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Flamenco in Paraguay with Alejo Jimenez (In Spanish)    
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Today’s Enlightening Entertainment will be presented in Spanish, with subtitles in Arabic, Aulacese (Vietnamese), Chinese, English, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Mongolian, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Thai.

Greetings kind and loving viewers. Today, we would like to introduce one of Paraguay’s accomplished musicians, flamenco guitarist Mr. Alejo Jimenez.

I think music for any person, whatever job they have, even as a hobby, is very good. It’s a healing element, and touches feelings. It moves feelings, it moves a lot of things inside ourselves that are important to discover somehow. And art is a way to discover that, to know yourself.

Mr. Alejo Jimenez and his group Almandaluz perform the stirring music called flamenco. The flamenco genre, which originated in Spain and is popular worldwide, was recognized in 2011 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.”

Mr. Jimenez is a multi-talented musician and gifted composer from Paraguay. He has studied intensely for the last 20 years forms such as classical guitar, jazz harmony and improvisation. He has contributed greatly to the Paraguayan music scene with his broad range of talents. For example, he produced a jazz album for the band Cateura Trio, played acoustic guitar in the folk-rock band The Secret, and co-founded an independent record label. Mr. Jimenez has also received special mention for guitar accompaniment in the form of Spanish dance at the International Folk Dance festival.

Let’s listen to an interesting solo performance now from Mr. Jimenez, a composition called “Mangoty.”

When we asked Mr. Jimenez about his formative years, we learned how music has been with him since an early age.

My career is, let’s say, a lifelong story. I started getting acquainted with musical instruments as a kid, somehow as if they were toys. Among these, the most important was a battery-powered piano. That was my favorite instrument for the next years, when in school and what not.

I learned to play flute offered as part of the local curriculum. So I was always in some way connected to instruments. Until I decided to become a musician. That was, let's say, when I was 15 or 16 years old. From there, I started to train with different teachers in different areas. I studied in the conservatory, then came out of the conservatory. From that moment, I was self-taught, to learn the styles I was interested in and to study them alone really. I had about three years of classical guitar with the teacher Luz Maria Bobadilla, whom you surely know.

Mr. Jimenez studied at Paraguay’s National Conservatory of Music from 2002 to 2004. There and after, he met some of the best guitarists, including Ms. Luz Maria Bobadilla, an award-winning guitarist from Asunción, Paraguay.

She is internationally known for her beautiful renditions of classical pieces.

I learned a little flamenco guitar, which was something that I love. And well, I started to work with that. Accompanying [flamenco] dance in the academy, to learning the style and also at the same time composing. Composing in a style I call hybrid because I am the sum of styles around me. Paraguayan folklore, Argentine folklore, Brazilian music. I look a lot for the evolution of Paraguayan music.

So the way things are, when you ask for something, well, at some point, the master arrives from somewhere, really. So, I met a flamenco guitarist who was over here. And with him I began to take the first classes. Because flamenco has a somewhat specific technique, somewhat specific as the right hand mostly.

We asked Mr. Jimenez about flamenco in his country and why flamenco is so special to him.

Flamenco is a very old style, it has an emotional charge for me. It feels very intense. The shows I've done in the strict format with dancers, with singers, have this feature. It is music that comes from the earth and is very intense because of that, so, I deeply respect it, as I do the roots of all styles... Well, Paraguayan flamenco doesn’t exist; it is an adaptation that we are creating, it is like a stylistic enrichment of our music. And I think at some point, you will be able to speak of a national flamenco.

In fact, the people who brought flamenco here and they took back our music, they did that with the guajira (genre), with Colombian music. Well, nowadays, on the contrary, we brought the flamenco here, and we are mixing it with our music, our Central American music.

Mr. Alejo Jimenez’s current flamenco group, Almandaluz, plays a warm fusion of Spanish flamenco, South American rhythms and Paraguayan roots music, much to the delight of the audience.

Mr. Jimenez said that he created the name “Almandaluz” while touring in Brazil many years ago. After being introduced to flamenco and its artists, he felt a deep connection with the Andalusian Roma people of Spain, saying, “This name is Alma Andaluza, which means that deep inside there is a bit of Andalusia in my soul, like Spanish genes in my blood, and then all that is our Guarani (native Paraguayan) land.”

During our interview, Mr. Jimenez shared with us how he gets inspiration to compose his own pieces.

My main inspiration for the compositions of my songs are… it is my own reality, my own life. My inspiration is my reality, what I see, what I hear, what I look at, like a movie, books, but more than anything, the things I live.

Recently, a unique 24-part TV documentary called “Che Valle” was released. It highlights Paraguayan culture and history with professional native musicians as the actors. Almandaluz was honored to contribute their song “Isla Seca” (Dry Island) to the soundtrack. Let’s listen to this sweet tune.

We also asked Mr. Jimenez the intriguing question of music’s purpose in life.

What I like the most as a musician is that I feel very blessed by it, to be able to continue to play. What music allows me to do is to share ideas with colleagues, with people. Music is a phenomenon of communication. Music is communication, and if we can continue to do that, we, the ones who do it, will be happy. It is to bring an idea to people, to bring an emotion to people. I am happy being a guitarist. The guitar is a people’s instrument, easy to carry, easy to bring and everyone knows it. You are what you are, we are here and we do our best with whatever we have.

Mr. Jimenez has also extended his musical efforts to perform at a charity benefit concert in conjunction with prominent rights group, Amnesty International, to aid a children’s hospital.

My greatest satisfaction has been playing music for different audiences and being able to reach different audiences. You never know who you have in front of you. It’s very different with people in an older audience, they have one way to see things about the songs. A younger audience has another way of expressing. That your music can be liked by someone older and can be liked by a younger person, that is so awesome. Every time that you play live, or you make a song, it’s like a commitment with that song.

It’s like a plant which you have to give attention to. Where the attention goes, the energy goes too, and that then develops. If you take out the attention, then it stops there. And through the years, the truth is that my satisfaction is to be able to work with music. Thank God that music has many fields of application, right? You can make advertisements and can also inspire people with music.

It’s a very wide language, so my satisfaction is to be able to do that. I have the chance to do it. I’m surrounded by very capable people, friends, musicians who are very capable. And let’s say that not seeing the horizon or the end of the road is the beauty of this. It never ends, we will always continue forward and music will continue to evolve and we with it. And that’s it.

Thank you, Mr. Alejo Jimenez, for sharing this window into your experiences and the merging worlds of flamenco and Paraguayan culture. May you and your group, Almandaluz, continue to touch Paraguay and the world with your musical gifts and love.

Magnificent viewers, thank you for being with us today on Enlightening Entertainment. Coming up is Words of Wisdom, after Noteworthy News. May God bring you bountiful blessings and a fulfilling life.
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