Mateo's Blog

Madrid!! Mad-Town Here I Come

I'm continuing to copy these blog posts, originally written in my old-fashioned notebook, onto the web-site. ....And a huge snowfall in Minneapolis, Minnesota over the weekend (wait! Its mid-April!). I'm at Charles DeGaul Airport (Paris) about to complete the last leg to Madrid, once again. And, glad of it! Only 5 weeks. It is 9am in Paris and I'm holding up well, so far. First day is always difficult...had a nice cafe au lait. Reading Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson (Georges Gurdjieff) again. The 4th time, but after a few decades: it seems slow and ponderous. Even pretentious. I'm half-way through it and bogged down. And now, Tony Robbins not faring too well vis a vis the #metoo Movement, which, by virtue of an 11 minute video that went viral----exposed his masculine aggression, bullying, and failure to listen/understand/empathize when most needed. Did the money he's made, and he's made a lot of it, work as a curse? The video of his resort, on Fiji, grossed me out. Ah, the joys and disillusion of growing old! obat
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Antigua, Guatemala—what is OBAT, anyway?

Beautiful (always!), dry, warm, cool nights. Playing duo guitars with my friend from Barcelona, Miguel Angel Gomez, tonight at Angie Angie. Doing a bunch of Pop Flamenkito stuff featuring his fine lead guitar but also keepin' it real (what I call real, anyway jajaja). Our Bones Are Thus. Nuestros Huesos Son Asi. Simply OBAT for short. My personal AUM. or Amen. Which really are "remates." So: remates to life, its manifestations, movements, stagnation, developments, struggles, triumphs, set backs, all of it. Freed from the concept of time. Or not. Minute by minute. Hour by hour. Day by day, by week, by month, year, phase, era, by life. But, also going the other direction: by thought, ideas, concept, impulse. Emotion, too. The physical, the emotional, the mental bodies all have remates. Remates are ESSENTIAL to flamenco.
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Antigua! I’m Coming Home!

Enroute to Guatemala. At last. Been a tough winter. My emotions are raw. Gotta chill out! Calm myself, diffuse the anger. Maybe deal with little angers early before they deepen and embitter. I can be so damn prickly. Too quick, too impatient. Slovenliness and heavy-handedness irritate me. Live and let live! Speak with good purpose only. I've been experiencing roller-coaster emotions. Intense highs and happiness. Also, dark moods of irritability, impatience, and anger. Easy for me to get wrapped too tightly. Chill the F*** Out, Dude! 1. Keep that "quality of life" distinction alive and actively work to implement it. 2. Be simpler and more direct in asking for what I want and require. Say: NO! 3. Speak less. Listen to my silence. Its time to focus on SILENCE. Past time. I'm coming full circle these days, in a lot of ways. returning to 48 years ago. Such as: 1. Rereading the works of Gurdjieff. 2. Remembering, reflecting upon, rekindling the whole "Mardan" issue. He was Guru Nanak's close friend and confidant who played the rubab. 3. Huge de-emphasis on alcohol (I Love Wine!!). 4. I've got my Les Paul Custom 1967 back! 5. Gradually withdrawing from material life, pursuit of gigs, money-money-money preoccupations. 6. Gradually moving toward sanyasi status, perhaps with guitar in hand. Nothing else feels right at this point. Ties in with #2. 7. My meditations to be musical ones, suffused with SILENCE. And a final note: last week's shooting at Parkland High in Florida that left 17 dead and hundreds traumatized really hit me hard. I'm not exactly sure why, apart from the "normal" horror of yet another school shooting. Now, as I watch the surviving teens take the lead on the issue of out-of-control gun violence----I feel a glimmer of hope. Actually, it WAS a glimmer; it is slowly igniting into a certainty, even a conviction. These brave PTSD teens are leading their parents, and all of us nattering adults towards....towards what? meaningful change? Progress? A bi-partisan dialogue in a time where liberals/progressives and conservatives/right-wingers have nothing but contempt, mistrust, even hatred for one another? We have failed them. I believe in them. Yes, I do. And so: Guatemala. 5 weeks. La Busqueda. Reflections. Meditations. Walking.
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Improvisation—Minnesota Winters—la Busqueda—Our Bones are Thus?

