Mexican with a Guitar and Song
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.”