Writings and essays about flamenco

Category — Flamenco Singer and Guitarist Richard Black “Quijote”

Success Story: The Surprising Saga of Richard Black “Quijote”, Californian Flamenco Singer and Guitarist – Comments and Translation by Brook Zern

Antonio Barberán is a well-known flamenco authority in Spain, with a particular focus on the traditions of Cádiz and the nearby seaport towns.  His blog, called Callejón del Duende or Duende Alley, is a rich source of hard-core info.

Here’s my translation of his latest entry, from April 12th 2014:

“Yesterday in the Peña Flamenca de Juan Villar, I again had the tremendous honor of experiencing the song of Antonio Puerto, accompanied on this occasion by a fabulous Californian guitarist, unknown to me until now, but whom I’ll be following from now on, known as Richard Black “Quijote” in the flamenco realm.

Antonio opened with some tonás de los Puertos, bringing to mind the artistry of Juan de los Reyes and El Negro del Puerto.  He followed up with some pain-wracked siguiriyas of El Viejo de la Isla (recalling the art of Santiago Donday), and Curro Dulce, and Tomás el Nitri and closing with the version by Luís el del Cepillo.  He continued with some soleares de Cádiz by Enrique el Mellizo, and alegrías, both from the crystalline fountain of Rancapino.

The second half began with soleares of Alcalá, Utrera and Triana; fandangos de Cepero (some with verses he composed) and Paco Toronjo.  The evening closed with bulerîas de Cádiz sung and played by “El Quijote”, always at a memorably high level and sung with a compás that made it seem he wasn’t born in California at all, but spent his first days living on Mirador Street in Cadiz’s very flamenco Barrio Santa María.  All an absolute delight!!  Without the slightest doubt, both artists were [or would have been, if this had been a bullfight] carried out on the shoulders of the thrilled crowd through the Main Door of la Caleta.

I’ve included a soundfile of Antonio Puerto’s martinetes.  I don’t have more from the event, but here’s a bit about both artists:

[Omitting info on Puerto here, Barberán continues]:

Richard Black “Quijote”, a Californian of 70, living in Rota where he has fully integrated himself into the flamenco ambiente of that beautiful town in the province of Cádiz.

From what I’ve been able to learn about him, he’s a very curiosa [unusual] person.  For years, he dedicated himself to reintegrating difficult juveniles into society, and later designed sailboats, while always playing music in pop and folk groups.  More than 50 years ago, he heard a friend playing flamenco and ever since, he’s been trapped by that music.  Interestingly, one of his boats – which was his first abode in Rota – was christened with the name “Saeta” [“Arrow”; also an intense flamenco song form].

I have to confess that this guitarist captivated me from his very first notes, transporting me to the musical realm of Diego del Gastor.  He has stupendous domination of the instrument, he indisputably knows very well the songs, and he’s loaded (pasao) with rhythm (compás), as we flamencos say.  You have to hear it, since he never repeated a single falseta, his music is rancio [well aged, soaked with character], and it’s clear even from a distance that he is a chunk (pedazo) of a musician from head to foot – and it’s not for nothing that he’s nearly two meters tall.

I leave you here with two more videos where Quijote accompanies El Negro Agujetas from Rota in a soleá and a bulerías.

End of review by Antonio Barberán.  The original, with sound files, is at

http://cdizflamencoflamencosdecdiz.blogspot.com/2014/04/el-cante-caro-de-antonio-puerto.html?spref=fb

Translator’s note:  Congratulations to all, and especially our dear friend Quijote, who has indeed found his true place, true love and his true family in Rota.  

I first met him about eight years ago.  I was invited to do a show-and-tell by the admirable and indefatigable Aurora Reyes and Basilio Georges who run Flamenco Latino in midtown Manhattan, keeping the flamenco flame burning with heroic determination, important events and classes, and far too little recognition. 

 But fellow guitarist Steve Kahn, my favorite compadre, mentioned that Quijote was in the city.  I knew he played guitar, and also sang.  I suspected he wasn’t very good at the latter, but said it would be good to go get him and bring him along.

A half hour later I was in a leaky dinky dinghy, trying to help Steve row and not be seasick at the same time.  After a while we got to Ricardo’s sailboat, which wasn’t bouncing around quite as much.  It seems he was sailing to Spain, where he planned to live.  He had tied up off the 79th Street boat slip for the night.

We finally got back ashore, took a cab to Flamenco Latino, and Steve introduced Quijote.  

He opened his mouth, and Manolito de la María came out.  Manolito, long dead, was one of the greatest singers I’d ever heard, and a crucial link in the creation chain of the soleares, which is really the central song of flamenco.  Anyway, there he was again, channeled through the improbable host of Ricard Black.

He stopped and asked for questions.  I had one: “How the hell did you do that?”

He said, “Easy.  I just kept trying for twenty-two years, and never got any better, and then one morning I woke up and there he was.”  He added that sometimes Juan Talega, an even greater singer, shows up as well.

The rest of the evening was astonishing.  Quijote sang a lot.  Steve accompanied him, brilliantly as usual and in the Morón/del Gastor style that he makes seem easy when it is in fact staggeringly difficult. 

A month or two later, I was on the beach at Puerto Santa María, and the light atop Quijote’s sailboat hove into view.  He had arrived, we pulled his dinghy ashore, and we resumed our conversation, and spent a lot of time together over the following years when he came to Jerez.  He soon found a new life and a family.   He hangs around with flamencos, notably members of the Agujetas clan which is from Rota, and plays guitar for the local artists and sings sometimes.

I sometimes say that flamenco is really just stories.  This is a nice one, and the above review by a ranking expert is the icing on the cake.  Olé, amigo Richard.

Brook Zern 

April 13, 2014   3 Comments