Born to Anglo Spanish parents, Rafael grew up in Spain, educated at an English school in Madrid. He is bilingual, bicultural and understands the demands and work environments of both countries very well. It puts him in a unique position to be able to share the authenticity of flamenco and able to see it from his unique perspective. Rafael is different to other guitarists, he is much more than just a guitarist. He is able to view things from the outside and put his own stamp and individuality in to his own music.
Rafael's music is influenced by many factors. Sources of inspiration such as Paco de Lucia, Kraftwerk or Bach, continue to excite him on a daily basis. His influences are so diverse and true to a person that has not only grown up in two countries but has travelled most of the world too. From Batak folk music of northern Sumatra to Led Zeppelin or Manuel de Falla.
Rafael finds common ground and inspiration in all of these musical cultures but also in people, food or architecture. Mezquita, one of Rafael's first compositions is based on the building of the same name in Córdoba, his mother's birthplace. A unique building built originally as a mosque but once the Catholic Kings reconquered Spain, a Christian altar was erected in the middle. Rafael's music captures the essence of this in its harmony and rhythm. For Rafael, a piece of music is not simply a series of notes one after another. Each composition has a story to it, a mood and a place. That is what separates Rafael from other flamenco guitarists perhaps, his individuality, composition and mood.
(Photo: Xue Fei Yang, Rafael and Craig Ogden)
Hearing and deafness - A new musical life
Rafael was diagnosed with Otosclerosis almost 10 years ago. This is a rare condition that causes progressive hearing loss. Having lost most of his hearing in both ears, Rafael discovered a ground breaking operation that was to change his life. Faced with lifelong deafness, having retired from performing and barely being able to communicate, Rafael was operated on in 2018 on both ears at The Royal ENT Hospital in London.
The procedure called a 'stapedectomy' involves replacing the stapes (the smallest bone in the body) with a prosthetic implant. For Rafael, this was life changing. He describes recovering his hearing loss as 'it was like permanently being in a dark room and suddenly having a light switched on'. An emotional journey that for sure has made his love for music and sound even greater than before.
This is the same rare condition that Beethoven had, though unfortunately Beethoven didn't have access to the same technology. Now, Rafael is the first flamenco guitarist to use CIEMs (custom in ear monitors) to enable him to hear everything he needs in a live situation on stage. Rafael has researched in depth about ear protection and in ear monitoring and has been kindly helped by ACS Custom to return to performing professionally with their latest Ambient Series.
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