Antonio Rey
Biography, discography, Real Audio and readers' comments


“There was a lot to learn at the baile school: “Above all, to value flamenco”

Antonio Rey, flamenco guitarist. Interview

“Guitar is now at the point where playing
old-time is going to become modern”

Silvia Calado. Madrid, January 2007

Neither in Jerez, nor in Madrid, nor in Seville. Antonio Rey learned how to play the guitar out there in the big wide world. He was just a nine-year-old boy when his father, cantaor and tocaor Toni Rey, went off to Mexico to work at tablaos, galas and theaters. And he took him with him... straight to the stages. That was how “I at least learned the bases of rhythm and technique, accompanying cante and baile”. Five years later, he made a stopover in Jerez to leave for a tour of Japan with Yoko Komatsubara. And in the land of the rising sun he found another school. “I spent a year in Tokyo and since there were several tablaos, I went in search of all the guitarists who were going there to work, like Miguel Iglesias, who taught me a lot of stuff. If Manuela Carrasco came for a week, then I went after them. Joaquín Cortés came, and I went after his guitarists. I was nicknamed ‘the Spy’. I was always after them picking up on their falsetas. Ha ha ha”.


Antonio Rey (Photo Daniel Muñoz)

He was already seventeen when he got to Madrid. He performed at Casa Patas accompanying his sister, bailaora and cantaora Mara Rey, unaware of the presence of an ‘observer’: Antonio Canales. The Sevillian bailaor signed him up for his company, where he discovered another school; that of Cañorroto. “When I saw that way of playing, I flipped out. I hadn’t seen that in my entire life, that such great technique, that really true devotion to guitar, hours and hours, besides that musical quality”. The one acting as a guide for him was David Cerreduela, but he stresses that “you mustn’t forget El Nani, David’s father, who is one of the creators of this school, or El Viejín, Ramón Jiménez, Jesús de Rosario or Los Losada”.

And there, while he was broadening his knowledge, he began an intense phase dedicated to accompaniment and composing for baile. The guitarist relates that he worked “with Rafael Amargo, Rafaela Carrasco, Manuela Carrasco, Farruquito... and also doing the music for ‘Romeo y Julieta’ and ‘Tierra’ by the Nuevo Ballet Español, and music for Andrés Marín, who has helped me a lot”. And he doesn’t mind the contrasts or the styles: “I would just as easily play for Manuela Carrasco, the most flamenco artist in the world, as for a pop group”. The question was to grow in this profession. And there was a lot to learn at the baile school: “Above all, to value flamenco and enjoy flamenco without the need to put on a play. I think that to do flamenco, you don’t have to jump off a diving board. You watch Manuela Carrasco dance... and that’s the flamenco I like, just like that. I dance por soleá, you accompany me and let’s go. Nowadays there are really complex, really heavily rehearsed shows, but everything’s a little more fictional”.

-Is it demanding to play for Manuela Carrasco?

-“And more so for Farruquito. With Manuela, you know more or less where she’s going to lead you. But with Farruquito, the thing is that you don’t know which way he’s going to go and many times you like him dancing so much that you even forget you have to play. He’s flamenco at its purest; you don’t know what he’s going to do, he never sets up anything. He’s one of my idols, he’s collaborated with me on the album, we’ve done the bulería ‘Tacones y bordones’ together, which he recorded on a tiny little board we found in the garbage... He worked wonders. I’ve learned a great deal from them, especially how to be up on stage; never to relax, to be a little tense, but knowing how to enjoy yourself”.

Antonio Rey (Foto Daniel Muñoz)

Then the time comes for him to perform up front and he does so by taking part in several contests... and winning them. “A friend of mine signed me up at La Unión. And it was an important point because you go there without anyone knowing you, and you come and you even appear on the TV news”. But it wasn’t a traumatic experience for him: “I already had the experience, in theory, of facing a solo on stage because at the tablao, my father always used to put me up front at the beginning of the show. And I’d more or less overcome that bashfulness. I took it as if I were working, not as a contest”. And he acquired a taste for it and signed up for the one in Hospitalet de Llobregat, “where I also won first place”. It was harder to face the Flamenco Guitar Contest of Jerez, since the jury consisted of none other than maestros like Gerardo Núñez, Serranito and Manolo Franco. “After playing there, you’d get up in front of anybody... Except Paco!”, he exclaims with conviction.

