Flamenco is a love-it-or-hate-it art form. Aficionados find in its music and dance all that it means to be human. Those on the outside, however, like Aldous Huxley, dismiss it as 'dismal Spanish wailings punctuated by the rattle of the castanets and the clashing harmonies of the guitar'. But there is more than one flamenco, and the most authentic forms function, it seems to me, for performers and audiences in the same way as Greek tragedy: as a system of catharsis, a way of resolving the most painful frustrations of the human condition - lost love, death, disaster; as an echoing yell into the uncaring void. I have seen crowds tear their clothes and smash up the chairs they had been sitting on, as they succumbed to the duende moment. Duende is indefinable (a know-it-when-you-experience-it thing), but it is when everything comes together perfectly. Luis Antonio de Vega said, 'Flamenco is the means through which man reaches God without the intervention of the saints or angels.' Real flamenco is exciting, alive, vibrant, and, above all, passionate.
Alive, vibrant and passionate are good words to describe Jason Webster's outstanding debut book, Duende: A Journey in Search of Flamenco. Nursing a broken heart after being dumped by his long-time girlfriend, and possessed of a youthful appetite for adventure, on graduating fiom Oxford Webster ran away from the overcast