Stringing my Life Together: Purishpa takini, takishpa purini.

More flamenco violin!
2009/06/10, 15:13
Filed under: Flamenco Violin

I found another flamenco-inspired group using violin!!

Go to the video section for the track “Abismo” from the album Buscaré.

The violinist is Richard Olejniczak, though I couldn’t find any specific information about him, other than what is on



A quick hello!
2007/11/15, 02:13
Filed under: Flamenco Violin, Global Music Ed, Thoughts

So the last few months flew by very fast. The autumn has flirted with winter and summer here…strange temperatures and fluctuations…fickle weather of Central New York. One day it is sunny and pushing 60 degrees, when just a few days ago it was beautifully snowing (although nothing stuck). Most of the leaves are off the trees, and there’s that sweet smell of decay in the air. I went to Beaver Lake the other day with my friends and enjoyed a cheery yellow and red carpet on the forest floor.

Fall is my favorite time of the year in New York.

So anyways, student teaching has been quite the experience…and so has applying for graduate schools!
I’ve been trying to work on my arrangement of a mariachi song for string orchestra (and possibly harp, trumpet, voice, and guitar) and soon I will be preparing for presenting some of my research at the SAM conference in San Antonio!

As far as something flamenco related, I’ve heard wind of another flamenco violinist from Kristin Molnar…

That’s all for now! Time for working on graduate applications some more 🙂

Malabarista de Semáforo
2007/04/15, 02:36
Filed under: Flamenco Violin, Global Music Ed

Malabarista de Semáforo (from De La Felicidad) is the piece I focused on for my project for the Global Music Education course.

The performance in class last week went pretty well (I transcribed about the first 40 seconds of the piece…covering the main themes but not overburdening myself with the solo sections, at least for the time being since it was just a short performance we were supposed to do). I really love this piece! Ara is awesome!

Attached is a .pdf of my basic analysis of the piece, along with some observations I noted about the violin and how Ara plays and sounds.

Pretty much I just noted the different sections that I heard and tried to describe them.

In the harmony section I am reading in the Teoría Musical de Flamenco by Lola Fernández, she writes that Flamenco uses the Modal System (Phrygian, majorized Phrygian, Ionian, mixed modes, Flamenco mode), Tonal System (Major and Minor), Modal+Tonal System (Flamenco mode with either a major mode/bimodality, or a minor mode).

Ms. Fernández refers to the (Mi)E Phrygian (E, F, G, A, B, C, D, E), the “majorized” E Phrygian (E, F, G#, A, B, C, D#, E), and the flamenco mode (E, F, G#, A, B, C, D, E). If a triad is made of each step of the flamenco mode, the chords/triads are I – Major, II – Major, III – Major, IV – minor, V – diminished, VI – Major, VII – minor.

I believe that Malabarista de Semáforo is in the flamenco mode of Mi (or E), with some accidentals, ornaments and embellishments created by Ara Malikian and the guitarist José Luís Montón.

The flamenco rhythmic system is probably one of the very hardest for me to catch on to at this point. I understand it, but the application of it is very hard for me! I’m thinking that this particular piece is following a Soleá form, or at least from the family of the Soleá, but I may be wrong.

As for the title, I’m not quite sure how to translate it. “Traffic Light/Semaphore Juggler”, “Juggler of the Semafore” (???) Maybe it has to do with the traffic light alternating three colors like the juggler will juggle at least 3 balls or objects? Maybe in the piece it has to do with the alternating solo sections or how the two musicians perceived the form or structure? Or maybe none of what I am thinking? Ahh, who knows!


Can a musical spirit exist with different instrumentations?
2007/03/31, 20:44
Filed under: Flamenco Violin, Global Music Ed, Thoughts

So yesterday, I received the comment on my last post by Zata, who expressed the idea that true flamenco would never include violin.
I responded back to Zata, but even as I woke up this afternoon to a pale sunny day (isn’t spring break great!?) I’m still nagged by this question of authenticity and what is essential for a work of music to still be considered in the style of something specific, like flamenco for example.

