Biography

Carlos Montoya (13 December 1903 – 3 March 1993), a prominent Flamenco guitarist, was a founder of the modern-day popular Flamenco style of music.

Carlos Montoya was born in Madrid, Spain, unto a gypsy family, on December 13, 1903. As the nephew of renowned flamenco guitarist Ramón Montoya he seemed to have been born to play Flamenco, but it was his uncle who would be his biggest obstacle, as he refused to teach Carlos the tricks of the trade. He began studying the guitar with his mother and a neighboring barber, Pepe el Barbero, a.k.a. Pepe the Barber. By the time he was 14 years old he was accompanying dancers and singers in the cafes of Madrid, Spain.

In the 1920s and 1930s he performed extensively in Europe, North America, and Asia with the likes of La Teresina. The outbreak of World War II brought him to the United States where he began his most successful days as a musician, and frequently toured with the dancer La Argentina. Settling in New York City during World War II (circa 1941), he began touring on his own, bringing his fiery style to concert halls, universities, and orchestras.

Montoya toured year round but always returned to his homeland, Spain, to spend the Christmas holidays with his family.

Montoya's playing style was idiosyncratic. He once said, according to Brook Zern:

"I do not play the way I do to please the public, though it certainly does, on five continents so far, and no other flamenco guitarist will ever fill the Houston Astrodome as I have. No, I play the way I do because to me, that is exactly the way the flamenco guitar should sound. It seems strange to me that the unknowing public should agree, while the real flamenco aficionados clearly do not...but that's the case."

His style was not particularly appreciated by serious flamenco students, who considered it less brilliant than many others, including that of Montoya's uncle Ramón. Carlos's own favorite flamenco guitarist, it was reported by Zern, was the obscure Currito de la Geroma. That he was unpopular among aficionados owes largely to the fact that Montoya learned in a non-traditional way and that he abandoned the compás which has evolved within flamenco over hundreds of years. Many of his works do not even keep perfect tempo, increasing and decreasing in speed almost whimsically. He was admired for the speed of his picados and undoubtably found popularity on the international stage as a result of this obviously impressive pace, but to an aficionado speed is nothing without compás, the trick being to play rapid, beautiful falsettas without straying outside the framework of the rhythm.

It is his unique work that detached Flamenco as only dance accompaniment and gave it a life and genre of its own. The modern definition of Flamenco was defined by the works of Carlos Montoya.

He was known to play with a capo on the 3rd fret and on really loose strings. It is suspected he tuned down and then compensated with the capo to increase his ability to apply picado.

Montoya died, as a Flamenco legend, in the tiny Long Island,New York town of Wainscott, New York, March 3rd, 1993 of heart failure. He was 89.

His unique style and successful career, despite all odds, have left a great legacy for modern day Flamenco.
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Carlos Montoya Music Catalog

  

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