Globe-trotting Flamenco guitarist returns to Kenya for another performance

From left: Ricardo Garcia in rehearsal with Aaron Colverson, Matthew Okite and Kirit Pattni.

From left: Ricardo Garcia in rehearsal with Aaron Colverson, Matthew Okite and Kirit Pattni. Photo/MARGARETTA WA GACHERU   

By Margaretta wa Gacheru

Flamenco guitarist Ricardo Garcia first came to Africa from Spain in 1991 to teach music, Spanish and French at the University of Malawi.
But since then, his amazingly rhythmic music has taken him all over the world, including to Kenya where he’s performing Sunday evening at the Kenya National Theatre.
He’ll be with his percussionist and Flamenco dancers, but as he believes in musical fusion and in performing with local musicians everywhere he goes, he will share the stage with several Kenya-based instrumentalists and members of the Zakale Za Dance Troupe as well.
But when his show Flamenco con Fusion opens at 5pm, there will be no confusion about why Mr Garcia keeps being called back to perform in Kenya. This is his third time coming.
Initially, he was invited by the fashionista Ann McCreath of Kiko Romeo to perform at the FaFa African Fashion Show in 2010.
“Ann had seen me play at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival [where he’s performed annually for the past 13 years], and then made all the arrangements for me to come alone with my guitar,” said Mr Garcia who had taken a break from rehearsing for his Sunday show with electric guitarist Matthew Okite, flutist Kirit Pattni and violinist Aaron Colverson to speak to Business Daily.
‘‘My time in Kenya has been progressive since I initially came on my own. That’s when I first met Matthew and Kirit, and we performed together at FaFa in Nairobi City Park with Thierry de Oliveira on drums, Danze on bass guitar and singer Marie von Lekow.”
That first trip he also performed in Mombasa at Diani Beach and at the Samosa Festival where his Flamenco guitar fused well with the Afro-Asian sound he found at the Coast.
“Then the second time I came [in March 2011] I brought one percussionist and one Flamenco dancer and we performed both in Nairobi and Mombasa, sponsored by the Sarova Hotels and the Spanish Embassy,” he said, noting that in between his trips to Kenya he was either at home in Spain or on tour in any one of four continents, either North or South America, Asia, Europe or various other countries in Africa.
“During that second trip to Kenya, Ricardo had gigs at Braeburn School and the Sarova White Sands. He also gave musical workshops to children from the slums and Riara School,” said Mr Garcia’s manager Julie Gunn, adding that they loved working with children since it was their gateway into a community and to meeting people on the ground.
This time round, Mr Garcia and his team of two Flamenco dancers, Yasmina Pulido and Frederic Gomez and percussionist Jose Luis Manzano, got here early enough to head upcountry where they spent four days in Meru giving workshops at the Amani Children’s Home and holding a “big community gig” attended by hundreds of locals who listened attentively to Flamenco music for the first time.
Their workshops are especially popular since Mr Garcia not only teaches the 12-beat rhythms of Flamenco, first by clapping hands, then stomping feet and finally teaching a rhythmic routine that both children and adults love to perform.
“We even bring costumes with us so that children can get involved in the performance,” added Ms Gunn who said they had given workshops all over the world for everyone from prison inmates to the homeless.
Mr Garcia got his start learning to play Flamenco guitar when he was very young.
“I got my first guitar when I was five. I was fortunate enough to have an uncle who was a professional Flamenco guitarist who started teaching me formally when I was eight,” said the guitarist who is also a composer of Flamenco music and who will perform several of his own compositions on Sunday night together with Flamenco classics such as Asturias by Isaac Albeiniz.
Mr Garcia began performing professionally from the age of nine. He would travel with his uncle Antonio from the south of Spain which is where Flamenco music was born (itself a fusion of musical styles from all over the world) to northern France where his family moved during the dark days of Franco.
Since that time, Mr Garcia has performed everywhere from the Bronx to Bollywood, Montreal, Quito, Ecuador and back to Barcelona which is his home base.
Having played with some of the finest musicians in the world, Garcia’s National Theatre show should not be missed. Tonight he performs in Mombasa at the White Sands Sarova.
Having arrived in Kenya October 31st, Mr Garcia also conducted a children’s workshop at a Donholm children’s home; he also performed twice as the Sarova Stanley and twice at La Mesa Espanola in Westlands.
Sponsoring the Flamenco guitarist’s trip to Kenya this time round were the Sarova Hotels, the Spanish Embassy, Brussels Airlines and Base Camp Kenya.

This story was first published in the Business Daily. CL


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