Flamenco 18 – Solo Artists (2)

In the second of our posts on solo artists we’re going to take a look at three extremely influential figures: the bailaora Carmen Amaya, the guitarist Agustín Castellón Campos Sabicas and the bailaor and maestro of bailaores Vicente Escudero.


Carmen Amaya was born in Barcelona in November 1913. Her father was the guitarist Francisco Amaya “El Chino” and her family was steeped in Flamenco tradition: many of her uncles, aunts and other relations being noted artists. She lived and breathed Flamenco from her earliest childhood and by the age of six was dancing professionally in her father’s troupe. She soon earned the nickname La Capitana. Whilst still very young, she started dancing with popular artists of the time such as Raquel Meller and by her early twenties she was starring in films. Here is a clip from the 1935 film La Hija de Juan Simón.

Carmen is one of the legends of Flamenco dance. She revolutionised the style of the time and although she also sang, it was her dancing that really stood out. She never studied dance and started out dancing in the street or in bars just to earn some money. Her zapateados, often dressed as a man, have never been equalled.

She left Spain at the beginning of the Civil War and settled in New York. She returned to Spain in 1947, now firmly established as an international star and died at the age of fifty in 1963. Here is a clip (in which she also sings) of her with her group dancing bulerías shortly before her death.


Agustín Castellón Campos was born into a gypsy family in Pamplona in March 1912. A self-taught guitarist, he was bought his first guitar for 17 pesetas (a few pennies) at the age of five, and is considered one of the true legends of the genre. His name, Sabicas, comes from his love of habas (or broad beans). He was known as “El Niño de las Habicas”, which given the silent “h” in Spanish quickly became “Sabicas”. He learned the classical style, the left hand, the chords, the arpeggios and tremolos from his uncle the great Ramón Montoya. He learnt the more gypsy style, the thumbing, rhythms and melodies from Manuel Gómez, “El Niño de Huelva”. Here is a short Soleá.

He debuted at the age of seven and by the age of ten had moved to Madrid where he was accompanist to “La Chelito”, a famous music hall artist of the time. He was immediately recognised as a prodigy. He very soon started working with flamenco artists and developing his unique style and by the early thirties was extremely well known both in Spain and overseas. Here is a later clip of him playing his famous flamenco Fantasia.

He left Spain at the beginning of the Civil War: first going to Mexico with Carmen Amaya, with whom he toured on many occasions, and finally settling in New York. He never returned to live in Spain and only made brief visits, the first of which was not until 1967. Paco de Lucía is proud to call himself one of his disciples. He died in New York in 1990.


Vicente Escudero Urive was born in Valladolid in October 1888. He was a bailaor and flamenco choreographer. His first performances were at the beginning of the 1920’s and between 1929 and the start of the Civil War he achieved great success with his production of El Amor Brujo (Manuel de Falla), touring the USA, Cuba, Great Britain and other countries. He is best remembered as a maestro and teacher. Antonio Gades (seen in the short video below) was just one of his illustrious pupils, others include Antonio El Bailarín and Rosario. He died in 1980.

In 1951 he drew up the Decalogue of The Male Flamenco Dancer, which is still widely respected to this day.
* Dance as a man
* Moderation
* Twist the wrist always from inside to outside with the fingers together
* Keep the hips still
* Dance calmly and serenely
* Feet, arms and head to be in harmony
* Aesthetics and silhouettes without unnecessary embellishment
* Dance with style and emphasis
* Wear traditional costumes
* Achieve a variety of sounds from the heart, without metal taps on shoes, artificial scenery or other accessories

Here is a short clip of him teaching a class in a film starring a very young Antonio Gades.

Next week: more solo artists.

One Response to Flamenco 18 – Solo Artists (2)

  1. Pingback: The Flamenco Series « Casa Maki

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