Spanish pianist and composer, Ariadna Castellanos Rivas is currently one of the top rising and most promising Flamenco artists. She combines Flamenco and Jazz in order to create a new language, a unique identity.
Ariadna was born in Madrid, Spain, in 1983. She began her music studies at age six. When she was 17 she won a full scholarship to study classical piano at the Guildhall School of Music in London, where she graduated after four years. Throughout her education she has been close to flamenco music. After graduation she returned to Spain to work with famous flamenco figures such as Jorge Pardo, Jesus Del Rosario, and Agustin Carbonell (“El Bola”) and toured the world with flamenco dance companies like Los Vivancos 7.
After four years of work exploring new paths for piano in flamenco, she was signed by the production company Casa Limón for her first album. In 2009, after an impromptu audition in Madrid with Berklee faculty, she won a full Presidential Scholarship to Berklee, , becoming the first Spanish musician to receive this recognition. At Berklee she concentrated on skills specific to improvisation and jazz. In May of 2010, at the college’s commencement exercises, she was chosen to lead the tribute performance for flamenco legend Paco de Lucía, who was in attendance. She is a dual major at Berklee, in both professional music and performance.
Based on her technique, acquired with classical piano training, and her natural sense of improvisation, Ariadna’s performances achieve the highest artistic quality. Ariadna Castellanos has appeared all over the world, bringing her innovative style to such venues as the Palacio de las Artes de Valencia, Monterrey Jazz Festival, Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, and the Heineken JazzFest in Puerto Rico, where she shared program alongside legendary artists such as Paco de Lucía and Michel Camilo.
She recorded her first album for Casa Limón, which was produced by the Grammy Award winning composer and producer Javier Limón (Paco de Lucía, Bebo Valdés, El Cigala, Buika), released in 2012. She has also collaborated with top Spanish artists, including Jorge Pardo, Niño Josele, Agustín Pardo “El Bola”, Sandra Carrasco, Javier Limón, José Mercé, and Alejandro Sanz.
Antonio Moreno Carrasco, better known as Antonio Malena (Malena is his mother’s artistic name), was born in Jerez in 1961. He is deeply influenced by Jerez’s flamenco traditions. At the age of nine while singing Seguiriyas with the guitarist Moraíto Chico he appeared on Spanish public TV’s (RTVE) ‘Rito y geografía del cante’ show.
From this moment on he began a career that led him to perform at the leading festival and tablaos (nightclubs) and major theatres of the world. Notable among these are Bienal de Sevilla, Potaje de Utrera, Festival de Jerez. In tablaos such as ‘La Venta el Gato’ in Madrid, ‘Carmen Amaya’ in Barcelona, ‘Gitanillo’ in Córdoba. His concert appearances have included theatres in Spain, Holland, Japan and the United States.
Although primarily a solo artist, Antonio Malena has collaborated with other artists such as Faíco, Mario Escudero, Angelita Vargas.
As principal singer, he has taken part in flamenco shows such as ‘Sentir flamenco’, ‘Vivencias’ with Antonio el Pipa , ‘Arte y solera’ with the Japanese artists Mami y Hiro, and ‘Sonidos gitanos’ by María Bermúdez, among others.
Since 2001, Antonio Malena has been working with dancer and choreographer María del Mar Moreno. In 2005 they founded a company called Jerez Puro, where Antonio Malena serves as artistic director and lead vocalist for the company’s shows.
Percussionist Ángel Sánchez González, a.k.a. Cepillo, has become one of the essential accompanists of today’s best flamenco musicians and shows. He was born in Sanlúcar de Barrameda (Cadiz province, Spain). Since his early years, he played his rhythms with flamenco, rock, jazz fusion and Brazilian musicians and groups.