Does music ever stay the same from its inception? How much change can happen before it doesn’t morphe into something else? How is the spirit of music expressed, no matter what instrument is used? Are there some genres that depend more on instrumentation and others which depend less on it?

I tried looking within to explore some of these questions.
What types of instrumentations could still be considered rock? What makes rock? Can a string quartet be rock?
How about pop music?
And since I’ve been studying mariachi along with flamenco, what about mariachi music?
What needs to stay intact to be mariachi.

Perhaps some of these inherently require instruments…for example, electric guitars for rock…a singer for American pop music…and the violin, guitarrón, vihuela, and guitar for mariachi…but then can the addition of something non-traditional change that?

If flamenco is played by a guitarrista, cantante and bailadores, can it still be flamenco with just the addition of violin? What about percussion? I mentioned earlier how the cajón was introduced in the 1970s from someone who had seen it in Peru and felt it would sound good with flamenco. Even the castañuelas, castanets, which are commonly and almost exclusively associated with flamenco, were new at one time in the last 100 years. [Scottish Arts Council]. The guitar/guitarra may not have been an original member of the flamenco tradition. Some sources say flamenco was originally the singing and the palmas, and the guitar came later.

“It can not remain stagnant, because its eclectic origin is an undeniable fact,” writes Luis Clemente on, “Flamenco is all about absorption and metabolism. The concept of fusion is very old.” [Flamenco: 200 years young].

“Clearly, those that have made their mark on history are those that have blazed their own trails…” [Clemente, Flamenco:200 years young].

Even from what I’ve read about the gypsies…how they had traveled so far, absorbing remnants of the cultures they passed through or where they stayed…the conversion of many to Christianity…and Spain’s history, show how cultures have mixed and so have their arts and musics. One of the most surprising and interesting parts of Spain’s history I learned there were the mixing and clashing of cultures… The mixed architecture, the Moorish, Jewish, and Christian traditions and people…and even the Basque, visigoths in the Extremadura region, Gallegos, Catalán, Valencianos, and people from Andalucía along with the Castellanos.
I guess these things are captivating to me being an American (and by that I mean a Mexican-Italian-Spanish-English-German-Irish-Scottish-Portuguese-American, with my given name that is Hebrew, French, and a Spanish surname). I had babysitters who were Native American and from India. My life has been all about the contributions of so many. If something is easily categorized in a neat little package, I almost always feel like something is being overlooked or neglected! Most people view things the opposite.

To what extent is hybridization and hyphenization a good and/or bad thing?

What are the benefits and the disadvantages of being a purist vs. a fusionist?
Can a violin play flamenco and capture the aesthetics and essences valued in this genre? Why or why not?

“It is not true that certain types of music have existed in a sort of static form within its own culture from the time the culture came into being and up to more recent times, or that this is the first time that people have borrowed from each other…and then took a chance by breaking with the accepted norm.” [Einar Solbu, “A Performance Perspective.”]

“You should not change things that are classic. You should leave them intact….It is not good for humanity for everything to be the same….But there are some limits….On the taco, put salsa de tomate, salsa verde, salsa de chipotle, put whatever salsa you like. But just don’t put ketchup.” [Nati Cano, from Daniel Sheehy, “Mariachi in America”].

Flamenco Violinists
2007/03/30, 03:46
Filed under: Flamenco Violin, Global Music Ed

It’s kind of funny that I picked flamenco violin to investigate. Most people haven’t even heard that it exists, but for some reason I just figured…why not!? It’s like I was blindfolded and found my way instinctively across a busy street!  A friend of mine and Giovanni’s, Chris, showed me some of his flamenco CDs and told me about The one interview on with Ara Malikian is what started me on the search of who was out there in the flamenco violinist world…if that even existed!

