An Interview With Vicente Amigo – A Flamenco Guitar Legend


On Wednesday evening I am informed that tomorrow I can make an interview with Vicente Amigo for the blog ‘cafe Gibraltar’ before he arrives in Israel for two concerts with his group.
I’m excited.
My name is Ofer Ronen. I’m a guitarist myself, and tomorrow I can talk to one of the greatest guitarists today.

The call is set for 10 a.m.

I get up early, and at nine in the morning he’s already signed up with my local mobile phone company for overseas calls packge, and I wait, the ten o’clock passes, and I still do not get the number.
Well, after all, Spain, there is 9.00 a.m in the morning.
At most Vicente now poured himself the coffee and sliced the tomato and the ‘jamon’ on the toast.

I finally get the number and the mediator ask me to call at 12.

The time is right and I dial Spain, a male voice answers me in Spanish,
I say “Vicente?” No, that’s Cris, his agent.
He puts me on hold, and after a few minutes, he says that he can’t find Vicente and that they also called his wife and it isn’t clear what the situation is.

Then it turned out that there was confusion and Vicente realized it was the next day.
Never mind, it’s all tranquillo.
The next morning, a male voice answers me again in Spanish with an Andalusian accent.

“Hola, Vicente?” I ask.

“Hola, encantado” (hello, nice to meet), he answers.

Vicente Amigo, one of the greatest guitarists in the world, is a deeply creative musician and emerges as a calm interviewer who thinks moments before giving an answer.

And so in a slow and slow Andalusian conversation, we talk about music, art, and flamenco.

A little background

Vicente Amigo Hiraul was born in Guadalcanal, Spain in 1967, but grew up in Cordoba.

According to his vague memory, at the age of three he watched television and saw the guitarist Paco de Lucia playing, and so he fell in love with the guitar for the first time.

At the age of eight, he saw his neighbor practicing guitar on the grass, and as a result, began to learn to play the instrument.

Cordoba, the city of Vicente, was the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Andalusia,
the Muslim kingdom that at its peak dominated the entire Iberian Peninsula.

In southern Spain, the Muslim rule lasted longer than any other region in Spain, and so its name remained in today’s Andalusia of Spain.

The Flamenco art, with the Trinity – guitar, singing, and dance – developed in this region, grows out of the mixing of Andalucian and Gypsy people who arrived in Spain in the 15th century, just before the completion of the Christian reconquest of Spain as a whole.

In Flamenco, the similarities to Arabic music are immediately heard, and Cordoba,
like other places in Andalusia, is a city where flamenco lives in its professional form on the big stage, and also in the initial form in small flamenco clubs that play until morning.

It can be assumed that the same neighbor who played in front of Vicente’s house except strummed the Flamenco typical chords, which caused Vicente to fall in love with the guitar, and devote himself to it and flamenco for the rest of his life.

He began practicing and learning with various teachers in and outside Cordoba, and in 1988, at the age of 11, he won first place in one of the most important Flamenco competitions.

One of his teachers was the great musician Manolo Sanlucar, who realized his talent and invited him to play in his group.
Vicente played with him for six years, then worked with the legendary singer Cameron de la Isla.

In 1993, he played at the Guitar Masters Festival where he shared stages with John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucia.

As early as 1991, at the age of 24, Vicente released his first album, and from there went on to other solo albums and collaborations with great artists in Flamenco and beyond.

He was crowned by many as the successor of Paco de Lucia.
One of his distinguishing features is his unique delicate and precise sound.

Most flamenco players and musicians today, professional or amateurs, play his works or at least try to play them …

To start from Paco and move on

Vicente lived only eight years during the fascist dictatorship of the Generalissimo Franco.

When he began to establish himself as an artist, it was in the seventies and eighties,
at a time when Spain was once again a democracy and began to open up to the world.

That period was very significant in the history of flamenco music.

Paco de Lucia began to break the boundaries of flamenco, which until then remained relatively traditional and popular.
He combined flamenco with new music such as jazz and classical music, world music and more.
Flamenco, in which purists always insisted on keeping tradition as they were,
often went against Paco, but he continued to change flamenco forever, and also exposed it to new international audiences.
People around the world who have never heard of flamenco have begun to recognize Paco de Lucia and subsequently Flamenco.

