Interview with Pedro Ricardo
"You have to know flamenco to give feeling,
character and verve to a musical score"
Silvia Calado Olivo/Fernando González-Caballos
The child had in his hands a toy.
The child, brought up on flamenco since long before he was born, played with music.
And, playing and playing, he became a pianist... a flamenco pianist. There was
no escape from that adjective. Pepa Montes, a flamenco dancing bailaora, for a
mother. Ricardo Miño, a guitarist for a father. His teachers. Pedro Ricardo
Miño is sure, at just over twenty years old, that there's no escape from
the flamenco route, but he refuses to close doorways to other worlds. And he crosses
boundaries riding over the ivory keys, well aware that a non-conformist soul such
as his still has a long way to travel...
The first appearances of Pedro Ricardo
Miño's piano on stage were in the company of his father's guitar. How do
the two instruments work together?
They're very different, one is nothing
like the other, but there's a very strong bond... that the two of us are very
much flamenco performers, so we understand each other well. Flamenco is the foundation,
once that's established you can play a piano or a home-made drum...
But there are musical differences,
they're two different types of flamenco sound... What are the peculiarities of
That you can take the guitar anywhere
and with the piano you're shafted... The piano isn't an instrument that belongs
to flamenco, the piano comes from classical music. And that's where individual
talent comes in: I've liked the piano since I was a boy. And at home there was
nothing but flamenco. I couldn't play rock and roll. I'm classically trained,
though, I'm just about to finish my degree in piano at Seville Conservatoire.
My father was the one who pushed me to learn solfa. According to him that was
the only way to learn to communicate with musicians who weren't flamenco musicians,
because music is an international language.
Pedro Ricardo Miño and Chick Corea
You said it yourself, the piano is
a classical instrument. But one that can be adapted to flamenco.
They're two types of music with two
different inclinations, with two different ways of feeling. Maybe I understand
flamenco better because I'm from Andalusia, from Seville and from Triana, know
what I mean? And here the sunshine is something else, and you spend all day eating
tapas, and I think they're factors you need to feel flamenco, just as to feel
classical music you have to go to Austria, to Germany, to feel the cold.
It was hard to escape from flamenco,
but maybe the guitar was closer at hand...
Well, because of my father, there have
always been a lot of musicians coming to our home, and he bought me one of those
little electronic organs. He saw I liked it, and since I wasn't old enough to
go to the Conservatoire I started private classes. When I finally realised it,
playing around, playing around, playing around (a long pause)... I think I'm still
playing around. When I finally realised it I was already in deep.
In a world that's often cruel to
purists, have you ever had to put up with comments that the piano doesn't belong?
No, I haven't been made to feel that,
and anyone who would say that isn't familiar with this world. There have been
and are a handful of great flamenco piano geniuses. I recommend they buy their
entire discographies, listen to them all, and then come back and we can talk.
There are artists like Arturo Pavón, who accompanied Caracol, José
Romero... and I don't have time for anyone who says that isn't flamenco.
Do you compose your own songs?
All my work... everything I play in
my recitals are pieces I composed myself using a flamenco musical structure, except
for two themes which are tributes to two great guitarists, Mario Escuredo and
el Niño Ricardo. That's where the relationship comes from. As pianists
we have to base ourselves on the guitar to make flamenco music.
According to some songwriters, flamenco
requires a different musical notation because there are sounds that can't be translated
into a score...
Not at all. In music everything's been
done, everything, absolutely everything, I think it's the same as in life. But
that's not the point. Music can be written as it is, but you need to give that
music feeling. If a Japanese takes a musical score of a piece in the soleá
flamenco style, I think if he'd never heard flamenco in his life, he'd be able
to read it but it'd sound very mathematical. You'd have to be familiar with the
world of flamenco to give that score your feeling and your own style, otherwise
it would sound like flamenco but with no elegance, no verve, nothing.
Who have your greatest influences
My father has always been my teacher.
In fact you could say my home rather than my father, because at home that's what's
going on all day. (He breaks into song, reciting a flamenco copla) "Qué
amargas son mis comías flamenco por la noche, por la mañana y al
mediodía" ("How bitter my meals flamenco morning, noon and night").
