“Move a little closer, I feel like I'm
giving a correspondence class”, says the
maestro to his student. He likes to be close enough
so he can reach out and place errant fingers into
their proper position.
The maestro is Manuel Lozano Gómez “El
Carbonero” [Jerez de la Frontera, 1949],
an affable man with a great sense of humor. He
is, without a doubt, the best-known flamenco guitar
teacher in Jerez. It seems as if almost all the
top young guitarists from Jerez have studied with
him at one time or another. But it's not just
Jerez natives who attend his Escuela de Guitarra
El Carbonero. At any given moment you can find
students from France, England, Japan, the USA,
Italy and Canada among other countries. Many of
these students speak little or no Spanish; the
music is the medium of communication. His students
range in age from ten, to over sixty years old.
The walls of his school are covered with pictures
of him accompanying some of the most respected
figures in flamenco: El Chocolate, Chano Lobato,
Rancapino, Luis El Zambo and others. Today Manuel
Lozano was kind enough to take time out from his
busy schedule to answer a few questions, and he
graciously put up with my fractured Spanish.
Manuel, how long have
you been teaching flamenco guitar in Jerez?
Well, I've been doing it for about 27 or 28 years.
Who are some of your
more illustrious former students?
Illustrious illustrious, or well-known? Because
there are a lot of people that play the guitar
very well but are not that famous. But starting
from my beginnings… well there's Ramon Trujillo,
Manolito Parrilla chico, son of my friend Juan
Parrilla…there's Diego Amaya, Pascual de
Lorca, Alfredo Lagos…Moraito Chico's son Diego…to
lay a foundation, and later on he continued with
his father, Niño Jero's son, Domingo Rubichi,
Juan Diego Mateos, and many more.
Carbonero with Chano Lobato
was fortunate enough to play for
El Viejo Agujetas…Tío Borrico, Terremoto…”
At what age did you start playing the guitar?
Well, I began relatively late, because initially
I started out as a cantaor. My father was a cantaor
and I wanted to be one too but… I started
playing when I was about 17. My father bought
me a guitar and from that point on I studied with
Rafael del Águila. Rafael also taught Parrilla
de Jerez, Paco Cepero, Gerardo Núñez,
Niño Jero, Antonio Jero. Anyway, a lot
of guitarists, and not just from Jerez, but from
around the province.
It seems to me that
Rafael del Águila is not well-known outside
No, no … Javier Molina was [well-known] because
he went outside of Jerez and played a lot at festivals,
but Rafael was kind of a strange person. He was
a barber here in the Plaza Arenal… He played
the guitar because he liked it, but deep inside
he didn't like the flamenco ambience. I never
had any long conversations with him being that
I was a kid and he a older man, but I came to
the conclusion that if Rafael hadn't taught the
guitarists that he did, his name would have disappeared
– it's only through them that his name remains
alive today in the world of flamenco. Rafael never
became well-known nationally or even regionally
because he never left Jerez, and the other thing
is that he never recorded. It's not like now where
you can record just about anywhere, even at home,
with good quality. Back then you had to go to
Madrid or Barcelona. According to stories that
are told, he was going to record. They took him
to the station, got him his ticket, and with suitcase
and guitar all ready – when the train arrived
he said, “No, no way, I'm not going”.
And he went home. You met him, that's why you're
laughing, you know it's true.
Did Rafael learn from Javier
No, I don't think so… he wasn't much of a devotee
of Javier. I don't know why.
You said that your father
was a cantaor, didn't you?
Yes, my father was a cantaor, Eduardo El Carbonero.
He had a coal business and sold coal. He was mainly
singer of saetas, but he also sang other flamenco
songs. He didn't need to go here and there to
sing because he had his business. When butane
gas came into use, the sale of coal disappeared
and then he devoted himself more to flamenco.
Who are some of the cantaores
that you remember from your childhood?
When I first started out I was fortunate enough
to play for El Viejo Agujetas… without even
knowing who this man was and what an important
figure he was…I was just a kid. I played
for Tío Borrico, Terremoto, and some less-known
artists from Jerez like El Berza, El Juanata,
and almost everybody from that era.
enough, the cantaores from the countryside around
Jerez are not like the typical cantaores from
You give guitar classes
seven or eight hours daily, you continue to play
professionally, you have a family, you just recorded
a CD with Cristóbal de Palomar. When do
you have time to play for yourself – just you
alone in a room?
Unfortunately, I have to say that I don't have
much time to devote to myself. I want to record
a solo CD, but the school absorbs all of my time.
I hope that some time in the not-too-distant future
I'll have time to record a CD, I think I will.
Right now I have to find time where there just
isn't any, for performing… I finish up here
at nine-thirty or ten o'clock at night and have
to rush off… the truth is I don't have time
Luis el Zambo with El Carbonero
Tell me about the CD
that you've just recorded with the cantaor Cristóbal
del Palomar, “De Andalucia a Jerez”.
It doesn't appear to be the typical cante of Jerez,
No, it isn't because strangely enough, the cantaores
from the countryside around Jerez are not like
the typical cantaores from Jerez itself. They
go more for the cantes de ida y vuelta, the Milonga,
the Guajiras; the Granainias, the Peterneras,
and all that. And this is the kind of cantaor
that Cristóbal de Palomar is. Although
he does sing Bulerias por Solea and other cantes…
but he's not the typical cantaor from Jerez.
One more question. What's
your opinion of modern flamenco or fusion?
…Well, what happens with Flamenco fusion is
that it's neither Flamenco nor fusion , or whatever,
so what there is is a mess, a confusion. It's
not Flamenco fusion; it's Flamenco confusion.
What's happening now is they're fusing too many
things, too many instruments, too many kinds of
music. They don't know what's Flamenco and what's
– it's a mess. But these are the times that we
are living in and we have to put up with it.