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El toque . . . (some suggestions for listening)

I mentioned in a previous post the experience I had of hearing the host of a peña talk about the elements of flamenco: el cante, el baile y el toque . . . the singing, the dancing and the guitar playing, the essential trinity of flamenco. I'd like to take a few steps into the world of the flamenco guitar.

I'm a flamenco guitarist, and while the challenges of learning and playing flamenco guitar (starting at age 40 . . . better late than never) have been profound, they have also been profoundly rewarding. I'm no virtuoso, but I find an incredible fulfillment in accompaniment and support, in being part of a conversation. It's deeply satisfying when the pieces mesh, when we express something together that none of us could express alone. It's thrilling and humbling.

As I've said, flamenco starts with the cante. The guitar itself, though, starts in Spain. Evolving through the medieval and renaissance periods, the guitar descended from the European lute and the the oud, brought to Iberia by the Moors. Eventually, as flamenco emerged from its many influences, the flamenco guitar developed as its ideal support instrument. Capable of percussive loudness and delicate lyricism, able to be as rough as the golden soil of Andalusia or as as smooth and peppery as Spanish olive oil the flamenco guitar became an indispensable and inseparable part of flamenco.

While it might be easy to see the flamenco guitar as having gone through periods as either a tool of accompaniment or as a featured element, the truth seems to be that it has always been both. Its recorded history from the last century shows all of this brilliance, and marks the path of its explorations and growth.

As usual, I offer some recordings and videos, not as a comprehensive history, but as highlights from some of its masters, with the limits of what was recorded and what appeals to my taste and knowledge. Also, please consider these starting points, especially since the restless spirits of so many of these artists took them across many stylistic phases . . .


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