Friday Night Flamenco – Paco de Lucía

It’s a real challenge to write about Paco de Lucía because, although he’s a household name well beyond the realms of Flamenco, the range and variety of styles he has covered is so wide that it’s impossible to condense it all into one post. We are going to do our best, however, to make sure that this week’s offering reflects at least the essence and central pillars of his incomparable body of work.

Francisco Sánchez Gomes, Paco de Lucía, was born in Algeciras in 1947. His second (maternal surname) is Portuguese as his mother Lucía Gomes was from Castro Marim near Faro in The Algarve. He released an album in 1987 called Castro Marín in recognition of his Portuguese roots.
He is considered one of the all time great guitarists and has won, among many other prestigious awards, The Premio Nacional de Guitarra de Arte Flamenco and The Príncipe De Asturias Arts Award as well as being named Doctor Honoris Causa by the Universities of Cadiz and Berkeley.
Although the vast majority of his work has been in the world of Flamenco, he has also recorded a number of works in other styles, such as Classical, Jazz-Flamenco fusion and others.
Here is a relatively early clip called “Percusión Flamenca”:

Both his mother, Lucía Gomes “La Portuguesa”, and his father, Antonio Sánchez, had a strong influence on his musical vocation. He received his first guitar classes from his father and his brother Ramón. Throughout his childhood his father made him practise several hours a day. His artistic name, de Lucía, also dates back to his childhood. In the barrio in Algeciras where he grew up there were lots of lads called Paco (short for Francisco). To tell them apart people tagged the mother’s name on the end. “Paco, el de Lucía” became “Paco de Lucía”.
Here’s a clip recorded in La Plaza Mayor in Madrid (great view of this beautiful Plaza, which is just up the road from us, at the end) of Paco playing Alegrías – “La Barrosa”:

His brothers are also Flamenco artists in their own right. Pepe has been a professional cantaor from a very early age and Ramón (sadly no longer with us), a guitarist. They have both worked with him on recordings and tours as well as with other artists.
Here’s Paco playing one of his best known compositions, the Rumba, “Entre Dos Aguas”:

At the end of the sixties he met Camarón de la Isla, with whom he was to create a legendary musical partnership. Their first recordings together demonstrate just what brilliant maestros both were of the most orthodox Flamenco palos. They recorded 10 albums together between 1968 and 1977. They then went their separate ways: both pioneers as Flamenco explored fresher, less orthodox avenues, incorporating elements of Popular Music, Jazz and even Rock.
Here they are together performing Bulerías:

Paco de Lucía’s greatest contribution to Flamenco may well be having managed to make it so popular and helped it reach an international audience, even if at times this has led to a dilution of the pure Flamenco essence of his playing. He is considered a first rate performer not only for his unquestionable virtuosity but also for his deeply personal style, which can be described as vigorous and rhythmic. A style that pervades nearly all of his work.
Here he is in a much more recent recording (2010) from German TV. He is playing a Minera called “Callejón del Muro”:

Another of Paco de Lucía’s contributions has been the incorporation of other instruments and percussion into his music, above all the use of the Cajón. He was introduced to this Afro-Peruvian instrument at the end of the seventies by Carlos “Caitro” Soto de la Colina, a Peruvian cajonero and composer. Paco intuitively understood that this instrument could provide the solid percussive base that he felt Flamenco needed in order to head in the direction he wanted to go and he added it to the sextet he was playing with at the time. Since then the cajón has become an essential element of contemporary Flamenco music as well as other genres. Here is a performance by his group where we can clearly see how Paco has introduced more modern arrangements and instrumentation with the addition of the flute and in this case bongos, rather than the cajón.
“Río Ancho” (Rumba):

And to end this post dedicated in its entirety to Paco de Lucía, one of the best guitarists of the twentieth century (and what we’ve seen so far of the twenty first), here he is in his most internationally recognisable guise. Mediterranean Sun Dance in the company of two other greats; Al Di Meola and John McLaughlin.

