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Carlos Montoya

Carlos Montoya (13 December 1903 – 3 March 1993) was a prominent Flamenco guitarist and a founder of the modern-day popular Flamenco style of music.

Contents

Early life and career

Carlos Montoya was born in Madrid, Spain, unto a gypsy family, on December 13, 1903. As the nephew of renowned flamenco guitarist Ramón Montoya he seemed to have been born to play Flamenco, but it was his uncle who would be his biggest obstacle, as he refused to teach Carlos the tricks of the trade. He began studying the guitar with his mother and a neighboring barber, Pepe el Barbero, a.k.a. Pepe the Barber. By the time he was 14 years old he was accompanying dancers and singers in the cafes of Madrid, Spain.

In the 1920s and 1930s he performed extensively in Europe, North America, and Asia with the likes of La Teresina. The outbreak of World War II brought him to the United States where he began his most successful days as a musician, and frequently toured with the dancer La Argentina. Settling in New York City during World War II (circa 1941), he began touring on his own, bringing his fiery style to concert halls, universities, and orchestras. During this period he made a few recordings for several major and independent labels including RCA Victor, Everest and Folkways.

Montoya toured year round but always returned to his homeland, Spain, to spend the Christmas holidays with his family.

Playing style

Montoya's playing style was idiosyncratic. He once said, according to Brook Zern,

"I do not play the way I do to please the public, though it certainly does, on five continents so far, and no other flamenco guitarist will ever fill the Houston Astrodome as I have. No, I play the way I do because to me, that is exactly the way the flamenco guitar should sound. It seems strange to me that the unknowing public should agree, while the real flamenco aficionados clearly do not...but that's the case."

His style was not particularly appreciated by serious flamenco students, who considered it less brilliant than many others, including that of Montoya's uncle Ramón. Carlos's own favorite flamenco guitarist, it was reported by Zern, was the obscure Currito de la Geroma. That he was unpopular among aficionados owes largely to the fact that Montoya learned in a non-traditional way and that he abandoned the compás which has evolved within flamenco over hundreds of years. Many of his works do not even keep perfect tempo, increasing and decreasing in speed almost whimsically. He was admired for the speed of his picados and undoubtedly found popularity on the international stage as a result of this technically impressive pace. However, Montoya's playing is often criticized by flamenco traditionalists for having more flash than musical substance.

He was known to play with a capo on the 3rd fret and on really loose strings. It is suspected he tuned down and then compensated with the capo to increase his ability to apply picado.

Death

Montoya died in March 3, 1993 at the age of 89 of heart failure in the tiny Long Island, New York town of Wainscott, New York.

Legacy

His unique style and successful career, despite all odds, have left a great legacy for modern day Flamenco. It is because of his pioneering work in popular Flamenco music that have allowed other great modern groups such as the Gipsy Kings to take hold in all parts of the world. A few of his video recordings can still be found on YouTube.

Discography

Year Album Title
1950 Spanish Guitar Solos
1957 Flamenco Guitar
1960 In Living Stereo
1961 Malaguena
1963 Flamenco Antiguo
1967 The Artistry Of
1996 Flamenco!
2004 Guitar & Flamenco

External links

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