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Question of the Day
MADRID (AP) - On stage, she cuts a striking figure. It isn’t her trendy clothes or Gypsy earrings, but her flamenco guitar: it’s a man’s instrument in a man’s world. Spaniards are even more startled to discover Caroline Plante is a French-speaking Canadian.
At 35, after a life strumming and picking alongside flamenco singers and dancers, Plante (pronounced Plahn-tay) has just finished composing and recording what is considered the first complete record by a woman flamenco guitarist.
“It’s rare to see a woman doing this. Culturally, it’s brilliant,” said Paco Garcia, a 50-year-old flamenco aficionado and photographer after one of her shows.
“Little by little, there are more women starting to play, but she’s plays perfectly. She may be missing that cutting edge some Gypsies have but she still has lots of time.”
Women have always played a key role in flamenco, but almost exclusively in dancing and singing. The instruments _ and especially the quintessential guitar _ have long been the domain of men.
“The idea of women guitarists is very complex,” said Paco Ortega, producer of Plante’s first record and owner of Musigrama. “It’s a mix of things, there’s the machismo, there’s the lack of education. Flamenco artists have never really been convinced that women can really play the guitar.”
Plante is not the first female flamenco guitarist _ some older Americans may immediately think of Charo, the exuberant TV comedy star, but her skills were far from top level.
“She’s the only female guitarist who can really play all the flamenco styles,” said Ortega. “Plus, she speaks several languages and has traveled a lot and is able to contribute a crossbreeding that is not common among flamenco artists.”
“She’s a genius in the making and she’ll get there,” Verdu told The Associated Press. “She plays very impressively, and is perfect in harmony and composition and plays with a lot of heart, something missing in a lot of flamenco guitarists who excel in technique.”
He said the flamenco world “still hasn’t realized what she is. Many male guitarists would love to play like her and they’ll tremble when they see her play.”
There’s no denying that flamenco guitar with its machine-gun speed picking riffs and dizzying helicopter-like ‘rasgueo’ hand strums is physically punishing. Most players have beefy arms and thick, powerful hands. By contrast, Plante is pixie petite with delicate wrists.
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