Since I was a little boy. And like I said I had a classical training because they
have to show you how to move your fingers - if not I'd play with my fingers like
this... you've got to get into it, haven't you? It opens your mind... But my teacher
was my father, my mother and those great geniuses like Arturo Pavón, José
Romero, Felipe Campuzano...
I've met a few, but the one I remember
most fondly is Pepe Romero. I don't think he ever got the recognition he deserved,
neither as a pianist nor as a researcher and writer. Even today few people know
his work, though. And of course Arturo Pavón. Speaking of them is like
speaking of Ramón Montoya and el Niño Ricardo on guitar. Anyone
who wants to learn to play flamenco piano has no choice but to get their teeth
into the work of these geniuses. Pepe Romero has always followed the style of
traditional guitar, while Arturo followed more closely the singing style of traditional
flamenco cante, that's how he could create a whole musical universe with just
two notes. That's the foundation, or at least, that's my opinion. But I also like
Chick Corea a lot, he's a legend. I'm very open musically, and I like all musical
You're a very classical artist, though...
Classical in the
sense of pure flamenco, you mean? And, well, technically, yes I am.
Based on my twenty odd years of experience I think I'm
quite a purist. It's not that I think pure is better - there'll be time for combining
styles. I've been told a house must be built from the foundations up, not from
the roof down. I want tokeep a strong flamenco style, pure, that people understand,
without being too commercial. But who knows what'll happen, I might record an
album and lose it right there. But I really like the style I play and that's what
I live for.
||"The richness of flamenco is in its variety"
And what do you think of fusion?
There's some really good work out there,
which is why you have to be really careful. If you screw up you should be shot.
Groups like El Barrio or Mantequita Colorá produce good fusion, it's a
good way of introducing flamenco to an uninitiated audience. If you play a seguiriya
to a kid who's never heard flamenco in his life he'll put up with it for fifteen
minutes. I'm on the side of those who believe there's a place for many flavours
of flamenco, pure flamenco, less pure flamenco, flamenco fusion, flamenco jazz,
the same as in classical music, there are a lot of styles, baroque, renaissance...
The richness of flamenco is in its variety.
Do you think the rise of Chano Domínguez
or Dorantes could be seen as a revival of flamenco piano in the last few years?
|"In Spain music doesn't cut the ice, here what sells is the
Sure. It's clear there are musicians who are
doing great things and people are getting into it. That's because flamenco piano
has a certain attraction. And it's about time, because in Spain music doesn't
cut the ice like in other countries. Maybe you could go to Germany and everyone
knows how to play the violin, everyone knows how to play the piano, they're people
who go to concerts... but in Spain music doesn't cut the ice. Here what sells
is the lyrics. That's why I think all these new styles are healthy for flamenco,
maybe not for pure flamenco, but they are healthy for flamenco.
How do you see the future of flamenco?
Well I'm excited, I hope it's going
to break through once and for all. I'm not talking about what I do, but I hope
it becomes much more accessible to everybody. I wish the people who manage the
money and power would take a look at our culture, at the importance of our music,
the only type that sells outside Spain. Flamenco musicians are pushing our country's
culture and we don't get credit for that in Spain.
And after living and breathing flamenco,
you must have had a chance to see the bright side and the dark side of this world...
From the moment you wake up in the morning you're thinking about it, thinking
of flamenco warbling. I'm always turning it over in my mind myself, I get wrapped
up in the same problem. Maybe I'll be sitting down and a melody springs to mind...
That's the greatest satisfaction you could feel, apart from the applause of an
audience who acknowledge the three months of study that you've put into a performance...
those are the good things. The bad things? Not being able to do what you want.
(He adopts a serious tone) because
of certain circumstances. I mean I'm very non-conformist and I'm always aspiring
to something better, you know? What's important is to do what you want in life.
Suddenly Pepa Montes appears, at
that precise moment neither artiste nor bailaora, but mother. "Come on, finish
off - they're closing the theatre on us."