Baldi Olier has been dazzling us with his extremely nimble fingers for several decades now. The Romanian-born flamenco guitarist, who has been almost as active in the recording studio as he has been on the domestic and global concert circuit, has just put out his 14th album, Restos de Flamenco, recorded at his son Barak’s studio. The 61-yearold Olier is marking the new release with gigs around the country, including two shows at the Cameri Theater’s Theater Café venue on April 25 and May 16 (both at 9 p.m.).
The new record is dedicated to the memory of Spanish flamenco guitar master Paco de Lucia, who died suddenly last year at the age of 66, whom Olier credits with boosting the genre’s profile.
“When Paco was playing, say in the late 1950s and ‘60s, flamenco wasn’t too popular around the world,” he notes. “Flamenco was popular in Andalusia, but in Spain people were more interested in Westernized music.
But Paco brought in all kinds of different things, which I suppose you could call world music. Before Paco, even the cajon [a box-shaped percussion instrument] wasn’t used in flamenco music.”
Today, the cajon enjoys an almost ubiquitous presence in live and recorded flamenco music.
The album title also feeds off De Lucia’s wide-ranging artistic ethos.
“Restos de Flamenco means ‘remnants of flamenco’ because there are all kinds of different things on the disc in and around flamenco,” explains the guitarist.
All eight tracks on the album were scored by Olier and, indeed, they incorporate a wide swath of sounds, textures and cultural sentiments, albeit with a clear flamenco thread running through them.
It all started for Olier at an early age, soon after he made aliya with his family at the age of 10.
“When I came here, the really popular instrument was the accordion,” he recalls.
Back then, campfire musical gettogethers were very much the order of the day, when people would congregate to sing and even break out in the odd hora dance.
“I was drawn to the guitar. I don’t know why. So my parents bought me a guitar. It was cheaper than an accordion,” Olier adds with a laugh.
It was love at first strum, and the youngster threw himself into his new instrumental pursuit with all the joys of spring.
“I had a few teachers here and there, but I mainly learned on my own,” says Olier.
This was in the swinging Sixties, when The Beatles, Rolling Stones and the rest of the emerging pop and rock scene ruled the airwaves. But Olier didn’t get into that.
“I liked Latin and flamenco music,” he explains. “I loved the sound of [veteran Paraguayan ensemble] Los Paraguayos. That drove me crazy. I’d put on their records and I’d listen to them again and again until I learned to play every number they did perfectly.”
This was long before the days of YouTube.
“I’d look at the LP covers and the liner notes, and I’d learn every single detail about the records and the group,” Olier continues. “There was magic to that.”
Olier attributes his attraction to flamenco music to his Romanian roots.
“There are, of course, Gypsies in Romania, and flamenco music traveled across the world, from India through Persia to Spain, with the Gypsies,” he notes. “Flamenco took on local colors as it passed through the different countries and cultures.
So it became a sort of fusion of influences, including Jewish influences.”
That also takes in the heady mix of Muslim, Christian and Jewish strands that run through Andalusian music, which originates from southern Spain and Morocco, Algeria and, to a lesser extent, Libya and Tunisia, just over the other side of the narrow strip of the western Mediterranean.
Olier’s creative approach also takes in a generous helping of improvisation, which naturally led him into the realms of jazz.
“My third album was with [veteran Israeli jazz drummer] Areleh Kaminsky,” he says. “He came from his world, and I brought my stuff, and it went well together. We still work together. I don’t really play jazz, but there is a jazzy influence in the material I compose for the guitar and also for orchestras. I hear jazz stuff, and then I sort of transform them and express them in my own way. I get some of my inspiration from jazz.”
Over the years, Olier has maintained something of an eclectic approach to his craft and to entertaining the public. For some time he had a slot on the popular TV music show Taverna, which enjoyed a long run on Channels 1 and 2, which he used to explore various sounds and rhythms through synergies with musicians from other disciplines. Oud player and violinist Taisir Elias and singer Haya Samir were among the non-flamenco artists who appeared on the show.
As the dedication of his new album suggests, Olier owes a great artistic debt to Paco de Lucia, whom Olier calls “the greatest guitarist of them all.”
“The whole flamenco scene would have been very different today had it not been for Paco,” Olier declares. “He took flamenco into all sorts of new directions – some of which may not have been too welcome – but he enriched and popularized flamenco, and he was a great artist. It is an honor to dedicate my new album to him.”
For tickets and more information: (03) 606-0960 and www.cameri.co.il