Mex­i­can with a Gui­tar and Song

Diplomat East Africa - - Odysseys -

The per­for­mance by the leg­endary Mex­i­can su­per­star – a first in Kenya and Africa was a per­for­mance to re­mem­ber for those who love the fla­menco and re­lated mu­si­cal gen­res. RON­ALD BERA re­ports

At first, it seemed like one of those slow evenings; be­ing a week­day and dur­ing rush hour, it was in­evitable that the au­di­to­rium would strug­gle to fill up. It didn’t; so full was the room that some peo­ple had to sit in-be­tween seat rows while oth­ers stood at the back. And rightly so, be­cause the much­famed Paco Ren­tería was about to per­form.

Sit­ting cross-legged and donned in a dark loose-fit­ting shirt and African-styled trousers, the gui­tarist showed why they called him the maestro. His mu­sic was ethe­real, start­ing with the Des­per­adotheme song, and then go­ing on to play some spe­cial ro­man­tic tunes for the wom­en­folk in the crowd, be­fore stag­ing a ‘com­pe­ti­tion’ of sorts with the fid­dler.

At one point, he daz­zled the crowd with how quick and swift a wrist he had.

“I thought he was go­ing to snap his wrist. Be­cause he was play­ing the gui­tar so fast and so hard,” en­thused Miriam Waithera, an ec­static fan who came to the con­cert, which was one of many or­ga­nized by the Em­bassy of Mex­ico.

“Es­pe­cially the first song,” she added. She was speak­ing about the Des­per­ado movie theme song that had the au­di­ence on their feet and clap­ping to the rhythm.

FIRST TIME IN AFRICA

It was an out­right first. Never be­fore had the leg­endary Mex­i­can vir­tu­oso set foot on Kenyan soil – more so in Africa, mak­ing it a unique event for those who love the fla­menco and re­lated mu­si­cal gen­res.

With a rare charm that turned the con­cert into an ex­pe­ri­ence, his pres­ence on stage was larger than life as well as sim­ple and en­gag­ing as he oc­ca­sion­ally stopped to ask the au­di­ence if they were hav­ing fun.

Ren­tería, known for his vir­tu­oso gui­tar skills, is partly cred­ited with the sound­tracks be­long­ing to films such as Des­per­ado and The Legend of Zorro.

Even though it has been close to 20 years since the re­lease, Robert Ro­driguez’s re­mark­able 1995 movie, Des­per­ado, where the sto­ry­line is a mari­achi who seeks re­venge on a drug lord who killed his lover, is well known. “The guy who walked around with a gui­tar case full of guns” is the common mis­nomer of the film’s sto­ry­line here.The movie’s theme song plays in the back­ground as the movie starts and in some ac­tion scenes as it con­tin­ues.

Ren­terías­tarted play­ing when he was seven and by the time he turned 22, he was per­form­ing with the famed Phil­har­monic Orches­tra of Guadala­jara. Since then, he has com­posed over 300 pieces, churned out five al­bums, shared a stage with the likes of Car­los San­tana and Lu­ciano Pavarotti, and has had his songs fea­tured in Hol­ly­wood films.

“It takes decades of dis­ci­pline, hon­esty and prac­tice,” he said later after his stun­ning per­for­mance along­side ana­maz­ing en­sem­ble that in­clud­ed­fid­dler Em­manuel Ma­cias En­ríquez, bass gui­tarist Jorge Ber­nal Reyes, Luis Al­berto Quin­tero Arre­ola on the rhythm gui­tar and Fed­erico Foglia on the play­ing drums.

Ren­tería­calls his genre of mu­sic ‘free play.’“Be­cause I fuse mu­sic from dif­fer­ent coun­tries and places,” he said.He was on sched­ule at the time, head­ing to Ad­dis Ababa in a day, be­fore fly­ing down to Jo­han­nes­burg and then Pre­to­ria.

When asked why it took this long to come to Africa, he said: “It was all about op­por­tu­ni­ties. But now that I have seen and ex­pe­ri­enced it, I will come back. Hope­fully next year.”

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