World-renowned flamenco guitarist gets ready to pluck his strings in Belfast. Click Play Audio for a podcast with the maestro, including the song 'What's Going On'
'What would you say has been the highlight of your career so far?' asks CultureNorthernIreland's Anne-Marie Marquess of the tall, dark and handsome Francisco Garcia, the renowned flamenco guitarist and star attraction of this summer's programme at the Baby Grand.
The Spaniard takes no time to answer. In the Latin culture, flirting is first, second and third nature. 'Meeting you today,' he says, smooth as Lavazza coffee, or a much-practised scale on his impressive Spanish guitar.
Fresh from a sold-out performance in Dublin’s National Concert Hall, and joined live onstage by a line-up of celebrated flamenco musicians, Garcia showcases his talents in the intimate surroundings of the Baby Grand on July 3-4 with An Evening of Flamenco Music.
With legions of devoted fans throughout the world, the award-winning guitarist has created an instantly recognisable brand of flamenco.
Garcia is joined by a line-up of musicians including Salvador Andrades and Postora Andrades, vocalists Jose Parra and Mara Delagado, and international flamenco dancer and choreographer David Lozano.
Tutored by the father of legendary flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia (Garcia could strum along with the best of them when he was just six years old), he gave his first concert, to an audience of 10,000 people in Germany, aged ten. At 16 Garcia shared the stage with his idol Camaron de la Isla.
Record contracts with Virgin Records and EMI followed. Garcia has since headlined festivals across Spain, recorded songs with acclaimed DJs and producers such as Mel Simpson from Us3, and even played with Paco de Lucia himself in London's Bethnal Green.
'He's God,' says Garcia. 'I couldn't sleep for four weeks after that!'
Garcia's current The Reunion Tour sees him reunited with some of his previous collaborators, and has sold out venues across Europe.
‘I am excited to be visiting Northern Ireland this summer, and am honoured to be performing in the Grand Opera House,' Garcia said.
'I’m incredibly fortunate to be sharing the stage with some amazing musicians during this tour, and the audience in Belfast can look forward an evening of world-class flamenco.’
Garcia will take time off from his hectic schedule on July 4 to host an education event for local guitarists. Joined by compatriot Salvador Andrades, Garcia will examine the techniques that make his music come alive.
Working closely with participants, Garcia and Andrades will offer first-hand insight into flamenco music, sharing the tips and tricks that have seen them sell out venues across the globe.
'Normally, big guitar players only do advanced lessons,' says Garcia, 'but I believe that everybody is entitled to be taught even the basics by somebody who has the knowledge.
'So I said to my manager that I would do basic, advanced, medium. Whoever is interested in sharing this with us, we'll be happy to put them on the right track.'
Francisco Garcia performs in The Baby Grand at the Grand Opera House on July 3-4 at 8pm. Tickets are £16 and are available from the Box Office in the theatre foyer, by calling 028 9024 1919 or online on the Grand Opera House website. Garcia's flamenco guitar masterclass is on July 4 at 2pm or 4pm, with tickets priced at £35.