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Passion and rhythm merge at pavilion

Kimberly Nicoletti

What: Celebrations Around the World

When: 6-8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday

Where: Silverthorne Pavilion

SILVERTHORNE – Some performers study ethnic music. Others live it from the moment they’re born.

Though Rene Heredia and Boubacar Diebate are from two different continents, they share a common theme: They both carry on a musical tradition passed down from their ancestors. And this week they’ll share their traditions with the community at the Silverthorne Pavilion.

Heredia plays flamenco guitar and shows off his gypsy dancers at 6 p.m. Wednesday as part of the pavilion’s Celebrations Around the World. Thursday, Diebate fills the pavilion with West African rhythms beginning at 6 p.m.

The passion of flamenco

Heredia learned flamenco guitar and Spanish dance from his father, a “gitano puro,” or pure gypsy. He was born in Grenada, Spain, and his childhood memories include a house full of flamencos, such as Carlos Montoya, Sabicas and Jose Greco’s dance company.

At age 13, he began performing with his siblings, and by 17, he gained international recognition when Carmen Amaya – Spain’s most renowned dancer – heard him play. She hired him as her lead guitarist, and he toured throughout Europe and the United States with the Amaya Ballet.

As his reputation grew, Vreco invited him to play lead guitar for his dance company. Since then, Heredia has not only played for the world’s best dancers, but also has taught countless students flamenco dance and guitar and opened Flamenco Fantasy Dance Theater, Colorado’s premier dance company.

He also won the Governor’s Award of Colorado for excellence in performance and education, and last October he won the Mayor’s Award of Denver for Excellence in the Arts.

He first came to Denver in 1966 and has since helped create guitar studies at universities, including the University of Denver.

“I want to pass on the art form and tradition of flamenco that comes from southern Spain,” Heredia said. “I try to teach the complicated rhythms, the customs, the gestures – there’s about 15-16 different forms – and costuming.

“A lot of the tradition has been lost. The nuevo flamenco has been watered down – they add instruments like the trumpet or saxophone. Flamenco tradition is just guitar. And the (nuevo flamenco) dancers wear drab colors. Gypsy flamenco uses colorful costumes, combs and flowers worn in the hair and long earrings. We’re bringing probably $40,000 worth of costumes up there.”

Five to seven dancers who have studied with Heredia from such countries as Japan and Argentina fill the pavilion with passionate flamenco dance Wednesday. They call themselves the gypsy chicks.

They dance to authentic music developed by the gypsies of southern Spain – the “cante hondo,” the deep, tragic songs of old Spain.

Rhythms from deep within

Diebate was born in a Senegalese West African family of “griots,” or traditional musicians and storytellers. As a child, he traveled throughout Africa with his parents, who were well-known musicians.

He moved to Boulder in April, 2000, when University of Colorado professor Sam Gill invited him to teach music at the college. For Diebate, music and education fit together perfectly.

“Music is education,” Diebate said. “It is like the way you go to school. We educate people. We talk about what’s going on in the world and what’s good and bad through music. In the traditional way, we tell the story about different ethnic groups in Africa. Musicians are like journalists.”

Diebate also travels nationwide teaching people to drum, as well as dance. His latest album, “Kambeng – Unity” is a rhythmic, folksy testament to peace, or “kambeng.”

“I want people to unite, live peacefully, be more loving so life can be easier for everyone,” he said, “because there’s trouble everywhere in the world.”

Diebate’s virtuoso playing of kora, a 21-stringed harp lute, and his spirit-drenched vocals transport listeners to another realm. The members of his band, who play drums, bass, guitar and saxophone, add a modern groove to his West African style.

Through his music and storytelling, Diebate tells stories of West African culture before its colonization. He plans to release a new album in January with his mother, brother and cousins that focuses solely on traditional West African music.

Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 245, or by e-mail at knicoletti@summitdaily.com.


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