Interview with Davinia Ballesteros

Davinia Ballesteros | Guitarrista flamenca

Davinia Ballesteros is a young flamenco guitarist born in Malaga in 1982, a place where she learned to play the guitar when she was only six years old.

She completed her guitar studies cum laude and honors award at the Superior Conservatory of Music in Malaga, she also has a degree in the flamenco guitar program and has been a recipient of many prizes during her artistic career. Currently she is one the most representative women in the guitar world, offering numerous concerts and also teaching music. She is also a good friend of the Conde family; we had the great pleasure to interview her recently and we are glad to share it here with you.
You started playing flamenco when you were just 6 years old. What memories do you have from that time?

My father was always a big flamenco follower and I remember that in our long family car rides we always listened to my dad’s flamenco records (Sabicas, Manolo Sanlúcar and of course Paco de Lucía). Without any knowledge of the guitar I was doing playback with my hands simulating playing de Lucía’s “entre dos aguas”. I remember many afternoons I would hear the sound of flamenco guitar playing in my neighborhood, I recall always wondering where the beautiful accords were coming from. My older sister enrolled in guitar classes but wasn’t very enthusiastic about it. I remember taking her guitar once along with her notes with the lessons; my hands were still too small to reach all the strings so I laid the guitar down, strings up, over my lap, I read the numbers from the notes and moving my fingers over the fret board as if it was a piano, and the melody of the “malagueña” ensued! Excited with the feat, I ran to my parents and played the tune for them again, and after seeing how happy I was with what I have just achieved they asked me if I wanted to take guitar classes. This was 28 years ago and I am still in love with the 6 strings as I was then.

What makes you most passionate about the flamenco guitar?

Many things. I feel identified with the flamenco sound from very early on. I am passionate about the flamenco guitar, the power it has, that distinctive character and the capacity to bewitch anyone that has some artistic affinity. It is very interesting (and very telling about this musical style) how people coming from very different cultures from ours become completely captivated for life, once they get to know flamenco. Flamenco is the music of my childhood; I was experimenting with it from the very first time I picked up a guitar. Even in my early conservatory years (I was educated in the classical guitar section since flamenco guitar teaching wasn’t yet regulated in formal music schools) I never set flamenco aside. After 14 years of studying classical guitar I decided to enroll in the flamenco guitar superior degree program at the Cordova conservatory.

Which artists do you look up to as an artist yourself?

I listened to so many since I was very young: Ramón Montoya, Niño Ricardo, Sabicas, Manolo Sanlúcar… but the artist who most influenced me and because of which I developed a love of the instrument and the desire to learn was Paco de Lucía without any doubt.

You were one of the first women and the first woman from your city (Malaga) to graduate from the Superior Conservatory for guitar at Cordova. Tell us a little bit about that moment.

It was very emotional. My entire family was there along with many artists that filled the hall celebrating the graduation we all worked very hard to achieve. It was a very special moment although at the time I wasn´t entirely conscious of all that it entails. So many hours of study, so many kilometers covered going to class…this can only be understood by those who lived it.

The flamenco guitar is usually associated with the male figure. Obviously this is changing, but how did this, if at all, affect you personally?

To tell you the truth, and this may come as a surprise, I never had any problems in this respect with fellow guitarists or the fans. It is true that historically the role of women in flamenco was limited to dance and singing, but this wasn’t exclusively so. I dedicated my final year project to women players, and in my research I found many women flamenco artists. Furthermore, I participated in a documentary focused on female flamenco guitarists. During my student years I was treated equally by my professors and peers. In my concerts the audience was always welcoming and receptive and many made a point of letting me know they found it wonderful and moving a woman was playing flamenco. I came across this type of question in many interviews, perhaps expecting negative experiences and anecdotes, but in my case this hasn´t happened.

What would you say was the most cherished moment in your professional career?

I have many cherished moments but I would especially mention my graduation, my first solo concert at a flamenco festival, meeting Paco de Lucía at a concert in Cadiz, or the day when I played for Manolo Sanlúcar, Paco Cepero and Paco de Lucía in an homage they received at Jerez as maestros of the flamenco guitar.

Which flamenco style do you enjoy most when playing?

I enjoy both the free styles and the rhythmic ones. With the free styles I can express myself using a wide a range of technical resources, while the rhythmic styles allow me to play with pace and rhythm.

Tell us more about your future projects.

Currently, along with Isaac Moreno, I run the first and only guitar school in the province of Cadiz endowed with university educated professors of flamenco and classical guitar as well as teaching degrees with specializing in music (Escuela de Guitarra “Fernando Moreno” C/ Sevilla 36, tel: 956342243). My recent English language certification from the Cambridge University allows me to take on students hailing from any country as well as allow me to communicate and travel all over the world giving concerts. I just finished a collaboration on a new record along with flamenco artists like Paco Cepero, Diego del Morao, Manuel Parrilla or Juan Mateos amongst others. I have more than 20 concerts confirmed so far for this year along with a project in collaboration with the Royal household.

And as the final point to our interview, tell us which one of Felipe Conde’s guitars would you choose for your next performance?

In a concert setting, rosewood endows a guitar with ´big sound´ and projection without sacrificing the harmony. A sound of great personality and depth are characteristics that many artists look for in a guitar. For these reasons and many more, the FC 27 or the FC 28 would be the guitars I would pick for my next solo concert.

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