Artist Profiles: Ketama

Ketama – Photo by Mario Pacheco

Ketama was a Madrid-based flamenco fusion band formed in 1985, taking the name from a Moroccan town famous for growing some of the best “weed.” The band was initially formed by guitarist Juan José Carmona Amaya “El Camborio”, guitarist José Soto “Sorderita” and vocalist Ray Heredia, all members of some of the finest Gypsy flamenco performers: the Habichuelas from Granada, the Sorderas from Jerez and the Heredias from Madrid.

In the early days, Ketama rehearsed in a chicken yard, preparing themselves for their nightly performances at the famous flamenco club Los Canasteros in Madrid. This allowed the group members to meet flamenco legends like Paco de Lucía, Enrique Morente and Camarón de la Isla

Ray Heredia left the group first. Vocalist Antonio Carmona Amaya and guitarist José Miguel Carmona Niño “Josemi”, Juan’s cousins, replaced Ray. Some time later, José Soto also left to pursue a solo career. The Carmonas then went to develop one of the most brilliant careers in Nuevo Flamenco.

Ketama received international acknowledgement with their third record, Songhai, a combination of flamenco with jazz and Malian music, featuring English bassist Danny Thompson and Malian kora master Toumani Diabate.

Initially, Ketama kept to its Flamenco roots unlike most of the other young Gypsy groups. Later, the band started to combine roots flamenco with diverse influences such as salsa, reggae, pop, funk and jazz. They went on to play with some of the world’s greats: Celia Cruz, Paquito D’Rivera, Arturo Sandoval, Michel Camilo to mention a few.

In 1994, Ketama released Songhai 2. The album included Toumani Diabate, bassist Danny Thompson and balafon virtuoso Keletigui Diabate.

The group disbanded in 2004. After a 15-year hiatus, Ketama returned in 2019 with the ‘No Estamos Locos Tour.’ The lineup included Antonio, Juan and Josemi Carmona. Highlights included a performance at Starlite Festival in Marbella, Spain.

Discography:

Ketama (Nuevos Medios, 1985)
La pipa de Kif (Nuevos Medios, 1987)
Songhai, with Toumani Diabate and Danny Thompson (Nuevos Medios, 1988)
Y es ke me han kambiao los tiempos (Universal, 1990)
Karma (recopilatorio) (Nuevos Medios, 1990)
Canciones hondas (recopilatorio) (Nuevos Medios, 1992)
Pa´ gente con Alma (Polygram, 1992)
El Arte de lo invisible (Universal, 1993)
Songhai 2, with Toumani Diabate and Danny Thompson (Nuevos medios, 1994)
De akí a Ketama (Universal, 1995)
Konfusión (Universal, 1997)
Sabor (Mercury Records, 1998)
Toma Ketama! (Universal, 1999)
Dame la mano (Universal, 2002)
Nuevos Medios Colección (Nuevos Medios, 2002)
20 pa’ Ketama (Universal, 2004)

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.
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