When the sparkling flamenco fusion album Orillas hit my desk, I sprung into action to get in touch with the author. And then nothing for over a year. It was worth the wait though as we get the skinny on his new album…
So how does a Frenchman get into Flamenco, I asked Juan Carmona, “It was during traditional family celebrations when I was a child. I longed for Christmas because I knew that my uncle who played guitar would let me play with him. Whereas the other children waited with impatience for their gifts, I waited for him to lend me his guitar. So my father gave me a guitar.”
So it’s important to know this people’s history to understand the words and the flamenco codes
Juan may not be Spanish but he has a blood tie that connects him directly to the music of the gitanos, “I’m lucky to have been born gipsy. And the fact that I was born in France allowed my music to sound with a different color. It has also allowed me to meet different people and to open my music to jazz, to classical music.” Juan contrasts his eclecticism with the often more closed attitude of many Spanish musicians for whom purity is all.
Having said all that, Juan proudly confides, “I think I have won the flamenco performers’ recognition. Take my albums, for example, a lot of flamenco musicians have participated in them (Macanita, Agujetas, Montse Cortes, Potito, Antonio Canales). It is proof of Flamenco’s universality.
Orillas opens up to Oriental music (Il Han), to jazz (Juncales) and to flamenco (Noche)
“It is important to understand the flamenca philosophy because this music is bound to a certain style of life. Flamenco music is the history of the gipsy people. The “letras” (lyrics) testify to this. So it’s important to know this people’s history to understand the words and the flamenco codes.”
So it is not surprising that he cites the don of flamenco guitar as a major influence, “Paco de Lucia is the flamenco genius because he gave birth to a new generation of musicians…” And then in the next breath he spreads the net further: “Eric Satie, Pat Metheny, Astor Piazzolla…”
Orillas, which was his last album, was an ambitious mestizo project, “I tried to explore the common points between the different musical forms based on the following postulate — The more you listen, the more you get out of it. So I decided to do something new. Orillas opens up to Oriental music (Il Han), to jazz (Juncales) and to flamenco (Noche).”
In keeping with the international flavour, the recording itself took place in three countries: Morocco for the Moroccan and gnawa part (RE-RE system); Spain for the flamenco part and France, with the classical musicians and the Chemirani trio (Iranian percussion).
Not content with breaking all that ground, Juan has roped in a variety of orchestras for his new project, “I have composed a new creation Sinfonia Flamenca, performed by different orchestras (Russian Philarmonic, Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra, The Symphony Orchestra of the Marseille Opera) and my group (the Juan Carmona Grupo). Sinfonia Flamenca is a masterwork in which guitar is queen, it is a meeting between two worlds: classical written music and the pure Andalusian oral tradition.”
Despite ambitious recordings and a worldwide touring schedule, Juan expresses great concern about declining sales in the record industry and he is particularly concerned that flamenco artists will be the first to suffer as record industry bosses ditch the less fashionable forms of music.
Let’s hope he is wrong.
Sinfonia Flamenca is on international release February 23, 2006
See Juan Live:
- 21 & 22 March 06 — Festival de Guitare / Tunis
- 24 March 06 — Salle Jacques Pr?©vert / Carros
- 30 March 06 — Sinfonia Flamenca avec l’Orchestre National de Lyon Auditorium de Lyon
- 1 April 06 — Aix en musique / Aix en Provence
- 8 April 06 — Toulouse
- 4 May 06 — Concert Exceptionnel Sinfonia Flamenca avec l’Ensemble de Basse Normandie Salle Gaveau / Paris
- 14 June 06 — Sinfonia Flamenca avec l’Orchestre de l’Op?©ra de Toulon Chateauvallon