The following are violinists (or bowed string players) that I found by…
a) searching the musicians database on,, and
b) asking around in Madrid and looking in the Guía del Ocio. One of the guitar luthiers (José Romero) had a musicians database that listed just Ara Malikian and David Moreira under flamenco violinists.
c) Granada (Gran Vía Discos flamenco store). I asked the clerk…”show me the flamenco violinists,” and her reply was…”Well…Ara Malikian…He’s the only one!” (Later I find out, he’s practically the only SOLO flamenco violinist…many of the others collaborate with other musicians/groups, or kind of freelance and experiment with it).
d) Other websites like,,, and

** Ara Malikian (Armenian, moved to Spain in 1999) [Sample recordings: De La Felicidad and Manantial]
** Bernardo Parrilla (Born in Cádiz of Gypsy family, brother plays flute in flamenco.) [Sample Recording: Tomatito’s Guitarra Gitana ]
** David Moreira (plays for Casa Patas tablao) [Sample DVD: Casa Patas – Furia Maya].
** Luca Ciarla (from Italy,, [Sample Recording: Rosso Gitano]
** Laurence Stevenson (Roger Scannura and Ritmo Flamenco,, [Sample Recordings: ¡encore! and Noche Flamenca].
**Kristin Molnar She’s got quite the biography! (Born in Paris to Hungarian and Roma/Gypsy parents and began violin at age 4. Has been featured with flamenco group in Montreal, Peña Flamenca.
Alexis Lefevre (Born in Paris, raised in Italy, 2000 moved to Seville)
Jallal Chekkara (violin, lute, cante)(Moroccan (Tetouan), father and grandfather very involved with the music scenes in Morocco and Andalusía)
Nicasio Moreno (cello, 1989 Arte y Artistas, Catalina’s page)
Batio (cello, listed in Casa Patas flyer).
Faiçal Kourrich (found on A Moroccan violinist who has collaborated on some flamenco works).

I have had the pleasure of being able to communicate through emails with Roger Scannura, Luca Ciarla, and Kristin Molnar, and hope to be able to talk with them more along with contact a couple other players!

Neptune KristinMolnar LaurenceStevenson LucaCiarla

I’ll write more about their playing in the future!

More snippets of Gitano background/history…
2007/03/30, 01:23
Filed under: Flamenco Violin, Global Music Ed

“A culture suspended in time.” [Bustamente, 1998].
Supposedly older than the Greek/Roman and the Christian/Judaism traditions…perhaps one of the oldest “ethnic groups” of the earth.

Gypsies/Gitanos were once thought to have been from the Byzantine Empire and Egypt (Egipto, egipcianos, gitanos…Bustamente highlights the relations between the words), but upon further research their origins are linked to Northern India…most likely in between the Indo and Ganghes rivers, and the states of Punjab and Rajastan.

There are two terms used for the gypsies in Spain…one is gitano and the other is cíngaro/zíngaro. Gitano is used to describe the gypsies in Andalucía, while the cíngaro refers to the gypsies in the Cataluña region (Barcelona). Although some suspect that the gitanos were the gypsies that traveled from India, through the Middle East, Byzantine Empire, Egypt and North Africa up into Spain, and the cíngaros accumulated some European cultures as they crossed Eastern and Western Europe into Spain through the Pyrenees mountains, the Spanish government never really differentiated between the two. [Bustamente and Monleón].
The gypsy culture, as is evident of the rate of illiteracy, is a culture that relies heavily on oral tradition and that has little documentation of what has happened over the centuries.

– Appr. 1500 years BCE, the ancestral tribes of the gypsies lived in India with the Brahmans for some time, but many decided to leave in the diaspora/migration/exile because the Brahmans had created a society of castes which the gypsy tribes remained outside of, eventually becoming the “untouchables.” One of the first places they populated was modern day Afghanistan.
– 1400s: Many had converted to Christianity while in the Byzantine lands. Arrived in Spain. (Supposedly the first document referring to their arrival in Spain is from 1447 [Scottish Arts Council]).
– 1492: Reyes Católicos/Ferdinand and Isabella persecuted not only the Jewish and the Moorish people during the Inquisition, also the Gitanos, even though many of them were Christian. Were persecuted on the grounds that rituals they retained from their original culture were accused of being pagan or witchery. [Bustamente].
– 1558: Ghettos for gitanos constructed. Spaniards wanted the gitanos to leave their nomadic lives and moutain homes and live in the outskirts of cities.
– 1631, 1692, 1783: Phillip the IV and Carlos II passed other laws trying to dictate how the gitanos should live (ie. prohibited to wear traditional clothes, etc.). Carlos III tried to integrate them as “neocastellanos” to end the nomadic lifestyles. [Monleón].
– 19th century: Become a focus of the romantic fixation of exoticism and exploitation of “exotic” lands. Positives and negatives.
– 1869-1910: Flamenco’s “Golden Age.” A time when the shows were beginning in the cafés cantantes (cafés with singing). These later became the tablaos [Scottish Arts Council].
– 1922: Manuel De Falla, a famous Spanish composer of the Post-Romantic and early 20th century musically connects flamenco and classical art music. He also organized a contest for “cante jondo” (profound singing) in Granada. [Scottish Arts Council].
– 20th and 21st Centuries: As of the last several years at least, the Spanish government and other organizations have been created to address the interests of the Gitanos. For example there is the Gypsy Secretorial Foundation, and the Interantional Day of the Gypsies: April 8th.

