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June 9, 2009


More death music! More Fahey-influences. More guitar-magic. More mystery. Real mysteries. Not just like, how in Yahweh's chthonic name did he do that!?! But also insights into the mysteries that lay beyond death and the multifarious bardos. This is endarkenment music. But it's fun... Seriously though, Sabicas blows the pants off any other flamenco guitarist I've heard. Hey may not be as fast as Carlos Montoya or as crystalline as Paco de Lucia, but he has that special folly that comes through his music as borderline insanity, where you get the feeling that he's leaning as far over the cliff as he can, just because he knows he can't fly. He is bound to this harsh mortal samsara, and he carries death with him in his guitar case. But by Jove, you listen to this man and fly you will. Land you may never...

"The music Sabicas plays creates a world of love, rhythm, and death. It is not a world in which the intellect is of much use, for the music seeks to communicate deep emotions, the darkest feelings one tries to avoid. Flamenco in the hands of the great gypsies is a constant striving to express this duality. No guitarist of the 20th century has expressed this better or more profoundly than Sabicas."

- Cynthia Gooding, from her liner notes to Sabicas - The Greatest Flamenco Guitarist (Rhino Handmade)

Sabicas is known the world over as one of the premier guitarists of the 20th Century, admired by flamenco and classical players alike. His pitch is said to be perfect, his dexterity approaching light speed. He lived the fascinating life of a true Spanish gypsy. According to their tradition, the gypsy has but two sides to his nature: the pleasure he must seek in this life balanced with a constant awareness of death. Love is central -- without it, death is preferable to life. These simple yet profound aspects of gypsy life are the bedrock of this most intense and visceral musical form.

Spaniards believe that all forms of flamenco derive from seguiriyas, the "deepest" songs; and soleares, the "lesser" songs. The former ponder the endless sorrow of humankind, while the latter tap into its joys and fleeting pleasures. Many of the selections on this CD are identified accordingly ("Soleares," "Seguiriya," "Solera Gitana," "Solea Por Bulerias"). As for the rest, Spanish speakers will discern by their titles the balance between these primary emotions. But perhaps the most fun will be had by non-Spanish-speaking aficionados, their clues coming solely from the music itself.

He represented a breaking point for the flamenco guitar and he revealed flamenco to the whole world, via America. He was absolutely innovative, and revolutionised guitar playing with his speed and polished execution with a right hand technique that is unmistakeable and unrepeatable. His influence has been unquestionable for the new generations of guitarists, passing through the work of Paco de Lucía and Serranito.

He was born between Sanfermines (Pamplona's world-famous feast) and gypsies, in the city that Hemingway made popular with his pen, and his parents bought him his first guitar when he was four years old, when he was just strong enough to lift it. Two years later, he was already making his debut on a stage. In his beginnings, he was a fanatic follower of Ramón Montoya. Nonetheless, his work accompanying the most important cantaores of the time helped him to conceive a far more personal style of playing.

During the Civil War (1936) he went into exile to South America with Carmen Amaya and, together, they embarked on several tours. Sabicas grew fond of those lands, and settled in New York, where he played concerts as a solo artist. He became open minded, to the point where he made the first attempt at fusion with Joe Beck, Rock encounter (1966). He also struck up an important relationship with jazz masters like Charles Mingus, Ben E. King, Gill Evans, Thelonius Monk and Miles Davis. He even played for President Roosevelt in the White House and was treated as just another artist by the record labels, which distributed his records all over the world.

He did not return to Spain until 1967. Twenty years later, his country of birth gave him a national tribute for the first time, in the Teatro Real in Madrid. Earlier, in 1982, Pamplona had dedicated its feast, the Sanfermines, to him. He recorded with Enrique Morente a year before he died.
- from

He was already a legend in life. He was proud of having done for the guitar what nobody had done before: to tour the whole world with it, make it fashionable and get a bit of classical from it. "The flamenco guitar had never been played outside Spain - the author explained in 1984 - and not everyone, a very little. Then, since my records came out in the last thirty years, people became fond of the flamenco guitar anywhere in the world". He did not consider himself a follower of any guitar school, of any influence. "I have never had teachers. A proof of this is that I have a brother for whom I have never been able to set a single variation. I do not know how to teach, so I do not give lessons, because I was never taught by anyone. I do not know where to start. I do not know music". He acted in films. The mastery of Sabicas has brought the greatest praise. Thus, Howard Klein: "His art has no superfluous attitudes. It does not make one feel he is playing, but rather the music just flows spontaneously". Or Brook Zern: "Sabicas has everything necessary: a mysterious technical precision, astonishing speed, a perfect tone and absolute understanding of flamenco, of its structure and if its intonation. Moreover, he has a great ability to invent".

