Sabicas, Maestro

It does not seem quite right to let the month of April slip by without our remembering that twenty years ago, this month, the world lost a genius of the flamenco guitar. Agustín Castellón Campos, better known as Sabicas, passed away on April 14th 1990 in a hospital in New York. He was called Sabicas because he was fond of habas or broad beans. Hence, Las Habicas (or the little broad beans) became Sabicas.

Those of us who followed his music will recall the day he died. There is something not quite acceptable in the passing of such exceptional talent. Sabicas was born in Pamplona into a gitano family. He started playing the guitar at an early age, but left Spain in the company of Carmen Amaya after the Spanish Civil War and later settled in New York. For those of us who lived in Francoist Spain, it was hard to come by his music: the regime was not one to promote its deserters and Sabicas had been a gypsy with choice, unlike the majority of gitanos who had no choice but to endure the harsh years of the dictatorship.

Maybe it was the fast-paced city of New York that did it, but one major change that Sabicas brought to flamenco was to speed it up. Until he arrived on the scene, the guitar had been slower, more ponderous and dream-like. Sabicas stepped up the pace. He was also not afraid to cross the boundaries of tradition and experiment. The dexterity of his fingers on the chords made it all look easy. Sabicas was born in 1912, nearly a century ago. Yet, if you listen to the video above, taken in 1987, some three years before he died, his music seems surprisingly contemporary, leaps and bounds more up to date than that of many of his contemporaries. He was innovative, incredibly sensitive, totally devoted to the guitar and inspirational. A true maestro.

April 29, 2010 Post Under General - Read More

Comments are closed.