Cepillo is a regular on the concerts of renowned artists such as Gerardo Núñez, Manolo Sanlúcar, Tomatito, Duquende, Carmen Cortés, Carmen Linares, Rafael Riqueni, Esperanza Fernández, Vicente Amigo, Isidro Muñoz, José Miguel Évora, José Antonio Galicia, Javier Barón, La Tobala, Pedro Sierra, Tino di Geraldo, Perico Sambeat, Michael Brecker, Renaud García Fons and Zakir Hussain, among others.
Cepillo has had a long career, performing throughout Spain and appearing in some of the best venues and festivals in Spain and abroad.
He has appeared in numerous recordings, including ‘Un ramito de locura’ by Carmen Linares, Jazzpaña, ‘Gerardo Núñez presenta. La Nueva Escuela de la Guitarra Flamenca’ and more.
Vicente Amigo is one of the finest Flamenco guitarists in the world. He was born in Guadalcanal in 1967, a small town in the province of Sevilla, though he grew up in Córdoba. It was there where he had his first guitar lessons. “I believe that flamenco has always been something for adults, not just for children. To understand flamenco, you need maturity. You can play the guitar as a child You understand the technique. But the essence of flamenco is something that requires maturity.” Amigo became a professional very quickly. Then, he joined Manolo Sanlucar’s band in which he played guitar for five years.
In 1989, Amigo began a solo career and earned first prize in guitar at the prestigious Festival Nacional del Cante de las Minas de la Unión. Shortly thereafter, he won the Contest of Extremadura. He became part of the Flamenco Guitar elite when he won the “Ramón Montoya” award in May 1989 as well as the first prize in guitar at the XII National Concert of Flamenco Art in Córdoba.
Amigo has accompanied flamenco singers Luis de Córdoba and Carmen Linares, among others. He also recorded with Brazilian composer Wagner Tiso and Spanish pop stars Miguel Bosé and Nacho Cano.
Vicente Amigo is a guitar player with an obviously strong personality, a natural sense of modern flamenco as well as the traditional forms. Flamenco’s wealth and diversity give him an extraordinary opening to all kinds of music. “I love flamenco music as a foundation because it allows me to tell a story in a very different, non-linear fashion,” says Amigo. “The organization of that tale is less important than the feeling of it. I can start at the end or the beginning and explore and insert many themes upon the main theme, adding little messages along the way. There can be many hidden meanings within the main storyline as I change melody and harmony. There doesn’t have to be a specific ending. It’s just a matter of following my soul when I find something good to express in the song.”
The Ciudad de las Ideas (City of the Ideas) album title was taken from a verse by classic Greek poet Kavafis. In the early stages of recording, Amigo became enamored of Kavafis and especially a poem titled “The First Step.” “The piece is about an old poet in conversation with a young poet. The youngster brags that he’s written a masterpiece that can never be surpassed, but the older man puts him in his place and tells him he has so much to learn, that such talk is foolish. The young man eventually realizes the wisdom of this and says thank you. With City of Ideas, I related to the young poet, opening myself up to new experiences and new influences. Each song is like a big ‘thank you’ to all the life experiences I’ve had to draw from. I see music as a realm with no frontiers and each project allows me to explore even further.”
The CD is dedicated to Andalusia and it includes pieces like the bulería Ojos de la Alhambra (Eyes of Alhambra), that is sung by the renowned Algerian singer Khaled. There are also vocals by Diego El Cigala, Argentine singer Pedro Aznar, Montse Cortes and Lin Cortés. On percussion you can find three of the big names of Spanish and flamenco percussion: Tino di Geraldo, Chaboli and Echegaray Street. Mino Cinelu is on drums, Alfredo Paixao on bass.Recorded at the Filigrana Studios in Cordoba (Amigo’s adopted hometown) and mixed in Madrid, the collection is orchestrated and conducted by Joan Albert Amargos.
Ciudad de las Ideas won the 2001 Latin Grammy for Best Flamenco Album and was the first album by Amigo to be released in the United States.
“Making music for so many years has carried me deep into the heart of myself, to the place where I have come to understand what it means to be a fully realized human being,” says Amigo. “Music plays a very important part in the world today, and it’s wonderful to be a part of bringing that joy to people. When people listen to me play, they know it’s coming from a very real and truthful place inside me.”
