On a sweltering late August afternoon in the center of Madrid, workers are putting the finishing touches to what will be the first educational institution anywhere to offer an undergraduate program in that most Spanish of art forms, flamenco.
Uflamenco, or the University of Flamenco, has taken more than a decade to get off the ground, explains Antonio Suárez Salazar, the 59-year-oldcantaor, or singer, better known as Guadiana, as he leads us into the welcome cool of the four-story building that in October will open its doors to around 400 students of flamenco dance, singing and guitar from around the world.
Waiting for us inside is Pepe Habichuela, one of Spain’s finest contemporary flamenco guitarists, and patriarch of the Carmona family, from which sprang the three members of the now-defunct group Ketama, which played a lead role in reviving and popularizing flamenco three decades ago.
With him is Pedro Ojesto, composer, performer, and founder of the Escuela de Nuevas Músicas, one of Spain’s most-respected private music colleges. Along with the Carmonas and other partners from Spain’s leading music schools, Ojesto has been a driving force behind Uflamenco.
“We are going to attract the best here, and provide students with the highest level of training possible,” says Ojesto, who a decade ago published Las claves del flamenco (The fundamentals of flamenco): “The first book to codify every flamenco style in a format that music students can understand, using the same approach as at Berklee, with the goal of providing an understanding of every aspect of flamenco, both musically and technically.”
“We are going to create a sensation here,” says Habichuela, looking round the empty rooms, smiling.
“We’re going to attract students from around the world. That’s why it’s been so important to get official recognition for what will be an innovative program that integrates dance and music,” adds Ojesta.
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