Mourning

26th February 2014

 

 

What a very sad day for all of us… The world has become a very much poorer place today.

 

The appalling news about the death of Paco de Lucía came to me as I was boarding a plane in London, on my way to the Rotterdam’s Conservatory. I was meant to spend the day teaching so many young people who have been following every nuance of this incredible artist’s life though all of their own lives. Instead of giving or receiving lessons the day became a surreal vacuum in which everyone did things without any real connection with normality or with reality. We all missed him so much…

 

In great haste I wrote those few words, hoping I would have a chance to continue some time later. It became impossible; apart from the disrupted classes, I was asked to do several interviews about the terrible event, and practically everybody was in shock, including myself. We were visited in the class by a TV crew who wanted to interview myself and some of the students about Paco’s life and his passing; about his artistry and the significance of his contribution to flamenco as well as about my friendship with him. A bit like zombies we said a number of things about the sadness we all felt and, would you believe, the interviewer even persuaded us to hold our guitars and asked me to play something of Paco’s, as if that was a moment to interfere with the terrible grief we were all feeling, as if anybody could in any way be able to bring back and display his genius on the spur of the moment. In the fragile state we all were in we did what this man wanted and, like a fool, I also hit the strings in incomprehensible gibberish.

 

My concern was to say to them and to the whole world that we have lost the shining beacon that has guided flamenco through the most revolutionary and enriching times in the history of the art. Like Ramón Montoya in his time had made the guitar a true grown-up partner of the flamenco song, advancing its possibilities beyond what was imaginable at that time; like later fundamental masters, like Niño Ricardo or Sabicas took guitar playing to new levels of accomplishment, of sensitivity and artistry, the fact is that Paco de Lucía is solely responsible for the huge development that flamenco has undergone since he started his career in the 1960’s. With his arrival, the floodgates of people’s awareness were thrust open and since then an enormous number of young guitarists have emerged who emulated his artistry and virtuosity. As a result flamenco playing has been transformed and nowadays its landscape is full of great guitarists, not only with virtuosity and dazzling technique, but more and more with the wisdom passed on to them by Paco’s playing, a mixture of the most exquisite sensitivity, the most daring expeditions into unknown territory plus a deep commitment and respect for older masters like Montoya, Ricardo and Sabicas and for the tradition that nourished his own learning years.

 

I have much more to say about the wonderful base we have just lost in the flamenco world, and I will be doing that sometime in the future. For the moment I just want to tell you that I am devastated by the terrible loss of our greatest flamenco artist, and at such a cruelly early age. We had so much more to look forward to from his incredible, prolific mind and from his heart, his passion, and the quintessential flamencura exuding from the whole of his being. We owe Paco so much…

 

Paco Peña