Out of Andalusia
Before flamenco changed his life, a couple of Bob Dylan songs made up New Zealand musician Paul Bosauder's appearance at Beirut's MusicHall.
A cabaret-style, world-music oasis in the Lebanon capital, MusicHall presents short performances by musicians from a multitude of cultural backgrounds.
Along with Bosauder of Howick, the musicians included a Cuban pianist, a Palestinian who played Arabic instruments, a Romanian, and a gypsy guitarist from Spain.
The Spanish guitarist was part of the backing band when it was Bosauder's turn to take the stage as the evening's feature performer.
While the artists waited backstage for their calls, the Spaniard would play a little flamenco.
“I was blown away,” says Bousader of his first face-to-face encounter with the art.
“It was the first time I saw it up close. When you see it up close it makes your blood boil. It is such a visual element; there's so much going on.”
The guitarist played fast but the rhythm was so solid the notes seemed to fly out of the guitar, says Bousader.
“It gives you a feeling of being stuck between Istanbul and Europe. It sounds almost Arabian but it's not. Flamenco has these microtones and slightly out-of-tune notes that are put into a rhythm.”
While it also seemed impossible to play let alone learn, Bousader was inspired enough to visit Spain where he bought a guitar and a book.
“I had no plan. I went to Spain trying to figure out what direction to take. I knew no Spanish and turned up in complete ignorance.”
He returned to New Zealand and learned basic Spanish then flew back to the continent.
During further to-ing and fro-ing, his Spanish improved and his grasp of flamenco by then was enough to get him into a conservatory which enabled him to get a visa.
Spain was to be home for more than 10 years. In that decade he worked and studied with Spain's elite flamenco artists.
While he spent much of that time in Andalusia, he eventually earned the Matricula de Honor while completing his studies at the Escuela Superior de Musica de Cataluna in Barcelona.
“Andalusia is where this music comes from. It's like the blues and living in Alabama.”
As part of the Tierra y Mar tour that brings him to Gisborne this month, Bousader will be accompanied by multi award-winning flamenco dancer Triana, percussionist Lito Manez and the cante (singing) of Thais Hernandez.
While flamenco has a strict canon that determines what performers can and cannot do, flamenco has a big improvisational element, says Bousader.
“The dancer interprets the music visually but sometimes she is dancing and I interpret her dance.
“Every night of the tour we perform different flamenco styles.”
When Bousader dedicated himself in Spain to the study of flamenco, he had no idea if it would be possible for him to learn, he says.
“It's such a rich musical form. I knew it would take at least 10 years to get my head around it.
“So many nights were spent playing until six in the morning — my fingers would stick to the strings. I lived it every day.”
Tierra y Mar, Paul Bosauder flamenco tour, Wednesday, January 29 (8.30pm), Lawson Field Theatre. Tickets $55, seniors/students $47.50 from eventfinda and i-Site.