Rafa Riqueni’s path has not been an easy one by any means. A revered flamenco guitarist and composer, the suicide of his father led Rafa to a deep depression and Riqueni became a drug addict and alcoholic and he also became homeless for a period too. He also had to serve a prison sentence due to a street fight. He has since been diagnosed as bipolar. With the correct medication and support of key figures in the world of flamenco, Rafa Riqueni has once again become an award-winning flamenco guitarist and is currently touring prestigious venues in Europe and the United States. It’s the story of a survivor and a highly original artist too.

Rafael Riqueni

Born in the Triana district of Seville, Riqueni is considered among flamenco connoisseurs as “The Phoenix of flamenco” with a whole life written on the strings of his guitar. He has always been influenced by great guitar masters such as Paco de Lucía, Niño Ricardo and Ramón Montoya, as well as by the cantaor Naranjito de Triana.

He has been awarded the Premio Andalucía de Cultura, the Premio Nacional de la Crítica, the Giraldillo a la Maestría of the XVIII Bienal de Flamenco and the Premio AIE. In 2017 he received the XXXI Compás del Cante, an award that various media describe as the Nobel Prize for Flamenco.  In addition to all this, he was nominated in 2021 for Best Flamenco Album at the Latin Grammy Awards.

The composer and guitarist has always wanted to capture in his creations the authentic roots of flamenco, seeking at all times the maximum freedom of expression too. In this latest album ‘Nerja’ he takes on a fascinating harmonic conceptual angle with which he expands the currents of musical impressionism in direct conjunction with flamenco elements.

His show last night in Valencia at ‘Teatre Talia’ was a great success as he displayed himself to be a master of many moods via the guitar, playing compositions from his new album ‘Nerja’ and also from his award-winning album, ‘Herencia.’ During the instrumentals, the audience was hushed in reverence for the maestro. Indeed, he had time to dedicate one of his songs to his hero Paco de Lucia and Rafa  also modestly added how difficult it is to master the guitar “that most difficult of instruments.” He also revealed that he been playing concerts all over the world but that there was nothing like playing to the public of your own “tierra” and that it was emotional to be back in Valencia, a city he loves very much.

It was a memorable show, intimate and richly varied with melancholic instrumentals combining with more joyous passages. His way of  playing flamenco guitar is not flashy and is also without cliché. It’s truly an expression of his soul….a person who really has suffered and has risen from the ashes once again…like the phoenix.  Riqueni is a true master of the genre.  The Valencian public gave him a standing ovation and he regaled them with an uplifting encore.

Report by Will McCarthy

Article copyright ‘24/7 Valencia’

All photos copyright Mers / ‘24/7 Valencia’

More about the photographer Mers:  Instagram @mers.lrh

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