On February 26th of this year, the name Francisco Sanchez Gomez (born 21 December 1947 in Algeciras, Spain) was written in black ink on a hospital document in Cancun, Mexico. As a child, Lucia, his mother, would kiss him on the forehead after his father had spent hours practicing his guitar with a ten year old Francisco. Francisco would go on to change his artistic name to honour his mother. No one imagined that decades later Paco De Lucia would call Mexico’s Caribbean coast home.
That whole day of February 2014, in complete desolation between the sea and heaven, facing an unexpected death, the words and musical notes would come and go, some more convincing than others. What was for certain was that Paco de Lucia would pass away in Mexico. Friends of his began talking; we knew, while they embalmed our friend so that his wife and children could take his body and bury him beside his parents in Algeciras, that there were no flights available and we would have to wait, in an emotional limbo, for three days until he could return to his homeland. It was then, on that hot and opaque morning, that we thought during those days in which it looked like Paco’s spirit would resist leaving Mexico that we should get all his friends, the flamenco dancers and guitarists, the percussionists, the accordion players, his students and his colleagues together. We played for three days until his spirit left in peace. Filled with sadness, we said we would again sing about the friend that had left us.
Those who were unable to be there asked that we should take the time to honour our friend as he deserves to be honoured. So his guitar companion and lifelong friend, Juan D’Anyelica, worked side by side with the Oasis Jazz U Festival team to invite these friends to celebrate Paco’s life. Gabriela, his widow, participated emotionally throughout the process.
Each town has its own way of saying goodbye to its dead, some cry uncontrollably, others send their dearly departed on a fiery raft into the sea. In this cosmopolitan town, Paco’s town, surrounded by jungle, between wetlands and Mayan pyramids, they sing, play the sea conch, and talk to the deceased. His presence is still felt here. In this small town of sailors, story-makers, and world citizens, we pay homage to his parting.
Fernando Pessoa wrote that ‘art has value because it takes us away from reality’. That’s how Paco lived; he tried to get away from a difficult world, from the childish politics that he hated so much. He would play his guitar to scare away the horrors of abuse, of the death of friends that left him devastated.
Paco, before leaving this cruel and superficial world, would walk barefoot along our white beaches, spending hours watching the sun disappear into the clear ocean that unites Mexico and Cuba, where he also had a house ready to welcome his occasional visit.
Paco, the son of Lucia, would look for silence where there was only space for music and the laughter of his loved ones. He would run along the beach with his son and daughter as if life was a game. He was a seafaring man and would search high and low for lost paradises where music would navigate his journey to beautiful things.
He was a student of Niño Ricardo, and De Sabicas, and was loved and respected by jazz, blues, rock, and salsa musicians for his original style. He won many accolades including a Grammy for Best Flamenco Album in 2004, and a Gold Medal of Merit in the Fine Arts in 1992. Eric Clapton described him as a ‘titanic figure in the world of flamenco guitar’.
Throughout his life Paco de Lucia collaborated with hundreds of artists, from Spanish masters like Camaron de la Isla, and Tomatito, to some of the biggest jazz and rock stars of Brazil, Mexico and the Unites States, like Carlos Santana, Larry Coryell, Al Di Meola, Chick Corea, John McLaughlin and Oscar de Leon. He revolutionised flamenco music, transforming the way a guitar is played, combining flamenco and jazz, to create his own new, inimitable sound. He created sounds and melodies that were previously unimaginable in traditional flamenco, and would later integrate into his music the electric bass and Peruvian cajón, a box-shaped percussion instrument. Many of the world’s great percussionists have said that he was the greatest flamenco guitarist of the 20th Century.
We dedicate the Oasis Jazz U Festival to our dear friend Paco, the seafarer, the iconoclast. His friends, his colleagues, musical greats, will pay homage to him by the sea that saw him create, enjoy, share, and reinvent his music… the same sea that saw him leave us. His neighbours, friends and admirers will celebrate his life, his music, his friendship, on the 23rd and 24th of May of this year at the Hotel Grand Oasis Cancun.