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12 thoughts on “Friday Night Flamenco – Paco de Lucía

  1. WOW!!! This is absolutely great!!!

    I really loved this week!!! I think maybe Paco de Lucia is the best known flamenco artist here in Japan and I have heard some of him before, but these tracks are really great!!!

    Percusión Flamenca is just so wonderful!!! I the way it just flows along and is almost like the essence of Spain (or how I imagine it). It is really lovely!!!

    They are all great actually, but I think the other one I really liked was Bulerías. This is just so wonderful with the singing, you can really see that they both understand each other musically so well!!! I love the voice of Camarón de la Isla also very much indeed!!!

    The Rumbas Río Ancho and Entre Dos Aguas are really very very lovely also and I can really imagine beautiful Spanish ladies dancing to them!!! Actually they have a glamorous and sophisticated feel to them that I really like and contrast to the other tracks! He really is a versatile and gifted guy with a beautiful musical soul!!!

    Thank you for sharing this with us!!!!

    I really love this series and enjoy it/ and look forward to ti so much!!!

    • Hi Sakura

      Thanks for your comments here and the link on the mothership!
      We are glad you enjoyed this post. We love seeing your reactions to the music and the feelings it inspires in you.

      With regard to the Bulerías, Paco and Camarón had a wonderful understanding but unfortunately there were two very big egos on stage at the same time. If you look carefully at the video you can see that Camarón has to follow Paco at times. This is not the usual Cantaor/guitarist relationship. Besides which, Camarón got seriously messed up with drugs, which didn’t help. Paco eventually stopped working with Camarón.

      If you watch Tomatito with Camarón (or the great Juan Habichuela with Estrella Morente) you’ll see that no matter how brilliant the guitarist is, they accompany the singer.

      Paco’s talent and musical ambition took him down other avenues. And thank god for that. He has produced some of the best experimental work on the fringes of flamenco that we are ever likely to see.

  2. Mr and Mrs Maki, I have a lot of Paco’s recordings, and I’ve seen him in action on TV many times. My appreciation of his music knows no bounds. This is a beautifully balanced selection covering the full spectrum of his work, and an ideal introduction for the newcomer.
    Have you heard his arrangement of Concierto de Aranjuez?

    • Thanks Webcore.

      Glad you enjoyed the post and the way it was put together – it was difficult to know what to leave out!

      Paco’s arrangement of Aranjuez is masterful. Andrés Segovia’s more orthodox reading is the favourite here, however. Not least because Mrs Maki was lucky enough to see him perform it live. We’re sure you’re familiar with it but here’s a clip anyway.

  3. Hi Sakura
    Thanks for that. A most unusual take !!
    Maki is convinced that Ennio Morricone had a good listen to the Concierto
    de Aranjuez before composing a lot of his “spaghetti western” soundtracks.

  4. Great post Maki. Saw him at the Royal Festival Hall a long time ago. You have persuaded me to give a couple of his lps a long overdue spin!

  5. I’ve finally found time this evening to listen to the first five songs here. I remember Webcore’s A-lister for ‘handclaps’, and your contribtion to the ruby playlist was a nudge to listen to some more. This is beautiful music, and my little girl was dancing around to ‘Entre Dos Aguas’ just before bedtime.

  6. ….and the last three songs this evening. The music delights and distracts the ears in order to deliver a stirring message straight to the heart. It’s the most accessible and direct music, but quite disconcerting how it charms away one’s emotional defences. Not sure if that makes sense, but I’ve just ordered a ‘best of’ CD for more listening and for dancing with Benjamin and Emma. Thanks for the thoughtful introduction.

    • Thanks DaddyPig. Paco’s music really is special. I completely get what you’re saying about the emotional defences, there’s a sort of Trojan Horse beauty to the best Flamenco. It can seem quite light at times but before you know it it has grabbed you hard. I really hope you enjoy the Best of and that you, Benjamin and Emma enjoy dancing to it! I have to stop Mrs Maki from dancing sometimes when we’re putting these posts together (from the clips she has chosen) so that she can help me with the texts! Sometimes it’s a losing battle.

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