Book Review: ‘Duende’ by Jason Webster

duende by jason webster 18-7-13This is a coming-of-age tale about a young man going to Spain after university to discover himself through flamenco. Webster, in this his first book, tells of the two years he spent in Spain, drawn there by the passion and freedom of flamenco. He is looking for that indefinable ‘duende’, the heady mix of emotion, pathos and truth that all the very best flamenco music has. He wants his soul to be touched and to understand the how and the why. From day one he is an oddity, a blond Englishman amongst dark Spaniards, and he wants to learn to play flamenco guitar. Driven by an unrelenting teacher, slowly with aching wrists and bleeding fingers he learns the rhythms and palos. He stumbles from one crisis to another, from Alicante to Madrid and then Granada, playing guitar so much he finally has the stooped shoulders of the guitarists he admired on his arrival in Spain. He falls in love, falls in with gypsies, and sees the dark side of Madrid, but still he feels an outsider – not a Spaniard, not a gypsy, nor a true flamenco artist. It is an honest tale told unselfconsciously, he bares his emotions, shares his mistakes and his glee at the small triumphs. Finally, he discovers what ‘duende’ means to him.
5 to remember
la universidad – university
los palos – the different styles and songs of flamenco music
la guitarra – guitar
el/la guitarrista – guitar player
el compas – meter [in music]

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