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A Spanish guitarist and composer, Carlos Montoya made a lasting contribution to music between the 20s and 50s. He introduced the flamenco style of music as a serious form of guitar music. Traditionally flamenco music was used to accompany gypsy folk dancers and singers but Carlos Montoya changed it into a main genre of music.
Carlos Montoya was born into a gypsy family in Spain. His interest in music and the guitar began at an early age. He began studying the guitar with his mother and a neighboring barber, eventually learning from Pepe el Barbero, a guitarist and teacher. Not only was he interested in playing the guitar, Carlos Montoya wanted to learn the history of flamenco music. Flamenco music came out of the Moorish invasion of Spain. His uncle, Ramon Montoya, was a successful flamenco guitarist also. Carlos Montoya started playing professionally at the age of 14, playing for singers and dancers at the cafes in Madrid. Two of the dancers he most often played for were La Teresina and La Argentina.
Wanting to broaden his musical career, Carlos Montoya began touring in the 20s and 30s. His tours included performances in Europe, Asia and North America. He accompanied several performers including La Argentina again. He had finally made a name for himself as a flamenco guitarist.
When World War II broke out in the 1940s, Carlos Montoya was on tour in the United States with dancer La Argentinita. During the war he decided to settle in New York City and eventually became a United States citizen. In 1945 La Argentinita died but Carlos Montoya toured on his own, opening his repertoire to include not only flamenco but also blues, jazz and folk music.
His career took a different turn in 1948 when he began touring with symphonies and orchestras and performing his own guitar recitals. Carlos Montoya became the first flamenco guitarist to tour the world with symphonies and orchestras. His appearances did not stop there, he performed on television and gave several solo recitals. During his touring he recorded more than 40 albums, some with symphonies and orchestras. His albums include Flamenco Guitar and The Art of Flamenco. One of the most notable is Suite flamenco, a concerto he performed with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in 1966.
Carlos Montoya made a very important contribution to flamenco music, transforming it from a dance accompaniment to a style of its own. With his own style, he adapted it to other genres of music, all along making himself an international star. Carlos Montoya died at the age of 89 in Wainscott, NY.
Carlos Montoya (13th December 1903 – 3rd March 1993) was a prominent Flamenco guitarist and a founder of the modern-day popular Flamenco style of music.
His unique style and successful career, despite all odds, have left a great legacy for modern day Flamenco. It is because of his pioneering work in popular Flamenco music that have allowed other great modern groups such as the Gipsy Kings to take hold in all parts of the world. A few of his video recordings can still be found on YouTube.
Carlos Montoya was born in Madrid, Spain, 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 first learned from his mother, "la Tula", and then from a neighboring barber, Pepe el Barbero, i.e. Pepe the Barber. After one year Pepe said there was nothing more he could teach his talented pupil, so Carlos left to gain what he could from the great Flamenco guitarists of the time. At fourteen he was playing in the "cafes cantantes," in the heyday of Flamenco singing and dancing, for such fabulous artists as Antonio de Bilbao, Juan el Estampío, La Macarrona and La Camisona in 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. During this period he made a few recordings for several major and independent labels including RCA Victor, Everest and Folkways.
Montoya toured year round but always returned to his homeland, Spain, to spend the Christmas holidays with his family.
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 was largely due 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 undoubtedly found popularity on the international stage as a result of this technically impressive pace. However, Montoya's playing is often criticized by flamenco traditionalists for having more flash than musical substance. 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 on March 3, 1993 at the age of 89 of heart failure in the tiny Long Island, New York town of Wainscott, New York.