Mateo's Blog

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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MUSAFIR: House Concert on November 12th in Minneapolis Minnesota!

I'm back in Minneapolis, Mn once again. I couldn't miss voting in this year's (super important) election. Plus, I do love it here; family, friends, and a great tango band, among other delights. This week, we're hosting a musical event we're calling Musafir. This means "traveler" in several languages. It takes place on Saturday, November 12th. My friend, Peter Susag, is featured playing the Afghan rubab, Steven Spaise will play middle-eastern percussion. I'll be playing flamenco guitar, mostly the Moorish palos like Danza Mora, Zambra, Tango de Grana'. It won't be an evening of fusion---we're looking for exploration, innovation, improvisation, all within a traditional framework. Its an exciting endeavor! The seating is very limited and is by invitation. If you'd like to attend but haven't been invited (bad on me!) please email or Facebook me for the address and details. We expect this to be the first of many "Saturday Soirees" that will highlight great music not easily found in a club, bar, or restaurant, or even on the concert stage.
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Celebration….and Dengue

17 September, Antigua, Guatemala HAPPY BIRTHDAYS to my daughter, "Amazing" Grace (Sep 13) and to my youngest, dancer Aaron (today Sep 17). Although I am sad to be apart from them at this time, I am heartened to know that I'll be with them both in two weeks. We SHALL celebrate! Additionally, I've been down for a week (and still counting...) with dengue. A tropical sort of influenza: fever, chills, intense headache, general sluggishness. I have given 2 successful solo performances during this time, managed by carefully monitoring rest and medication. I think I'm emerging into the light, albeit gradually. It has never felt so good to sweat, believe me! (Oh, perspire; no, sweat!) Fortunately, my room is large, bright, clean, and cozy. There is a delightful patio as well as rooftop terrace. And, the staff is fabulous, bringing me soups, tea n sympathy---spoiling me more than a bit. I am so grateful. Guatemalan Independence Day was September 15: a rainy, boisterous and joyful blowout. Not the worst time to be tucked up warmly in bed, away from the parades, the kazoos and noise makers, the fireworks. Basta ya!
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Panajachel, Guatemala

...following a glorious night of inspired cante jondo. El Chele de Cai, accompanied by your's truly----Circus Bar, celebrating their 33rd anniversary. Excellent night of flamenco puro (sin aditivos!). With wine, rum, tequila and various-to-remain-unknown-substances--- Upon arising, only one song dominates my gently throbbing head: Sunday Morning Coming Down. Thank you, Kris Kristofferson. You're, if not an inspiration, a fine consolation.
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Guate siempre Guate!

I'm baaaaaaaaaaack! Can not stay away too long. Currently, I'm residing in the capital, zone 2, at Casa Canchitas----the place with the great patio. My son, Aaron is with me for another week, before he returns to the US. He spent the summer training with Ballet Nacional de Guatemala (BNG). I rented a car for two weeks and we've been journeying to and fro between Antigua and here. I'll turn in the car when he leaves, catch the shuttle to Antigua, set up shop at Hotel Cortez y Larraz, once again. Creature of habit....(another great patio for my "office.") Both of us were part of an exciting and, yes, even Important, show that took place at the Cooperacion Espanola in Antigua, under the auspices of the Spanish government. It happened Saturday last, the 20th---Lorca pa' mi Sentir. The creation of La Cuca de Grana', who danced, sang, and delivered poetry. It was most impressive! I've been part of shows focused on Federico Garcia Lorca several times; none, however, quite acheived her focus, which, simply stated, would be: her personal relationship, as a gitana (gypsy, roma) and life-long flamenca, with the poetry, music, and vision of this fellow Granadino. She offered a powerfully unique point of view. I came in last minute, cramming for 3 days of rehearsals and setting of music---it was artistic collaboration at its best, for my part. She invited Aaron to set a balletic improv on my, mostly original, farruca. (Nothing in flamenco is truly original---we owe everything to the past masters as well as to our peers.) Aaron was magnificent; I was conscious throughout our duet of what a great moment it was for us, as father and son, two generations, to perform together, in Guatemala, at such an event. Tremendo!
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Hot Town Summer in the City

My sights are set on Guatemala, where I'm soon to return following nearly 4 months here in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It's been a fine time, for the most part. Weekly gigs with Rogue Tango are always a highlight. Solo gigs at Rincon 38, Ingredients, Cafe Latte along with weddings and corporate events are lucrative, fun, and provide me great opportunities to work on various technical aspects of my playing. Having some remodelling done on my home, too. It's time to go! Juan Pena (with enye), el Lebrijano, passed recently. My first flamenco recording was Persecucion and I've been a fan of him ever since. Another master fallen; the changing of the guard continues, with or without our participation. On the "recordings" page of this website, we've just mounted an album very personal and very special to me. It is "Invisible Chord: Six Lorca and Siguiriyas." The singer is my dear friend Greg Sagar, the interpretations are uniquely his. He's a wonderfully skilled, evocative voice with considerable strength and richness. My playing is sparse, groove-oriented, with practically no falsetas as I wanted nothing to detract from his natural expression.
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Descansa en Paz Maestro Habichuela

Just got the news: Juan Carmona Habichuela has passed. A great accompanist of cante flamenco---one of the very very best, in my opinion. Always incredibly soulful, his toque. A true Master. The world of flamenco grieves.
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Madrid Wrap

April 19, 2016 I'm on the final leg of my return to Minnesota, maybe 2 hours out. Some reflections on my recent weeks in Madrid. SHOWS: Marelu with Paco Cortes' and (top festeros!) Tony Maya and Enrique Pantoja. Her voice is pretty much gone but none of her funky, Extremenyo magic. She danced, too. I left feeling so euphoric. Rancapino Hijo w/ Antonio Higuera. Just a fabulous evening sounding very like his famous father, who was in attendance, too. Great Flamenco Flamenco! Antonio Puerto: not well known, muy cateto, super pure and real cante gitano. Guitarist Rafael Romero was tasty and simpatico. Marcus Miller: bassist of Miles Davis' fame did not disappoint! Excellent. Excellent. His band, his guest artists (Josemi Carmona, Amir, Pepe Bau), his presentation, his INSANE groove. XCLNT! Montse Cortes': very disappointing. Loved her with Canales, loved her with Paco de Lucia. Not tonight. Saw several cuadro flamenco shows, featuring friends, that were of interest and of a high level. Went to a few penyas and jam sessions. Stayed busy, out late every night. Madrid's food and wine scene is exciting. I can't remember either ever being so TOP NOTCH. I made a list of 10 favorite restaurants, new and old. Every meal was a delight and I drank very nice wine always. Antisan vermouth, too. Madrid is clean, beautiful, vibrant, buzzingly lively, safe, multi-ethnic. It has changed so much over the past 30 years and mostly for the good. Still my favorite city on earth.
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