Adam del Monte part of the Chicago Guitar Music Festival.
October 13 | World Music Wednesdays | Old Town School of Folk Music

“My physical body was born in Israel, but my soul was born in Granada” says Adam del Monte. He explains to me how Adam Kofler became “Del Monte” i.e., “from the mountain”. His father was a painter with wanderlust who led the family to Spain for several years when he was a toddler, so the language and the music of that part of the world formed his earliest memories and what he has always considered his natural environment. Later in his childhood, he spent months at a time with gypsy friends of his parents in the city of Granada, living in the caves of the hill named Sacromonte or the “sacred mountain”. In that hill next to the ancient Arabic quarter of the Albayzín, as of the 19th century gypsies had excavated caves for homes and for flamenco performance spaces.

Gypsies and their music are woven into centuries of the history of Granada, where flamenco seems to emanate from every meandering path one can take. The city is also home to some of the finest guitarmakers in the world. At about seven years of age, Del Monte watched Francisco Manuel Diaz build a guitar, and the creation of the beautiful instrument moved him to decide to play the guitar. His first “professional” performance occurred at age nine, when he played with a friend in a Sacromonte cave for two dollars a night.

Flamenco is much more than guitar playing and the percussive dance we so often associate with it, says Del Monte: “Above all”, he affirmed, “it is a way of life with a multi-faceted feeling… Not any one aspect of the flamenco –  whether it´s guitar, cante (song), dance, palmas (rhythmic clapping) or jaleo (shouts of encouragement) can express the totality of it´s being.” Each facet of the art, he explained, reflects the other: … “the cante, is the fountain of flamenco´s spirit, where everything else comes from…the dancer´s footwork embodies the guitar fingerwork and phrasing, the dancer´s hands describe the lyricism of the music and the passion and pain of the singing, and simultaneously, the guitar in its rhythms and strumming, reflect the dancer´s footwork.”

In the course of his well-established flamenco guitar career, Del Monte has explored many different rhythms – jazz, middle-eastern, Eastern European, Brazilian, Latin – but his heart remains truest to the music imbued with the spirit of those nomadic peoples who first came to Spain in the 15th century, and having survived centuries of discrimination and persecution, came to make their homes in the caves of Sacromonte.

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