Grandes Figures du Flamenco, Vol. 14 - Sabicas

Year: 1992/1998
Label: Le Chant du Monde

"The mundillo, critics and recording companies, have always used the term virtuoso when speaking of him. And it is true that the first thing that strikes one on hearing him is his prodigious technique, which is truly unprecedented, and of which the analysts said that before Sabicas there were things that seemed impossible to do on the guitar, after him there is no longer anything ! It is unnecessary to emphasise what the present generation of Paco de Lucia, Habichuela, Serranito and the young Tomatito owes to Sabicas. But in addition to his incredible agility he possessed a musical creativity that was admirable. Sabicas was not only a guitarist, he was a composer - a rare thing in a Gypsy. He could neither read nor write music : one day he said that the notes on a stave looked like "little birds on electric wires", but thanks to his mastery of the instrument and to his prodigious memory, he was capable of playing his compositions, pieces lasting several minutes, practically note for note over and over again, like his Castillo moro and his Noches de Malaga. Moreover, on listening to his Garrotin or his six Sevillanas one will be struck by the superb inventiveness - variations, ornaments, modulations and traditional flamenco forms, endow his creative imagination with an entirely personal quality."
- Mario Bois

1 - Bronce gitano
2 - Ecos de la mina
3 - Taconeo gitano
4 - Campina andaluza
5 - Por los olivares
6 - Fragua gitana
7 - Ecos jerezanos
8 - De los Laureles
9 - Mi garrotin
10 - Joyas de la alhambra
11 - El castillo moro
12 - Seis sevillanas
13 - Punta y tacon
14 - Ay, mis ducas
15 - Brisas de la caleta
16 - Noches de Cadiz
17 - Y tus labios

*note* tracks 12 & 16 are missing. stupidly, there are files which claim to be them but are in fact just copies of other tracks on the disc. so i didn't notice before uploading. *sigh*

edit: here is the correct track 12 & 16, generously provided by bolingo

what a great figure.
mp3 vbr | w/ cover | 79mb

and the booklet scans, generously provided by miguel

Sabicas - Ole! La Guitarra de Sabicas

Year: 1999

Re-issue. Two albums recorded in 1972, now on one CD. With collaborations by brother/guitarist Diego Castellon, singer Adela la Chaqueta, and dancer Rosarito La Mejorana.

Every track list I've seen for this is different, but this is the tracks in the order of the upload:

1. -- Guadalquivir (Danza)
2. -- Alma Gaditana (Solea)
3. -- Compases Flamencos (Alegrias)
4. -- Zapateado Danza (Zapateado)
5. -- Pena la Plateria (Granainas)
6. -- Ensueno Arabe (Danza Arabe)
7. -- De Los Rizos de Tu Pelo (Colombiana)
8. -- Taconeo Gitano (Seguiriyas)
9. -- Torremolinos (Malaguena)
10. -- El Conquero (Fandangos de Huelva)
11. -- Variaciones de Alegrias (Alegrias)
12. -- Embrujo Sevillano (Bulerias)
13. -- Mi Solea (Soleares)
14. -- Campanitas (Farruca)
15. -- Piropo A Galicia (Gallegada)
16. -- Malaguena (Malaguena)
17. -- Ecos de Linares (Taranta)
18. -- Duquelas de Triana (Seguiriyas)
19. -- Viniendo Del Alba (Rondena)
20. -- Villancicos de Jerez (Villancico)

get it and find out.
mp3 192kbps | w/ cover | 99mb

VA - Flamenco Highlights from Spain

Year: 2002
Label: Laserlight

This is (or was) one of those bargain* albums that record companies throw together without any idea of what they're doing, and as you might expect, the outcome is some good news and some bad news.

First the bad news: eight of the tracks here -- the even-numbered ones -- are totally dispensable, seven of them being Sevillanas (which is only considered a flamenco style by courtesy) performed by two different but equally undistinguished ensembles; and the eighth a Fandango by a third. It's hard to know which is worse: the flute, the clatter of castanets, or the gooey harmonies.

The good news is that the other eight are guitar solos by Sabicas (1912-90), one of the greatest flamenco guitarists of all time. I say solos, but Track 3 is triple-tracked, with a beautiful stereo image; and (laughably considering the album title) it's a version of the old Trio Los Paraguayos harp favourite, "Bell Bird" ("Pájaro campano"). The others include a Guajira, Verdiales, Carcelera, Castellana, Farruca, Sevillanas, and an arrangement of Oyanguren's "Fantasía Inca", with an introduction that's not in the version he recorded for Elektra on Sabicas Vol. 2 (reissued on La Guitarra Flamenca).

Since all the Sabicas tracks were recorded in the USA then, and since none of the others could possibly be a flamenco highlight to any but a depraved perception, the number of Flamenco Highlights from Spain here is actually zero.

But buy this anyway, for the Sabicas tracks -- just program the others out.

- an amazon reviewer

1. Guajira/Cana de Azucar
2. No lo Beses en LA Boca
3. Ritmos del Paraguay
4. Luna por el Rocio
5. Verdiales/Puerto de Mala
6. Fandangos de Huelva
7. Carcelera/Reflejo Andalu
8. Carretas del Rocio
9. Castellana
10. Sevillanas de LA Loteria
11. Farruca/Con Salero y Gar
12. Junto a una Rosa Llonaba
13. Sevillanas
14. Gitanos Canasteros
15. Fantasia Inca
16. Sevilla Visite de Gala

ritmos y fantasias.
mp3 160kbps | w/ cover | 33mb

*note* I have saved you all the trouble deleting the schlocky flamenco and left uploaded just the Sabicas tracks, which are great. consider them bonus tracks to the other two albums.

and for more Sabicas gems, check out Flamenco Palo Seco


Anonymous said...

thank you for the great selections from Sabicas

astarte said...

Yes, Sabicas. Thank you for this. For a guitarist so influential he's pretty hard to get

icastico said...

Thanks. I have that Highlights CD. So great stuff on it...but man the bad stuff is BAAAAD.

Jeremy said...

Hmm, not sure how I missed this post a few days back. I have so much to learn. Fun, isn't it?