A word of explanation. I've been writing my blog posts in a old fashioned notebook for a few months and neglecting to post them here. So, here's to catching up! OK. OK. Now I have 19 strategies for improvisation: they're good, useful, easy to implement, "genial." Most likely, no one is interested. So, for now at least, I'll keep them, try them out, fine tune them. See what happens. Two days until SUPER BOWL LII, here in Minneapolis, Minnesota. No Big Deal!!!! A damn football game. And, frigidly cold, snowy, a real old-style winter. It has been very nice and cozy here at home, in the house. I don't leave too often. My son, Aaron, lives here, too. He's a ballet dancer. My daughter, Grace, stops by a lot. I am getting good practice. Working toward my 2018 mantra (and honoring Paco de Lucia in the process): la Busqueda. Buscando mi sonido. Buscando rapidez. Buscando la verdad. Is this my retreat into asceticism, even semi-sanyasism? We talked about it so long ago, in India---maybe 48 years ago. My connection with Guru Nanak. With Sai Baba? Retreat from commercial success into the Flamenco Jondo? To be investigated. Our Bones Are Thus.
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Booksbooksbooks

I've always been an avid reader. Mostly fiction. Arguably, more for style than content. No vampires, ETs, zombies; not so big on sci-fi. Read enough self-help for two life-times. Recently, I finished the Millenium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," "The Girl who Played with Fire," "The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest." I'm told they were trendy-popular maybe 10 years ago. Not surprisingly, I've just read them now. Great stuff! Very compelling characters, plots, full of local color. And the Swedish film versions are great, too. Noomi Rapace, as Lisbeth Salender, is a most compelling actress. In my late teens, I lived in Stockholm for many months. Played folk-n-blues on the streets and in the subways. Precious memories brought back to life with these books and movies. Now, its back to Henry Miller, a favorite of mine in late adolescence (my 1st adolescence, not now....). "A Devil in Paradise" is one I'd never read. Its vintage Henry Miller: over-blown, bloated, drunken ramblings and ravings that no longer satisfy---they just wear me out. So, at least in that respect, I've matured a little. I've a memory of crossing Turkey on the Orient Express, clutching "Nexus" (book 3 of "The Rosy Crucifixion'), which today I'd find insufferably boring, particularly when compared to the real-life adventures happening at the time. Damn! Long sentence, isn't it? He's already rubbing off on me! We'll pursue this improvisation thing some other time. Have come up with 18 separate strategies so far....
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Frozen Solea-sicle on a Stick!

Trying to keep it real, keep it flamenco, maintain the soniquete---here in the deep freeze known as Minneapolis, Minnesota. After Madrid, I spent 5 weeks in Guatemala, doing lots of shows, and just generally loving living there. I came to Minnesota for family, friends, and Christmas/New Year's. Its been very very cold, snowy, icy. Playing every Sunday with my band, ROGUE TANGO, has been wonderful. My home is wonderful (I hardly ever leave it, it seems---guitars, oriental rugs, and warmth: life's necessities). Doing a lot of teaching to a small cabal of dedicated guitar students. Playing shows at several local fine-dining restaurants. So why am I complaining? Am I complaining? NO! Of course not! I'm making important distinctions... 2017 is behind us. President Trump was, and continues to be, a huge embarrassment. After a lifetime of liberalism and support of progressive causes, this guy and his administration is very hard to take. I prefer to live outside the US. In my musings and "meditations" I've been searching for strategies of improvisation. Fun! I've articulated some 16 strategies, so far. I'm thinking of writing about them here---is it too pedantic? Too pretentious? Gotta think about it a little more....
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A Pepe Habichuela: 60 Anyos de Guitarra Flamenca

Madrid. Its a 3 concert homage to this (still VERY active!) guitarist from Granada. Tonight was the 2nd concert and I have to write about it...IT WAS INCREDIBLE!!!! Tomatito opened the show and, from his first note, the night turned magical. Then Jose Merce appeared and sang extremely well, accompanied by Tomatito and, sometimes, Josemi Carmona. Here I have to diverge a moment and say that Josemi has done, and continues to do, a sterling job putting this thing together, directing it, playing very very well---he's the glue holding it all together. My respect for this man is enormous. El Pele followed: powerful powerful. His opening Siguiriyas was accompanied by Pepe Habichuela, then Josemi and Tomatito took over. Pele can be so unbelievably compelling, entrancing, mystical even. Tonight he was all of these things. Then Ninya Pastori----true star-power. Without being pushy, aggressive, or in any way overbearing she spun a magical web that ensnared us all. (Sorry for all the "y's" but I don't have tilde on my computer) Then-----Farruquito. Predictably mind-blowing. His baile continues to deepen. He's compelling, to say the least. Fin de fiesta was a love feast. Best show I've seen in years. 1st show was excellent, I'm looking forward to tomorrow's featuring Poveda as well as Israel Galvan. BTW: Canales danced on night 1----I LOVE Canales!
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An Open Letter to my Students and Friends

