was constantly in the air and I felt happy and sad the entire time while there. I got to laugh and cry and play with folks who reminded me of times I spent with my best bud, Salvador Camaraza way back in 1992 when we shared a flat in Granada Spain, in the Albaicin. We would go up into the Sacromonte when we needed to purify ourselves of the bullshit and fun that we experienced in Spain. Mostly me dealing with my blackness there, both enjoying and trying to keep from punching the hell out of someone. They were good times. I loved being in the world and although I never went to a Flamenco show, I did see Flamenco. I experienced it in the caves up in the Sacromonte, and in a Pena Flamenco out in the outskirts of Granada. This Fin de Verano took me back to those times and inspired me to spend the four hours a day on guitar just to play successfully one falsetto (now my own and not someone else’s) like a boss!
I missed seeing a lot of my San Diego Flamenco’s and saw a view I could have gone without seeing, but hey that’s they way things are in Flamenco and especially with me. I can cut you off just as easily as I can go out of my way to break bread with you, and that’s just who I am, especially when crossed, but I’ll only be bitter for a little while and going to this Fiesta was akin to folks who go to three day retreats. I came back rejuvenated, and willing to work and welcome all. It was a good time, and the artist were as genuine as the folks I connected with in Spain… to be continued.