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Duende Flamenco, composed of guitarists Kenji Bakuya and James Samimi and percussionist Ali Nourbakhsh, began performing together as a trio in 1999. However, their stories trace far deeper back, when their relationship with flamenco first began.

For Kenji, the defining moment came when he first heard Paco de Lucia’s Bulerias Almoraima. At the time, he had been studying heavily with noted classical guitarists in Texas and instantly made the life-altering decision to convert his studies to flamenco guitar. After traveling throughout the United States, he finally decided to settle down in Orange County, California where he currently resides. Young and eager, Kenji searched for a teacher who would continue his studies and bring him one step closer to his dream of capturing the essence of playing traditional flamenco. Kenji’s search led him to Mr. Theodore McKown, a protégé of Sabicas and founding member of the Orange County Guitar Circle, who by sheer chance was instructing another student by the name of James Samimi.

For James, the music that would change his life and touch his soul first graced his ears in the form of Paco Peña’s Fandangos de Huelva. Years later, Mr. McKown would be responsible for uniting the first two links of Duende Flamenco by putting his two best students in contact. Many years before their encounter, Paco de Lucia was working on an innovation that would not only change the future of Duende Flamenco, but would revolutionize flamenco music in its entirety. Paco de Lucia was responsible for introducing a traditional Peruvian instrument called the cajon (a unique percussion instrument that is played while sat on) as rhythmic accompaniment for the guitars. This novelty would have drastic effects on the way flamenco would be played and forever imprint the life of one young percussionist, Ali Nourbakhsh.

Ali’s introduction to flamenco came at a young age, when his teacher decided to use an unconventional method of studying poetry by playing a flamenco song infused with the poetry of Federico Garcia Lorca. The sweet delicacy of the words, coupled with the dance between the Spanish guitar and the singer, struck a chord deep in the chambers of Ali's heart and his search began instantly.

Ali’s flamenco instruction was grounded in the heartfelt connection with a music that spoke the language of his soul; a music of struggle, passion, pain, survival, celebration and love. He buried himself in gypsy culture wherever he was and found imaginative and unorthodox ways to immerse himself in their music. Through his natural affinity for rhythm and his long and previous history with music, he was able to learn from others and train himself in the rhythmic components of the art - mainly: cajon, palmas, and jaleos. He is also very focused on capturing a fourth element, known as cante.

An annual cultural festival in the city of Irvine would be the nexus where the third piece of Duende Flamenco would be added. It was here that Ali Nourbakhsh was scheduled to play, 2 years after James and Kenji had been performing together as a duo under the name, En Compas. Again, by mere chance or destiny, James was attending the festival and heard the unmistakable sound of a cajon cutting the air with a driving rhythm. He followed the rhythm until he found Ali sitting on top of his cajon, in front of a large audience. During a break, the two talked and reunited (2 years earlier, they were friends and had attended the same undergraduate university). A common interest in traditional flamenco amongst all three sparked a rehearsal the following week and instantly Duende Flamenco was born.

Duende Flamenco has been the selected entertainment for many prestigious venues including The Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel, The Center Club at the Orange County Performing Arts Center, Marriott Dana Point, Mission San Juan Capistrano, and the Orange County Classical Guitar Society, among others. Duende Flamenco consists of flamenco guitarists Kenji Bakuya and James Samimi, percussionist Ali Nourbakhsh and dancers Suzanita, Michon and Aida. The group is representative of a new generation of flamenco performers who bring the appeal of flamenco to an international audience.

Duende Flamenco performs traditional flamenco, staying true to the art, always entertaining and providing a memorable flamenco experience. The audience is treated to the fire of the flamenco guitar, the excitement of the percussion and rhythms of the cajon and the beauty and passion of the dance. Performances include the lost art of the Spanish castanets.

Every life is full of defining moments, of instances that kindle a desire, change the future and bring paths together. Duende Flamenco is a combination of these fateful moments that brought these artists together. "Flamenco puro", the pure essence of flamenco, is what these creative performers strive to bring to their audiences. With the common goal to express and share the soulfulness of flamenco through creative interpretations and individual talents, they strive to bring you the pure essence, the emotion, the passion - the "duende" of flamenco.

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For booking information and pricing, call Mark Wood Entertainment in Southern California at 949.748.6850

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