"More than anything else, Gerardo Núñez has given me advice. He gave me complete freedom"

And Gerardo Núñez, who back then was sponsoring talents with ‘La Nueva Escuela de la Guitarra Flamenca’ (‘The New School of Flamenco Guitar’), noticed him. And he offered to produce his first solo album, which has just come out with the title ‘A través de ti’. “I recorded it at his house in Tres Cantos, those unforgettable afternoons with Carmen Cortés’s little cups of coffee. They’ve been really nice to me. I’m really grateful to them; they’ve helped me make my dream come true”, the guitarist points out. Though he contributed something more than just technical means to him: “More than anything else, Gerardo Núñez has given me advice. He gave me complete freedom. But he did step in when it was time to check things: this is a little bit out of tune, the timing’s a bit off here... They were little details, but they made all the difference”. And he even contributed his guitar! “I even recorded with his guitar, which sounded better than mine”, he recalls thankfully.

Antonio Rey (Photo Daniel Muñoz)

He got to the studio with the album still rather shaky, as he recognizes. But the desire to record was too much for him. “I wanted to die because I didn’t have any songs finished; what I had were ideas and I started putting them together like a jigsaw puzzle, I started doing beginnings and ends, but I wasn’t sure at all about it”. To help himself, “I bought myself a little home studio, the typical Pro Tools and a Mac, and I more or less got the songs under control there. Even so, I hadn’t finished the songs, but I wanted to record... I couldn’t tell him to wait a year for me. So I went with a sword but no armor”, he admits. But what at first appeared to be a disadvantage worked to his favor: “I was lucky to get to the studio with the songs open and be able to seek their endings there, always with help from the sound technician. I worked as I went along. And I think it was better, because if you have everything so tied down you don’t let your soul have any freedom”.

And moreover, he wasn’t alone... but quite the contrary. A lot of artists stopped by the studio and left their contribution. “Guadiana brought magic with his voice, Bernardo Parrilla added the violin, Farruquito stuck in footwork, I had Leo Triviño and El Londro on cante, who I love...”. And curiously, he also wanted to share with other guitarist colleagues, “since I like guitar a lot”. One of them brought Jerez soniquete, “Diego del Morao; I’m one of his greatest admirers”. And the other, the secrets of Cañorroto, in the duel por bulerías entitled ‘Con mi amigo y maestro David Cerreduela’. So he made his references clear: “It isn’t just Cañorroto, but he did mark me in one period. I’d listened to Paco, Manolo, Vicente, Gerardo... but I hadn’t listened to that such personal school. But always maintaining my distance, because copying doesn’t contribute anything. But I always really go for Andalusia, I die for Jerez soniquete”. But also for the Granada enchantment of Los Habichuela, as the rondeña ‘Al Tío Pepe’ shows: “My mother and my father, who are very good friends of his, always used to talk to me about him. They insisted that I listened to him. Of course I was really young and I used to listen to more modern stuff like Vicente’s, stuff more from my era. But when I heard him por rondeñas, it was etched on my memory. He’s one of the most flamenco guitarists left nowadays, a real wonder”.

"I always really go for Andalusia, I die for Jerez soniquete"

That rondeña is part of the section of the album which he has reserved for just simply solo guitar. But he also shows another facet of more arranged songs, more for all audiences. “I tried to make a flamenco album, but for example, I open with a rumba for people who might not stand a soleá so much, to provide a bit of a contrast”, he comments. A song in which he gathers a band of musicians of different origins such as “Cuban contrabassist Yelsi Heredia, drummer Joaquín Migallón, who plays a lot with O’Funkillo and Raimundo Amador, Irapoan Freire on trumpet, who has played a lot with Vicente Amigo...”. But he listened to his father’s advice, telling him “not to record with so many instruments. Everybody does the same thing; they bog down everything with vocals, footwork, instruments”.

And he laid down a condition: “Record whatever you want, but do three songs for me with old-time guitar”. He ended up agreeing with him, reflecting upon phrases of the type: “The way you gain respect, especially on your first album, is by playing flamenco”. That’s what he’s done, playing soleá, taranta, rondeña and seguiriya. “And then I did the rumbita and three bulerías... I overdid it a little with the bulerías!”. But it was the best framework for sticking in the collaborations; “we think the bulería is wonderful, nearly all of us are really comfortable playing bulerías”. Now then, he has “tried for them to be different by exploring, for example, in three-time rhythm, in which you often go por bulerías, but it doesn’t sound like you’re going por bulerías. You can play so much with that rhythm...”. A game which has been contributed to by first-rate percussionists such as Ramón Porrina, Sabú, Cepillo, Paquito Sanlúcar, El Negro and Diego Álvarez. “There’s percussion but without wanting to bog it down. It’s there riding in the background, but without pounding the guitar; they’re listening to me”.