I have been more than a little dogmatic and insistent in my teaching for several years now. I've insisted on directing the guitar development for my students, exhibiting a dominant focus on technique and on playing in a pure, traditional flamenco style. Because those things have been my personal focus, I've directed those that have chosen to study with me in that direction. But, my own playing reflects a strong background in folk and blues styles, also 2 decades of rock performance (tons of improvisation!), 5 years of classical guitar training, as well as 10 years of Argentine tango. When I came to flamenco, at age 32, I'd been a professional guitarist for a long time and was obsessed with the modern, the hip, the cutting edge. Small wonder I needed a strong focus on traditional flamenco style and on developing a solid flamenco technique. Technical workouts dominate my daily practice still and, likely, always will. Well, in short: I've changed. Profoundly. And,it's about time! My journey, my path, my trajectory is, most assuredly, not yours. So, first off, I apologize to each and every one of you for my insensitivity to your personal needs, goals, aspirations; for my insistence on "my way, or the highway." I do recognize that each of you are intelligent, autonomous individuals with, often, quite specific and well thought-out ideas about what you want from the study of flamenco guitar. Examples: are you desiring a career as a professional flamenco guitarist? As a soloist, an accompanist of cante (song) or baile (dance)? Do you seek to enrich your playing with some flamenco techniques and atmosphere (an injection of flamenquismo)? Is your's a more philosophical quest, like Yoga or Zen (I love and appreciate that; flamenco has become my spiritual practice)? Are you seeking more discipline and focus in your playing? Are you a hopeless Romantic, a Dreamer? Are you a combination of some, or even all, of the above? I truly believe each of us needs to take control of our own lives: to move towards what we want and what we feel we need. Of course, it can be liberating to surrender oneself to the instructor, guide, guru, whatever. Still, I believe everyone needs to hang on to a strong sense of self, throughout it all. To that aim, I pledge to help you, to listen to you, encourage you, and to be ever more sensitive to your needs. Please, I encourage you to leave a comment. It will, likely, be helpful to others. End of rant. (thoughts collected, organized, and dumped from Antigua, Guatemala)
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Flamenco Insanity 2017: Madrid

That's what I'm calling my first-ever attempt at a workshop/intensive/all-out/no-holds-barred shared flamenco experience---and it was in my favorite locale: Madrid. From February 8th till the 18th it took place, and I believe it was very successful. With a minimum of 3 hours daily of classes, shows every evening, fine food and great wine (don't forget practice time!), I was delighted to introduce a few aficionados to the Madrid I know and love. Maestro David Serva taught a funky and swinging tangos. He is a master teacher and world-class flamenco guitarist. He often dined with us, sharing stories gleaned from 60 years of flamenco life. We went out to Canyarroto, to Aquilino Gimenez' academy for intensive technical work. El Entri, as is his artistic name, is, simply put, the very best at training aspiring guitarists. He is an amazing guitarist and his students are dedicated and serious. I leased space during the day at the wonderful Cafe Ziryab (Paseo de la Esperanza 17) and El Entri also taught here, as did David Serva. Dancer la Cintia taught a workshop in how to accompany the Solea'. David brought in the fine singer Jose Gimenez del Pueblo for a workshop in accompanying the cante. We saw dancer Rocio Molina in concert---she has to be seen to be believed. We saw Pepe Torres in a concert of pure Moron funky genius. We saw lots of smaller, more intimate shows. There were even a few (very few!) hours left over for shopping and site-seeing. I did the Spanish speaking/translating as well as helping to break down and absorb the immense amount of material that was presented. I am truly proud of everyone's hard work, focus, and great attitude. With lively, fun, and dedicated participants a time such as this is pure escapist luxury!
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Madrid Report: Flamenco Insanity 2017!

Nine days since my return to Madrid. Its always like coming home. I had to leave Minnesota before the president-elect (NO capitals!) took office. I admit to feeling a little guilty being here while the US crashes and burns. My first time ever in Spain was under similar circumstances---it was 1968, I was way-too-young, seeking to avoid my 5 year prison sentence for resisting the Viet Nam war. 48 years later and we've come full circle, my 3 children are taking up activist positions, especially my daughter, Grace. I'm so proud of her, worried for her, 100% supportive,trying not to feel overly disillusioned. I've seen several nice shows already since my arrival. Three stand out. Jose Merce (19 January): was in great voice, reflecting a deeper maturity in which he does not over sing. Despite his affection for a larger band and salsa-laced catchy ditties; despite missing the late Moraito Chico's guitar; he projects a warmth and a personality that is touching. He sang richly por fandangos, solea', malguenya, bulerias to the fine playing of Alfredo Lagos. TR3 Flamencos: huh? I don't get it either. (21 [email protected] Nuevo Apolo). Farruquito, Farru, and Carpeta all together providing a 3 ring circus of non-stop fast, furious, overly dramatic, virtuosic mostly bulerias. I left afterwards completely exhausted. Compania Marcos Flores (24 [email protected] Teatro Alcala): hipster flamenco at its best! What does that mean, you ask? I'm not sure, but it provided a breath of fresh air. Lots of really old-school references, tastefully blended with cutting edge, simple costuming, minimal production, really great dancing.
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