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December 12/28/15, 2015

Flamenco fans young and old descended on the Barbican last week for an exquisite early Christmas present in the shape of a tribute concert to Paco de Lucía - the undisputed father of modern Flamenco.

Thanks to Paco de Lucía’s collaborations, from jazz to classical, his songs not only gave new leases of life to other genres but rejuvenated Andalusian-born music, spawning nuevo flamenco. Introducing the Peruvian cajón, the saxophone and fretless electric bass, would anyone else have been to absorb such an eclectic mix into flamenco without it representing more confusion than fusion? Paco managed to stay absolutely true to flamenco’s passionate soul whilst bringing it to new horizons – a sentiment reflected in his tribute concert this week.


Niño Josele and Chano Dominguez kicked off ‘Beyond the memory’ with a collection of pieces from their new album, Chano y Josele, and songs crafted by the master himself. The duo proved to be exemplars of the abiding influence of Paco de Lucía. Both growing up steeped in flamenco blood and surrounded by the countryside of its coursing, their magisterial piano and guitar fingerwork transfixed eyes from the outset.

Achingly beautiful covers of Lennon and McCartney’s ‘Because’ and de Lucía’s ‘Cancion de Amor’ blurred the lines perfectly between homage to the father of modern flamenco and a lover’s dance in the streets of Seville. It encapsulated Paco’s and flamenco’s ability to create an immediate, visceral impact even though the means to it are full of complexity.

With the audience still clinging to each resonating note with ecstasy and melancholia as the interval ended, the second half delivered a collective of key members of the Paco de Lucía ensembles. After guitarist Jose Maria Bandera, bassist Carles Benavent and percussionist Pirana warmed up the feet as well as the hearts of the audience, all nine musicians came together and the murmurings of Hispanic hysteria started.

The soulful sounds of Jorge Pardo’s flute tangoed with the bluesy twang of Antonio Serrano’s harmonica, whilst the wailing of flamenco cantaor Duquende pierced through the booming tones of Pirana’s and Rubem Dantas’ cajónes. The musicians’ semi-circle, rejoicing in the music of de Lucía, combined an intimate feeling of them playing in a living room as cries of ‘Vamos’ from the crowd echoed throughout what might have been the Bernabeu.

The lightning-footed Farru provided the night’s el baile flamenco, revelling equally in the night’s music and the audience’s ovation, whilst covers of ‘Entre dos aguas’ and ‘Zyryab’ were interspersed with clips of the forthcoming documentary on de Lucía entitled ‘Beyond the memory’. Written and directed by his son and daughter, the snippets delivered far more footage of the master than previously expected.


However a highlight of the evening came in a brief chat and taranta performed by the intensely talented Jorge Pardo. Taught the taranta by Camarón de la Isla and Paco, Jorge described its origin as a deep blues from the mines of Cartagena and Almería. His performance of ‘El Barranco del Tesoro’ echoed magically and sorrowfully.

The title of the night, ‘Beyond the memory’, proved correct. It pointed to how de Lucía was the renaissance man of flamenco music. It pointed not only to how the night was a tribute to the songs, the skills and to the man himself, but pointed to the beauty that will be created throughout Spain and beyond thanks to his inspiration. The night demonstrated how the master has left mastery through others; how he forged a legacy through the musicians he encouraged and the genre he redefined.