After five years without publishing a solo album, Vicente Amigo returned in 2005 with Un momento en el sonido. The album features Tino di Geraldo and Joan Albert Amargos as well as singers Antonio Villar and ‘Potito’.
Paseo De Gracia, released in 2009 was produced by Vicente Amigo and features many friends and guests including the entire Morente family led by the “patriarch” Enrique Morente together with Estrella,” Soleá and Enrique Jr. Other stars include Niña Pastori, pop singer Alejandro Sanz, Rafael de Utrera,” Pedro Heredia, Miguel Ortega, José Parra,” Lin and Nani Cortés. The band on the album includes Tino di Geraldo (drums and percussion)”,” Antonio Ramos “Maca” (bass)”, Alexis Lefevre (violin) and Paquito Gonzalez (percussion).
In 2013, he released Tierra, composed completely by Amigo with music that combines flamenco and Celtic music traditions. It debuted at Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow in 2013. the album was recorded in London ad features musicians from Mark Knopfler’s band and the Scottish folk supergroup Capercaillie.
José Fernández Torres, son of Tomate (tomato) and grandson of Miguel Tomate, has taken the Flamenco nickname of Tomatito, the little tomato.
He was born in Almería in 1958, in southeastern Spain, surrounded by Flamenco guitars and the influence of his father and grandfather who were both accomplished musicians. As if this wasn’t enough, he is the nephew of the legendary tocaor (guitar player) Niño Miguel.
When he was 12 years old Tomatito moved from Almería to the southern city of Málaga, where he started his musical career playing in tablaos (flamenco nightclubs). It was at the famous Taberna gitana where Tomatito met two flamenco legends, guitarist Paco de Lucia and singer Camaron de la Isla, at the age of 15. Camaron, then 24, liked Tomatito’s guitar playing style and asked him to play with him.
Tomatito had to get his family’s approval to become Camaron’s accompanist. He was still a teenager and Camaron’s tours traveled the whole world. His father finally gave him permission. A few years later, when Paco de Lucia quit playing with Camaron, Tomatito and Camaron became the perfect duo, giving passionate fiery performances. Until Camaron’s death, they never separated from each other.
Camaron’s tragic death in 1992 was a serious blow to Tomatito. They had performed together for 20 years and Tomatito’s career was directly associated with the legendary singer. His first thought was to quit making music to become a traveling merchant, like many other Gypsies. Tomatito was not confident that the Flamenco fans were still interested in him and he was ready to quit forever. But one day he got a call from a promoter that asked him to be the opening act for Elton John’s Spanish tour in 1992. Camaron’s death was still fresh in his memory and Tomatito was uneasy about playing in such a large stage since he had never played as a soloist before. But he made up his mind and the audience’s response was very positive. Tomatito was offered more gigs and his confidence grew, becoming comfortable as a soloist with a unique guitar style.
Tomatito has recorded several solo CDs and collaborations with Dominican jazz pianist Michel Camilo. He also appears as guest on numerous Flamenco albums. In addition to recording and performing, Tomatito has also participated in several motion picture scores. He appeared in the movie Devil’s Advocate and composed music for the German film “Bin Inch Schoen” directed by Doris Doerrie. He is also an avid collector of world music and jazz.
Tomatito has become a soloist of major significance within the realm of the Flamenco guitar. His particular approach to both the traditional and festive forms highlights his unprecedented musical sensitivity and interpretative power. Young singers line up to record an album with him and young guitarists sweat on his falsetas. He is one of the pioneers of modern flamenco and considers flamenco to be an open kind of music. “But flamenco can’t go in other directions, because then it stops being flamenco.”
The Tomatito family tradition continued on his 2001 release, Paseo de los Castaños. It features one of Tomatito’s five daughters, María Angeles, a 13 year old at the time, who did some of the singing. Tomatito returned to his flamenco roots, playing tangos, soleá, bulerías and a taranta, but his world music interests were still present with a Turkish song, an Argentine tango chord in of his soleás and a rumba accompanied by American jazz musician George Benson.