Vicente, who in these years developed as a flamenco guitarist, describes Paco de Lucia as “the greatest lighthouse for guitarists, and he was one of my teachers, I’ve been watching him since I was very small, and thanks to him I have the desire to be a musician.”

In Paco de Lucia’s work you can still feel the connection between the styles.
How he took flamenco and mixed with other music.

But Vicente, for him the fusion was already a starting point, art or music is a “city of ideas,” the name of one of his album, for which he won the Latin Grammy.

He doesn’t try to consciously combine certain styles:
“The music is influenced by everything I love, all the musicians I listen to and love, everything influences, everything that is taught at a certain moment, everything remains in memory. We are actually mixing our mother and father. “

When I asked him whether he defines his style, or whether it is important to define,
he did not really understand the question, but went on to talk about his approach to flamenco, the music from which he grew up and which he creates:

“I start with a lot of respect when I create my flamenco. I have respect for the tradition but I try to bring something new … to bring something positive … Respect for the roots, but also for the freedom to succeed and to continue to make music continue, the music that is beautiful is endless. “

Poetry & Music

One of the beautiful things about Vicente’s music is his connection between music and words.
In 1997 he published ‘Poeta’ (Poet), where he composed texts by the poet Raphael Alberti, and also released an album in collaboration with singer El Pela called ‘Poeta de las Esquinas Blandas’.

“I think the phrase  ‘one action is worth a thousand words’ is true, but in my opinion,
a word is also an act, although I am a musician above all, it seems to me that all the musicians have poets within them as well.

There is a lot of value for me, and in Flamenco, there is something special about the way words are written – these are simple words, but they reach the core of things – words that say a lot. “

The compositions of Vicente’s solo albums often include flamenco singing.
But unlike most styles of music where a singer or singer are in the center,
In Vicente’s music the guitar in the center.

This way, poetry becomes another musical instrument like the others instruments,
so the music and the words have equal value.

These are two different ways that fit into each other to convey the same idea.

Beyond the solo albums, Vicente produced and played in albums of great flamenco singers such as Jose Merca, Remedios Amaya, and El Pela.

In those compositions, in which he comes as an accompanist rather than as a soloist,
his most sensitive approach to words can be heard in the strongest possible way.

although this is a top-level guitarist, Vicente accompanies him not only transcends the singer but also supports him.

Even if during the song he plays a solo, it is not necessarily to impress the audience,
but also to inspire the singer.
The accompaniment and singing violate each other.

Here at a young age, Vicente accompanies the Cameron de la Isla:

Flowers and fruit on the path

As an audience, when we see an artist on the stage, we see the tip of the iceberg,
and we aren’t aware of the many hours of training, study and research that are the layers that support the product before us.

So, as a guitarist, I was interested in a technical question, how many hours a day does he practice:

“A guitarist needs to bring the guitar that will be part of his body,” he says, continuing,
“The only thing I know how to do is to play guitar. So I devote myself to music almost every day, but I do not play every day all day, some days, all morning and afternoon, and there are days when it’s the only morning, you have to breathe, walk in the street, , Or you pay for it, you’ll immediately feel it on the guitar.

In one of his interviews, Paco de Lucia said he was never pleased with the albums he recorded. It always seemed to me that this was what motivated him to keep looking further, and so he created something innovative every time. Vicente Amigo has been playing and creating for 40 years and his varied albums also show a constant search.

Toward the end of the interview, I find it hard to formulate but manage to ask a somewhat vague question:

Are you looking? Or have you found it?

“I always look for you, you go on the way, and you sometimes find a flower or another one, you always keep looking for more flowers, stop by the flower and enjoy its smell, and then a different smell, every time it feeds you. Offering the world the fruit on which you worked and created. “

In the interview with Vicente Amigo, he said that for him Israel is a special place. “I think this is a place that has a lot of importance for our culture … This is a country that has strength in our hearts.” His performances in Israel are a one-time opportunity to see some of the beautiful fruits he creates.