Flamenco - Diego del Gastor

This gypsy guitarist was born at Nº 8 Calle Ronda in Arriate, Málaga, and at an early age moved with his family to Gastor, the place from where he took his artistic name.

Diego Amaya Flores left Gastor when he was just ten years old, and went to live in Moron de la Frontera with his family, where his father, who was a wealthy horse and cattle dealer, had several businesses. Diego started to learn to read music when he was a child, but it was something that he would not continue with as he soon became interested in the flamenco guitar.

Diego once said that his ability to read a little music certainly helped him with his flamenco guitar playing, although he believed that it was necessary to feel the guitar before you learn to read.

It is said that Diego del Gastor was a simple man who was quite happy and content to lead a quiet village life and that his only necessities were food, wine, and flamenco. He would rarely leave Moron de la Frontera, as he was quite satisfied to perform at the many juergas and bars of his adopted town.

Diego's style of guitar playing was referred to as primitive or simple, but Diego's flamenco was far from simple as he was a genius who could make the guitar speak. He also had a heart for poetry and his interpretations of Federico Garcia Lorca's works were said to have been inspiring.

He was gypsy to the core, a man who treated the lower classes and outcasts with as much time and respect as anyone else, and he asked only that the gypsies be treated in the same way.

Stories abound of Diego's eccentric ways, especially of how he had lost thousands of pesetas in potential earnings after storming from paid juergas angered by a comment or action that he saw as derogatory to the gypsy race. He was said to have been financially free and he scorned fame, saying that the virtuosos like Sabicas and Niño Ricardo would think that his style was primitive and unexciting. He believed that in the turmoil of fame and fortune that surrounded these maestros, his art would be looked upon as inferior.

There have been many guitarists whose technical ability far exceeded Diego's country style, but he played from the heart and each note was so meaningful because he was not interested in showmanship or virtuosity. He style was simple, but only in the fact that it was not overly cluttered with tricky over-the-top gimmicks, something of which too many of today's flamenco guitarists are guilty.

There are a few videos that show Diego del Gastor accompanying some of flamencos greatest singers and he also appeared on many discs, injecting his own personal style of guitar, a style that was nothing short of gypsy genius. He appeared on several episodes of the RTVE series, "Rito y Geografia del Cante" in the 1960s and 70s, and on these old recordings he demonstrated his skills as probably the best jondo guitarist of the times. He was a favourite guitarist for the sisters La Fernanda and La Bernarda de Utrera as well as Juan Talega and Antonio Mairena. He once toured with the singer Manuel Vallejo, but he is reported to have refused to accompany Don Antonio Chacon because he did not like his falsetto style of voice.

Diego's guitar was a means of expressing deep feeling and it was not what he played, but how he played it. His creations were most often spontaneous, invented on the spur of the moment in true flamenco fashion and it is known that Diego preferred to play a battered old guitar, which he would make come alive and produce the most poetic falsettas.

His style was hard but clear, a slow jondo guitar that leaves long breaks and pauses and his timing was impeccable, especially when performing the siguiriyas, soleares, and bulerías, which were, at that time, the most popular styles in the small villages that surround Seville. Diego lived with his mother in Moron de la Frontera, a town that was littered with his relatives, a place that is still today full of flamenco nostalgia. Diego del Gastor died in Moron de la Frontera on the very day he was to be honoured at the towns annual flamenco festival, the 7th July 1973, a day that saw the town mourn one of the greatest flamenco characters ever to grace the flamenco guitar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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