By themselves, pianist Michel Camilo and Tomatito represent the best of their instruments, combining unmatched technical ability with natural musical sensibility. As a duo, they create music that blends jazz-infused sounds of the Caribbean with the flamenco music of Spain.
The first meeting between the two musicians was at a recording session in the early 199s. In 1998, the Barcelona Jazz Festival asked the duo to perform a duet tribute to the late Spanish hard bop pianist Tete Montoliu. By the end of 1999, they had played over forty concerts together, and soon a studio album was made. The album, Spain, received much critical acclaim, and was followed up in 25 by the successful Spain Again (released in 2006 the United States).
Recording the new album proved to be exciting for Camilo: “It gave me so much joy to see that the magic is still there after all these years.”
Camilo noted that he was thrilled to see how they both have evolved as artists. “The musical horizons we travel together on this recording are close to our hearts. It was so amazing to see how after we shared our personal feelings for each song, we simply enjoyed the self-discovery process by letting the music tell us where it wanted to flow.” The eleven track album includes original compositions, a tribute to Astor Piazzolla, jazz standards and a collaboration with renowned singer/songwriter Juan Luis Guerra on “Amor de Conuco.”
Spain Forever (Universal Music Spain) was released in 2016. The duo recorded tributes to their favorite artists such as Brazilian guitarist and composer Egberto Gismonti, bassist Charlie Haden, Astor Piazzolla, Erik Satie, Ennio Morricone, Django Reinhardt, and a few others.
Agustin Henke was born in Sevilla (Spain). He learned flamenco percussion at an early age with the prestigious Manueli Soler. Later on, he took part in shows such as “Por aquí te quiero ver” together with bailaores (dancers) Javier Baron, Israel Galvan or Rafael de Carmen, guitarist Pedro Sierra and the cantaora La Tobala. His most famous shows include La Tirana and Flamenco Republic by the María Pagés Company.
He has recorded with the greatest names in Spanish flamenco, and currently accompanies artists such as El Niño de Pura, Jose Antonio Rodriguez, Pedro Sierra, Carmen Linares, Manolo Franco, Cantores de Híspalis, and Juana Amaya.
Besides the cajón, his remarkable adaptability endowed him with mastery of the jembe, the Indian tabla, and the crótalos (finger cymbals), while accompanying himself with a half drum kit, congas, pandero (frame drum), or even tinaja (clay pot).
Today, he is one of the most sought-for percussionists in Spain, both on stage and in recording studios.
María Vargas Fernández was born in Sanlúcar de Barrameda (Cádiz, Spain) in 1947. The gypsy artist started to sing at an early age showing her great talent singing saetas, a sacred Flamenco style performed during Holy Week (Easter).
At the age of 12 she performed at the Teatro Villamarta in Jerez de la Frontera, one of the cradles of Flamenco, in a tribute to Manuel Torres. Since then, she has performed at numerous Flamenco festivals across Andalusia. María Vargas won many prestigious awards like the La Copa de Jerez al Cante por Bulerías, Placa Columbia in Mairena de Alcor and the National Award in Córdoba entre otros. A few years later she moved to Madrid, hired by Manolo Caracol for the flamenco nightclub (tablao) “Los Canasteros” and she recorded her first LP.
In the following years, María Vargas worked at other well-known Flamenco tablaos in Madrid, including “Las Brujas”, “Café de Chinitas” and “El Portal de la Morería.” She also performed regularly at most summer festivals in Andalusia and several European countries.
María Vargas’ discography encompasses several albums, accompanied by some of the most famous guitarists in the flamenco world: Paco de Lucia, Manolo Sanlucar, Paco Cepero, Manuel Morao and the Habichuelas.
In 1999 the Flamencology College (Cátedra de Flamencología) in Jerez de la Frontera gave her the National Flamenco vocalist Award.