The violin has traditionally been associated with the gypsies of Eastern Europe, and the guitar with the gitanos of southern Spain…but recently the violin has been incorporated into flamenco. Flamenco has been going through some changes, some being purists and believing it should be traditional, but other things like flamenco fusión have been created.
The cajón, or percussion box is an introduction from the mid twentieth century – introduced by Rubem Dantas, who felt it fit in flamenco, after a tour in Latin America (Perú). It soon became a staple in flamenco instrumentation. (1970s or 1980s, I’m guessing?!?!) []
Other non-traditional instruments that are used and have famous flamenco players are electric/jazz bass, double bass, piano, sitar (CONNECTION WITH INDIA!), lute, accordion, saxophone, flute, cello, tabla (CONNECTION WITH INDIA!)
Flamenco fusión also refers to hybrids of flamenco with other genres such as electronic chill (Chambao), jazz, rock, blues, pop, hip-hop, reggae, rap, salsa, bossa nova, and Cuban tres (Cuban music) among others.

OJOS DE BRUJO – An example of a band that is a flamenco hybrid. Mixed with reggae, rap, hip-hop and other styles, usually described as flamenco hip-hop. They are based in Barcelona. Unfortunately, Gio and I weren’t able to see either of the two concerts they had in Madrid while we were over there 😦

GypsyMigration ReyesCatolicos PlazaMayor

Initial Aesthetic Response
2007/03/23, 13:12
Filed under: Flamenco Violin, Global Music Ed

So I wanted to mention a little bit about my first experiences with flamenco and flamenco violin.

I first listened to Ara Malikian’s music on my discman, walking out of my apartment in Madrid and down to the subway. It had this energy that was indescribable! The sounds, the modality, the virtuosity, and the weeps and sighs from the violin and guitar just overtook me. When I listen to his music, specifically the piece I am doing for this project, I see the colors of “wine” red and like, goldenrod…swirled together! I sometimes get the images of a violin in a dark room with just one light on a stage. I thought it was captivating and so cool!! It altered my step as I was walking down the street to the El Carmen subway stop.

As for an actual flamenco show, I only was able to see one. Most of the ones in Madrid were for tourists, and were expensive! Plus, I would need much more time to be accepted (or even try to be!) into the gitano (gypsy) community where I would even be allowed to go into an actual gitano venue. There are a lot of tensions between the Spaniards and Gitanos…which I will delve into later. I also had been holding out hoping to catch a show with a violinist, but that wasn’t so easy. Most of the ones I found happened within days before I arrived in Spain and after I left to return to New York.
The one I saw in Granada was great though. It was for tourists, but supposedly in the gitano neighborhood (Albaceín ), which had an amazing view of La Alhambra (My banner is a picture I took of Albaceín from La Alhambra the next day). You can visit the webpage at
We were set up in a reproduction of the cueva, or cave part of a house that gitanos traditionally have as part of their homes. Dancing was the focus of the event, even though I was more interested in the music. It was something someone can easily get lost in!! Especially with the counting and clapping.

I miss the subway, walking around town, jamón serrano, and sangría.

Eastern Market Street in Albacein Granada La Alhambra Decoraciones Flamenco Baile Sangr�a