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June 30 2022 6:55 PM ˚
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Flamenco guitarist creates mesh of Arabic-Spanish rhythms

Jordanian flamenco guitarist Sawsan Abu Doush. (Photo: Handout from Sawsan Abu Doush)
Jordanian flamenco guitarist Sawsan Abu Doush. (Photo: Handout from Sawsan Abu Doush)
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AMMAN — The magic of flamenco music has captivated the heart of 22-year-old Sawsan Abu Doush, motivating her to become one of few female flamenco guitarists in Jordan.اضافة اعلان

Doush shared her passion and appreciation for the genre with Jordan News in a phone interview.  

After taking part in several local concerts, Doush performed at Instituto Cervantes’ stage, where she played a flamenco piece with a band of other well-known musicians.

Jordanian flamenco guitarist Sawsan Abu Doush. (Photo: Handout from Sawsan Abu Doush)

“Although the number of attendees was around 50, the audience showed great excitement and love for our show. Hispanic culture and music were deeply rooted in them. It definitely was one of the best concerts I performed at,” she said

The guitarist also participated in many cultural events, including one at a University of Jordan (UJ) auditorium during which she played flamenco as well as other Spanish masterpieces in front of thousands of attendees.

Doush has been playing guitar for nine years. Despite growing up in a non-musical family, she was gifted with a musical ear, she told Jordan News.

“Everything I play is self-taught, and it’s all by ear,” Doush highlighted. Similar to how speakers acquire a language and pick up accents, Doush mimics musical pieces she listens to, she said.

“Although I have recently learned to read guitar notation or music sheets and received some certificates, I still rely heavily on listening and analyzing the musical pieces,” she said. 

Four years ago, Doush was simply roaming YouTube channels until she encountered a video for Paco de Lucia, the musician dubbed as “the father of flamenco,” and was fascinated by his music.

“I was overwhelmed with energy, I didn’t understand why I just fell in love with this music, it was something that I couldn’t describe or understand at first,” said Doush.

As the artist developed a great interest in the genre, she decided to major in Spanish and English literature. After high school she competed with thousands of students for the arts excellence scholarship program, and was selected for UJ’s excellence scholarship. 

“My area of study did not directly help me in music, rather, it gave me a valuable insight into Hispanic civilization and culture, which entails delving deeper into the language, literature, and art in general,” she said.

Such knowledge has further helped Doush better build networks, allowing her to communicate with Spanish guitarists to get some guidance into flamenco and its theories and techniques.

‘An insight into Flamenco’
Doush has also stressed how both Arabic and Spanish are related, especially when it comes to flamenco.

“Flamenco derives from Arabic origins, owing to the impact Muslims and Arabs had on Andalusia and Hispanic culture,” Doush noted. “Flamenco is a blend of the Arabic words ‘Fallah,’ which means a peasant, and ‘Mankoob,’ which means impoverished or plagued.”

Although flamenco's rhythm is unique and might not sound familiar to an Arab listener, the harmony, melody, musical syllable (or maqams) are all related to Arabic music, the musician said; yet, “it is still uncommon in Jordan.”  

Therefore, Doush wishes to spread the culture of flamenco in Jordan. One method she used recently is combining both Arabic and Spanish music to create a mixed genre that she called “Arabic flamenco.”

In addition to concerts, Doush further helps introducing flamenco music and other genres through teaching; she has been a teacher for some two years now, and she came to recognize the impact she can make through education.

According to Doush, “flamenco is really unique and hard. It requires learning tough techniques, and a lot of effort time in practicing, so not anyone can bear flamenco unless he or she is sincerely passionate about it.”

“I don’t confine my pupils to a certain type, I am just there to help them discover more about what they love. That’s why I always ask during the first class about what they would usually listen to on a long drive,” she said.

Besides hard work, Doush believes that appreciating the value of art is key. 

Among the challenges a flamenco guitarist faces, according to the musician, is finding a good instrument. “Classical guitars differ from flamenco ones. It’s truly difficult to find an authentic, high-quality Flamenco guitar in Jordan.”
“Quality comes first,” Doush stressed.

She added that her goal is to be remembered as a professional guitarist who plays good music and “gives beautiful vibes to people.”

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