In 2009, Sanlúcar de Barrameda named a city square Plaza Cantaora María Vargas.
Reina Del Canto Gitano (CBS S-64238, 1970)
Copa Jerez De Cante Flamenco (CBS S-64788, 1971)
Maria Vargas (Olympo L-46, 1972)
Rios De Primaveras (Virgin I-210 619, 1990)
Juerga Flamenca (Dial, 1994)
Maria Vargas y La Guitarra De Paco De Lucia (Polydor, 1999)
Flamenco singer Maria Mezcle was born in Sanlúcar de Barrameda. She is the great granddaughter of El Mezcle and a descendant of María Vargas, one of Sanlúcar’s greatest singers.
María Mezcle was immersed in flamenco at a young age. At 6 she started to dance, but she soon realized that flamenco singing was really her calling. At 11, she won her first flamenco song contest and started touring the flamenco clubs, guided by flamenco dancer Domingo Rosado with whom he took her first steps as a singer.
María Mezcle learned the classic flamenco styles of Cadiz and Seville and received a degree in Music Education.
In 2010 she released her first album, María Mezcle, produced by guitar maestro Gerardo Núñez. On this recording, María showcases the singing styles of Cadiz province: Sanlúcar, Jerez and Los Puertos (the ports).
Since then, she has collaborated with great flamenco artists such as Miguel Poveda and José Mercé and has won several national flamenco awards.
María Mezcle has toured the world as a singer with the National Ballet of Spain’s “Sorolla” show. In 2015 she released her second album titled Desnuda (Naked).
María is currently based in Madrid, where she teaches at the renowned Amor de Dios School and participates at flamenco jams.
Diego Villegas was born in Sanlúcar de Barrameda (Cadiz, Spain) in 1987. He grew up in a flamenco environment. His sister is a flamenco dancer and she initiated and guided him.
At 8, Villegas began his classical guitar studies at the “Joaquín Turina” Conservatory in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Cadiz, and then completed his Professional Degree at the Joaquín Villatoro Conservatory in Jerez de la Frontera (Cadiz). At the age of ten he enrolled in the Sanlúcar de Barrameda Municipal Academy, where he studied clarinet and symphonic percussion. At 12 he joined the “Julián Cerdán” Band, also in Sanlúcar, as a clarinet soloist.
In terms of flamenco, Diego Villegas has shared the stage with dancers such as Antonio Fernandez ‘Farru’, Ángel Muñoz, María Juncal, Concha Jareño and Raquel Villegas. He also collaborates with artists like Remedios Amaya, María Toledo, Jorge Pardo, Israel Suárez “Piranha”, etc.
Diego Villegas leads the Flamenco-Jazz Project. He plays musical instruments such as flute and saxophone. He also uses other wind instruments rarely utilized in flamenco: harmonica and clarinet.
In 2016 Diego Villegas released his first solo album titled Bajo de Guía, which is dedicated a well-known neighborhood in Sanlúcar de Barrameda. On Bajo de Guía, Villegas combines flamenco, jazz, bossa nova and Latin American rhythms.
The series started yesterday, Friday December 9th with the premiere of Manzanita’s new album Sombras y Sueños (Shadows and Dreams). There was also a performance by Lin Cortés, with his project Gipsy Revolution.
Today, Saturday 10 December, you can will be able to hear the gut-wrenching, torn vocals of La Negra, which will present her third studio album, Colores. Dancer José Carmona ‘Rapico’ will present his show Errante.
Two artists from Sanlúcar de Barrameda, multi-instrumentalist Diego Villegas and singer María Mezcle, will showcase their latest projects on Sunday, 11 December.
Flamencos y mestizos is a showcase created to highlight emerging artists who explore the borderlands between deep flamenco and mestizo flamenco through musical compositions, dance and vocal forms. The series is directed by producer, composer and singer Paco Ortega.
Saturday, December 10 La Negra
José Carmona ‘Rapico’ (Dance)