Another reason to go out and support your fellow flamencos!
Flamenco dancer Sarah Hart and guitarist Miguelito at Las Tapas. August 31, 2010 (photo by Stan Peters)
It's 11-something pm on Wednesday as I type these words. My day off. Saw a movie (The American starring George Clooney). Spent a few hours reading an interesting book: "Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It's Becoming, and Why It Matters." Got home around 10:30pm. I hadn't touched the guitar all day, but trust me I will make up for it after I finish this blog entry, for sure!
That picture above was from my Tuesday night gig at Las Tapas with dancer Sarah Hart. My thanks to photographer Stan Peters!
So I went to support my fellow flamencos this evening in another venue. And as it turned out, one of the dancers onstage was one that I had worked with the night before. Naturally I was already very familiar her tientos choreography but what made it especially interesting was that guitarist Behzad Habibzai's accompaniment had a couple of musically interesting twists that I hadn't heard before. I was very intrigued!
Understandably many professional dancers work out choreographies ahead of time and pretty much stick to them. And of course, they'll have bits of filler-choreography ready to pull out at a moment's notice, when the singer unexpectedly extends his letras, when the guitarist plays a longer falseta than expected, or if the dancer forgets her choreography and needs a few seconds to recall it. It happens. That's just how it is. But the important thing to realize is that the more experienced dancers can dance the same choreography with a different guitarist playing the same compás with different musical interpretation.
As for myself, the vast majority of my baile accompaniment patterns are based on the traditional ideas that everyone plays with a bit of my own interpretation mixed in. Other things that I play for dancers have come up organically in the moment when my concentration lapsed and I made a "mistake" that actually turns out sounding pretty cool which later becomes part of my repertoire. And sometimes I "steal" ideas from my fellow guitarists I see live or hear on recordings. And of course, I might actually painstakingly work out some musical phrases at home and later sneak them in during one of my shows to test them out. The dancers (and singers) do it to me so why I can't I do it to them too? :-)
There aren't that many guitarists that perform on regular basis here in DC. But what's cool is that each one has his/her own recognizable style. It happens eventually as you master the basics, try out ideas that speak to you and eventually you develop a personal "sound." But when you do this for a living (or as a serious hobby) it's very easy to fall into the rut of playing the same things all the time. I'm not saying it's a bad thing necessarily. If you play the same stuff all the time and it sounds good, expresses what you want to say musically and inspires the dancers and singers, by all means do it!
But ultimately you want to grow as an artist. I certainly do! Unfortunately I can't afford to go to Spain to study as much as I'd like. But I can still listen to and study recordings, watch videos, jam with my fellow guitarists and even schedule a lesson with one of them!
But as I realized this evening, going out to support my fellow flamencos turned out to be a lesson in itself. I left with a couple of musical ideas to play with, a fresh take on something very familiar, an extra boost of inspiration.
I'm speaking from the guitarist's perspective of course. But I'm sure the same principle applies to dancers too! So while I continue to incessantly tweet, blog, and announce in Facebook and my website all my shows and the shows of colleagues, go out there and check out the shows. Not just to support your fellow flamencos...but to actually learn something new.
Anywayz, I'm going to keep this blog short. I can't wait to play my guitar!