How Flamenco Guitar Music Got It's Start

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Moreover, the transmission of rich cultural influences and musical ideas assures that music will not be “localized.” Tethered and bound to one region. One Culture. One Historical identity.It would touch only the locals. Not the World at large. St. Francis’ words “Life is a book. If we don’t travel, we only see one page” apply equally to Music.

This is especially true for the Spanish Flamenco Guitar and it’s music.To fully come to grips with the evolution of this instrument, we must return to Cordoba, Spain. The primary date is 711. Just after the Islamic invasion. As a result of this, naturally Islamic musicians created a focal point for musical exchange in that city.

It is there, at that time, that the Spanish Flamenco Guitar was born. It originated as the Oud, to which a fifth string was added. The name given to the resulting instrument was the “Moorish Guitar”, or “Andalucian Nuba.”

The next instruments to contribute to the “melting pot” that was the creation of the Flamenco Guitar were the European Lute and the Guitar Latina. Over the course of several centuries, this “musical melting pot” continued, when the Vihuela was born. As a result of combining elements of the Moorish Guitar with the European Lute and the Guitar Latina.

An unusual instrument to say the least, at the height of it’s developement, the Vihuela had six double strings. The tuning of this instrument was closely paired to that of the guitar as we know it today with the exception of the third string, which was tuned a semitone lower. Viheula bodies were usually made from cypress, with a spruce or cedar top.

Following on from the contributions of the Viheula, before the final “birth” of the Flamenco Guitar, there were still three developmental stages necessary. The first descendant of the Vihuela was the Baroque Guitar.It became the precursor to the Classical Guitar. From which the Flamenco Guitar evolved.

Equally, if not more fascinating, is the History of Flamenco guitar music and it’s original innovators. Although it’s rarely accurate to place a definite date or time on the “birth” of movement or genre, there are always people and or events of obvious importance.

Three of those people, who each passed the torch of their accomplishments on to the next, were Ramon Montoya, Sabicas, and Nino Ricardo.Although like other guitarists of his day, Ramon Montoya began his career in bars and cafes accompanying singers and dancers, he has the distinction of being the first to feature the guitar as a solo concert instrument. Giving it new, and increased status, by confirming that it had a voice of it’s own. That must be heard.

“Sabicas” – noted for his amazing technique and flawless sense of rhythm, further refined and evolved Montoya’s accomplishments. History also remembers Sabicas as the first guitarist of his genre to introduce genuine Flamenco Music Internationally.

The saddest note in the formative History of the Flamenco Guitar was sounded with the premature death from liver failure of Nino Ricardo.Hailed as the finest guitarist of his day – and, as such, widely imitated, but never duplicated – “little” Ricardo’s playing had a truly unusual and unique tone, due to his upwardly curving fingernails. It’s also conjectured among guitar afficianados that Nino tuned his guitar several steps lower than normal.Thus allowing him to play faster, with little apparent effort. It’s reasonable to assume that the liver condition that ultimately claimed him at age 68, was aggravated by his long years of performing in the bars of his native Seville.

The evolution and innovation of the Flamenco Guitar Music we enjoy today, is a direct legacy from the accomplishments of these three “Flamenco Innovators.”

 

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