Antonio Rey (Foto Daniel Muñoz)

That communication, that exercise in listening, is what the new period opening up in his career is going to be about. But it isn’t going to mean slamming the door on what he has been doing up until now; accompanying. And on this subject, he states that “being a concert guitarist has been my dream, but I’ve never felt like anything. I like guitar so much that it’s all the same for me to play for dancing or for singing, or as a soloist. You obviously go out in search of a goal and it would be my dream to go on playing solo, but I wouldn’t like to give up playing with people because you learn a lot and you have a really good time. For you to be followed is really nice, but it’s also nice to follow somebody else and listen, to have to accompany a cantaor you’ve never heard before and you find just the right point accompanying him. I’ve never felt like a specific type”.

If he’s asked what his contribution to the flamenco guitar scene is going to be, he says with conviction that “it’s all been done already”. And he jokingly calls himself “just another artist in’s Encyclopedia”. He adds that his intention is to play flamenco, not to lead guitar down another road or to another field. “Your way of seeing flamenco is contributed because it’s all really heavily investigated, although it isn’t finished... it never will be”. And he admits that “it’s really hard to make up something new. You can play with another sound, apply another technique... but in the end, you’re playing bulerías”. Aren’t there any surprises in store for us, then? And he answers that “nowadays guitar which contributes and startles you, as I say, I think just Paco can do it; he’s the only one who’s laying down the rules and saying now you play like this or now you play like that. And everyone else is behind. That’s still like that”. And the future is now clear to him: “We’ll have to go back. My father says that guitar is now at a point where playing old-time is going to become modern in the end”.

"I like guitar so much that it’s all the same for me to play for dancing or for singing, or as a soloist"

And he’s thankful that there’s Manuel Parrilla, Diego de Morao, Manuel Morao, Pepe Habichuela... who, in his opinion, “are guitarists who are upholding the essence of what playing flamenco is without having to do chords or other stuff, but rather soniquete, rhythm, accompanying, good taste, and above all, sounding flamenco”. He sums it all up to that: “After all, flamenco is flamenco. I see a play with strange, abstract superchoreographies... but when you catch a kick, a marking or a finish.... I think that’s flamenco”. That doesn’t mean he disagrees with opening up, with influences, but with nuances. “Contribute whatever you want, but having enough of the other stuff, of the flamenco flavor. That’s what Paco de Lucía has, who plays ‘Ziryab’ which is like a modern song, but then he goes like that, starts doing soleá, with that flamenco timbre... And that’s why I think he stays up there and he is and will be one of the greatest pillars of flamenco guitar”. And he thinks the same about Tomatito yes, who does ‘Spain’ with Michel Camilo, but...

There’s no more effective incentive for a guitarist... than another guitarist. “I get together with other colleagues a lot; I’m the type who grabs things and I like to meet up with people. I get together with Diego del Morao or David Cerreduela a lot to share what each of us is doing”. And the thing is that he’s reached the conclusion that “you can’t learn alone. You can improve your technique and get to know yourself, but in flamenco, since it isn’t written in a score and there are many maestros who haven’t recorded, you have no choice but to learn from them”. And he relates that the other day he was “at El Viejín’s house and I listened to him play the guitar a little bit... and out of everything he’s played, you hold onto something and you can’t wait to get home with it to use it to put together something. I think that’s how we flamencos feed one another”. So Antonio Rey doesn’t stop taking part in the most varied projects. And while he’s getting ready for the presentation of his album at Seville’s Teatro Central in March and a tour with his group in Mexico the following month, he’s working as musical director of the live show of the album ‘Olala!’ by actress Victoria Abril, besides accompanying bailaor Juan de Juan, cantaor Rafael de Utrera, cantaora La Tana...”. Courage, first and foremost. And one last confession before getting back to his rehearsals: “I’m not afraid to get involved in different projects, as long as I’m allowed to be me”.

More information:

Special feature. Listening guide. Modern guitar

Interview with Diego del Morao, guitarist

Interview with Jesús de Rosario, guitarist

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