November 30, 2006


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Spanish music with an Arabic flavor
Ottmar Liebert shows his flamenco skills
By Bill Copeland

Grammy-nominated platinum-selling flamenco guitarist and composer Ottmar Liebert will perform a solo guitar concert in Portsmouth on Saturday, Dec. 2.

For music lovers, this show might just be worth the drive.

Originally a jazz/funk guitarist, Liebert decided to become a flamenco player back in the 1980s.  He says flamenco style gives him a lot of freedom to express creativity.

“It works for me. It’s similar to Eric Clapton wanting to play the blues. It’s just an affinity you have for a certain expression,” Liebert said. “My early training as a child was in classical guitar, and they share a lot of commonalities. The body shape is very similar, nylon strings. While I enjoyed the blues, I never felt that same connection to it. In very many ways the flamenco is the blues of gypsies. That really sparked something in me. I probably heard it for the first time when I was around 13 or 14. It’s a pretty amazing technique.” 

Liebert has traced flamenco’s roots all the way back to ninth century Arabia.

“I’ve recently discovered how much flamenco is actually Arabic,” the guitarist said. Liebert has a friend in New Mexico who was born in Baghdad and who trained at the Baghdad Institute of Music.

“Whenever I play something that’s a little more traditional flamenco sounding, he’ll look at me and say, ‘Well, that’s Arabic too,’” Liebert said.

“When playing a song, ideally, the technical aspect totally goes into the background and becomes unimportant,” he said. “You practice an instrument so you can forget about it. A piece should have emotional content and the technique should be something that just gets you there.”

On his Winter Rose holiday CD, released October 2005, Liebert recorded “O Little Town Of Bethlehem” with “City Of Tijuana” as a segue.

“It just made sense to me in my twisted mind,” he said slyly.  ”At the time I felt like putting in an electric guitar, a whole different section. That section reminded me of Santana coming from Mexico to live on the West Coast of the United States, and I toured with Carlos for three months in ’96 and I performed with him quite a bit.”

Liebert recorded his most recent release, One Guitar alone.

“I didn’t have an engineer or anybody else,” he said. “It was just me in the studio. I set up the computer to record. I went into the other room and started playing. It was about 70 percent improvised. Sometimes I’d search for a certain idea for a theme or a certain scale or feel I wanted to be in.”

What: Ottmar Liebert
When: Saturday, Dec. 2, 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Where:Unitarian Church, 292 State St., Portsmouth
Tickets: $30 and can be purchased at Bull Moose Music Stores.
For more info: Call 603-942-5795 or visit