What are the main difficulties a beginner has to deal with when it comes to learning flamenco music?
Most certainly, the understanding of all its different rhythm patterns. One has to learn how to feel them without counting the beats. Rhythm is the essence of all flamenco forms of expression: dance, music and singing. One can of course ignore it and play flamenco-ish easy-to-listen melodies, but it wouldn’t be flamenco!
Is it possible for a non-Andalusian to learn flamenco?
We can’t ignore that flamenco is an art form that was born in a very specific place in the world where a fusion of cultures gave birth to a unique collection of rhythms. The family unit still remains the most efficient “flamenco school” in Andalusia: kids learn the rhythms and the melodies during family gatherings and local festivals by imitating the adults. if you are a foreigner to this world you have to find other ways of learning: there are other doorways, I’ve been there. These are the paths I want to open for my students; I claim my outside view of flamenco culture. Everything can be learned, you just have to find the right way.
About this “outside view” of flamenco: is it an asset for teaching?
Definitely. It’s like when you want to learn a language: native speakers are often unable to explain their grammar. They are always correct when they use it, but they simply don’t know why ! The language of flamenco has strict rules that can be learned either by impregnation (the “family way”) or by rationalization (the “foreign way”). The latter is of course the method I teach.
Does that mean there is no such a thing as the duende, this mysterious spirit that possesses flamenco artists?
I’d rather talk about hard work. As Paco de Lucía used to say (minutes 7:24 to 7:52 of the interview): “Art is 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration !”