Tag Archives: Saura

Paco de Lucía (1947 – 2014) In Memoriam

It was a year and a half ago at the London Jazz Festival when I got to see Francisco Sánchez Gomes (better known as Paco de Lucía) play live. It was to be the first and last time I would ever watch him perform, an experience I will always carry with me for the years to come.

Paco de Lucía performing in London (16/11/2012)

Paco de Lucía performing in London (16/11/2012)

There are many things I would like to write about Paco. How he mastered his art from a very young age, expanded the vocabulary of flamenco, experimented with many genres and styles introducing various ‘foreign’ elements into his playing, while acting as an ambassador for flamenco music worldwide and becoming one of the greatest musicians the world has known in recent history.

But perhaps it’s better to let the music speak for itself. Below is a small selection of highlights from Paco’s long and extraordinary career that follow his development as a musician and demonstrate his endless curiosity and constant struggle for perfection and artistic excellence.

  •  Tico-Tico no Fubá is a renowned Brazilian choro music piece (“Tico-Tico” is the name of a bird, the rufous-collared sparrow) which Paco performed in the 1960s.

  • An intimate performance of a rumba flamenca (a style of Spanish flamenco music derived from the Afro-Cuban rumba) which became immensely popular both in Spain and internationally after the release of Paco’s album Fuente y caudal (1973).

  • Paco improvising on a famous theme by Georges Bizet in the film Carmen (1983) by Spanish director Carlos Saura.

  • Paco’s performance of Joaquín Rodrigo’s famous Concierto de Aranjuez was a remarkable achievement (it was released as an album in 1991), showcasing his brilliant technique and ability to infuse a unique flamenco feel in this staple of classical guitar repertoire.

  • While ever expanding his musical horizons, Paco met and collaborated with numerous great artists including celebrated jazz guitarists  Al Di Meola and John McLaughlin with whom he recorded the acclaimed album Friday Night in San Francisco (1981). Thirty years later, Paco would meet Meola again in Germany for an astonishing performance of Mediterranean Sundance.

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Raising ravens

A Spanish drama

I recently had the chance to watch Cría Cuervos (‘Raise Ravens’), a 1976 drama film by Spanish director Carlos Saura. The film, which won the Special Jury Prize Award at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival, was shot as Spanish dictator Francisco Franco was lying on his deathbed. While it deals with themes like childhood and loss, one can also find subtle allusions to the contemporary political situation and the changes Spanish society was undergoing at the time.

Cría Cuervos left quite a strong impression on me. As the story unfolds Saura manages to create a miniature, fragile universe of emotional intensity and introspective -almost claustrophobic- atmosphere (most of the film is shot inside a single house).

In the center of this universe lies Ana, the little girl protagonist, played by 8-year-old Ana Torrent whose performance is absolutely mesmerizing. Ana’s father (a general in the Spanish army), her mother and two sisters (together with the rest of the characters in the film) all seem to revolve around her, like planets in orbit that occasionally draw nearer or get farther away from little Ana.

 Jeanette meets Frederic Mompou

The film’s exemplary direction and great performances aside, I was also intrigued by its music. Jeanette’s pop song Porque te vas recurs throughout the movie, adding a bittersweet feeling to the film’s imagery.

What is more, the film’s main music theme is Cançó No.6 in E-flat minor by Catalan composer Frederic Mompou (1893 – 1987), a wonderfully melancholic and haunting piano piece. Originally dedicated to Arthur Rubinstein, it was also a favorite of celebrated Italian pianist Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli.

PS: The film’s title comes from the Spanish proverb Cría cuervos y te sacarán los ojos, which literally translates as: “Raise ravens, and they’ll take out your eyes”.