Carlos Montoya

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Carlos Montoya (13 December 1903 – 3 March 1993) was a prominent Flamenco guitarist and a founder of the modern-day popular Flamenco style of music.

Contents

Early life and career

Carlos Montoya was born in Madrid, Spain, into a Romani family, on December 13, 1903. As the nephew of renowned flamenco guitarist Ramón Montoya he seemed to have been born to play Flamenco, but it was his uncle who would be his biggest obstacle, as he refused to teach Carlos the tricks of the trade. He began studying the guitar with his mother and a neighboring barber, Pepe el Barbero, a.k.a. Pepe the Barber. By the time he was 14 years old he was accompanying dancers and singers in the cafes of Madrid, Spain.

In the 1920s and 1930s he performed extensively in Europe, North America, and Asia with the likes of La Teresina. The outbreak of World War II brought him to the United States where he began his most successful days as a musician, and frequently toured with the dancer La Argentina. Settling in New York City during World War II (circa 1941), he began touring on his own, bringing his fiery style to concert halls, universities, and orchestras. During this period he made a few recordings for several major and independent labels including RCA Victor, Everest and Folkways.

Montoya toured year round but always returned to his homeland, Spain, to spend the Christmas holidays with his family.

Playing style

Montoya's playing style was idiosyncratic. He once said, according to Brook Zern,

"I do not play the way I do to please the public, though it certainly does, on five continents so far, and no other flamenco guitarist will ever fill the Houston Astrodome as I have. No, I play the way I do because to me, that is exactly the way the flamenco guitar should sound. It seems strange to me that the unknowing public should agree, while the real flamenco aficionados clearly do not...but that's the case."

His style was not particularly appreciated by serious flamenco students, who considered it less brilliant than many others, including that of Montoya's uncle Ramón. Carlos's own favorite flamenco guitarist, it was reported by Zern, was the obscure Currito de la Geroma. That he was unpopular among aficionados owes largely to the fact that Montoya learned in a non-traditional way and that he abandoned the compás which has evolved within flamenco over hundreds of years. Many of his works do not even keep perfect tempo, increasing and decreasing in speed almost whimsically. He was admired for the speed of his picados and undoubtedly found popularity on the international stage as a result of this technically impressive pace. However, Montoya's playing is often criticized by flamenco traditionalists for having more flash than musical substance.

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