The master late to flamenco

Vicente Allende, the virtuoso flamenco guitarist, makes the case for more investment in classical and ethnic music 

Vicente Allende happily admits that he came “kind of late” to the guitar, at least for someone who would go on to become a professional guitarist. Originally from Santiago, Chile, Allende was 16 before he picked up the instrument, inspired by the song ‘Quién fuera’ by Cuban songwriter and composer Silvio Rodríguez. A few months later he heard another seminal work, ‘Endre dos aguas’, by the Spanish virtuoso flamenco guitarist, composer and producer Paco de Lucía, and a love affair with the instrument was born.

“These two songs were, definitely, the sparks that turned on my desire to play the guitar and to seriously consider it as a potential profession,” says the Dubai-based flamenco guitarist now. “There are things in life that just happen and you don't question yourself ‘how’ or ‘why’. The appearance of guitar in my life was something like that. I had it in my hands; I started to learn; I played more and more, and I just knew that this is what I always wanted to do. I think I didn't choose it: guitar chose me!”

Vicente Allende
Vicente Allende has performed as a soloist in cities from Paris to Moscow, and all over the Emirates, where he has lived for over a decade

Influenced primarily by the nueva trova, boleros music, flamenco, Italian popular music and bossa nova, Allende has since embraced a maxim of de Lucia’s: that music is “10 per cent inspiration and 90 per cent work”. This attitude has driven him to become one of the region’s leading flamenco guitarists, and perform in Amsterdam, Paris, Madrid, Moscow, and across the UAE. “I don't trust in my inspiration; usually it gives me poor results,” he smiles.

Dubai, he suggests, is home to a growing music scene that nevertheless needs to make more space for non-commercial acts. “We've got too much room for [artists such as] Shakira and Enrique Iglesias. I respect what they've done and reached, but I don't think they are the best examples of quality music,” he argues. “We need more quality music concerts, more investment in classical and ethnic music, for example. And of course, more promotion of the quality artists that are playing in Dubai but don’t get noticed because of a lack of marketing.”

Vicente Allende
Allende's first album, “Nuestro Amanecer” (Our Down) is a fusion of styles

Allende, meanwhile, will only see his star rise in 2014 and beyond. He is rehearsing with his instrument and warming his vocal chords for the season ahead. He is also beginning work on his second album, which will be ready for July 2015. There is, he says with a smile, “much work to do”.