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What flamenco is NOT

Ottmar Liebert
The Gipsy Kings are in a class of their own when it comes to non flamenco music. They know what flamenco is and they made a conscious decision to move towards pop. But there is another wave of recording artists that use the word flamenco on their CD covers. These are the flamenco pretenders. I give Ottmar Liebert's 'Nouveau Flamenco' album the credit for starting the mango fandango craze, a strange hybrid of supermarket music and Latin pop. Most of it is four beat pop music, which uses the success of the Gipsy Kings as a springboard for it's inspiration.(I hope that doesn't sound too unkind, but hey, the words are transmitted to me by an alien spirit guide. I just write it all down.)

bored I saw Ottmar Liebert live in Adelaide with a flamenco dancer friend of mine. I had heard his albums but she had no idea what to expect. I sort of enjoyed it in the beginning but after a while the numbers started sounding very similar, both melodically and rhythmically. After an hour and a half I noticed my friend suppressing yawns. She leaned over at one stage and asked, "When are we going to hear some flamenco?" Well! You guessed it. We didn't hear ANY recognizable flamenco that night. His laid back BulerĂ­as didn't count. It was really nothing more than a very stylized moonlight serenade with the bulk of it consisting of going over and over unvarying chord progressions.

I remember thinking that's a good to way to stretch out a short piece and make it a long one. I also remember thinking that perhaps part of Ottmar Liebert's appeal is the inherent atmospheric nature of his music. It's a sort of floaty, meditative journey designed to take you away to another head space where there is no conflicts and people are nice to each other. There's nothing wrong with that really. The problem arises when you consciously listen to it and try to analyze it for substance. In my case, I'm looking to find the flamenco connection and always end up thinking of coconut trees and footprints in the sand. On the positive side, the percussionist in the band was excellent and was the only reason we stayed until the end. I was messing around with a file sharing client the other day and just for fun I entered the word 'flamingo'. Guess what I came up with? "Ottmar Liebert - Barcelona nights (flamingo guitar).mp3" Well, that about sums it up I guess.

To be fair, there is nothing stopping an artist from naming an album anything he likes. It's just some flamenco aficionados who feel that their territory has been encroached upon. Ottmar Liebert sent me an email saying the president of the record company that released his first CD in 1990, wanted to call the album "Nouveau Flamingo". He didn't say whose decision it was to call it "Nouveau Flamenco". But that's neither here nor there in the greater scheme of things. You can like this guy's music or not, but I have no doubt he has more disposable cash that most of his critics can poke a stick at. While he drives around Santa Fe in fancy cars, all I can manage is a 20 year old rust bucket. I feel there's a deeper message in their somewhere. In Australia we call it the "tall poppy syndrome". The harshest critics see a successful artist and will find a way to cut him down to their level. Not me of course. I criticize everyone equally.

 

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