Friday, 9 January 2009

Flamenco night

I've been listening to flamenco music tonight as I house-cleaned my pile of old newspapers. A complete change from my usual diet in music.

Ricardo Baliardo. More popularly known as Manitas de Plata, the Little Hands Of Silver. I'm not unfamiliar with the music of Manitas de Plata as I had watched him several times on the Rolf Harris Show during the late 1960s or early 1970s. Those were the first times that I had seen a guitar virtuoso, even though this was just on a television show.

There are claims that Manitas de Plata is not a true flamenco artist because he is a French gypsy and not a Spanish gypsy. But what goes against him is that it's claimed he does not keep to a recurring cycle of beats (they call it "compás") similar to a bar of music. I've read that in flamenco rhythms, not adhering strictly to compás is equivalent of blasphemy. So the traditional flamenco community at large totally ignores Manitas de Plata. To them, it's just a good imitation of flamenco.

He's also been accused of lacking cohesion, meaning, no apparent structure to a lot of his music. A random collection of musical ideas created on the fly and without reference to the bits before and after, basically making things up on the spot and playing for himself.

But what do I care? I'm just here to enjoy music and I've two of Manitas de Plata's vinyl records and two of his compact discs to show for it. But Manitas de Plata has a far greater legacy. Think of Manitas de Plata and you have to think of the Gipsy Kings. He helped to lay the foundations for the Gipsy Kings, formed by the sons of Jose Reyes (his vocalist) and other members of the Baliardo clan. For instance, his son, Tonino, plays lead guitar in the band.

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