Diego Guerrero Photo by Alejandro Lopez, courtesy of Fundarte
Like jazz, perhaps a distant cousin, flamenco began as regional music of a displaced, desperately poor and disenfranchised people. And like jazz, flamenco began as fusion, a mix of new sounds and instruments and whatever memories had been saved and brought along. It was music shaped by survival strategies.
The one constant was change.
In spite of it, perhaps because of it, arguments between ”purists” and innovators in flamenco has been, as it was in jazz, part of the tradition.
The music of singer, guitarist, composer, and arranger Diego Guerrero, 37, is firmly rooted in flamenco but informed by elements of Afro-Cuban music, jazz, salsa, and pop. His debut recording, Vengo Caminando (2016), was nominated to a Latin Grammy.
Dealing with the purists “is easy: I don’t care for them and they don’t care for me,” he said in a recent interview. “Think of Andalusia under Islamic rule. For 800 years Jews, Christians, and Muslims lived side by side. It has been a place for Africans, Arabs, gypsies, Castilians. Think about the history of flamenco. To argue that flamenco must be kept pure it’s a contradiction in terms.”