The haunting beauty of Rafael Riqueni´s compositions is the consequence of stories narrated in the first person that flow directly from his soul with an anxious heart to participate in the experience. His recordings are authentic jewels, profound works of art. He is one of the great masters of the Flamenco guitar and the music of Spain in which the extremes of his sensibility are always reflected and present in a music in which it becomes the only media where the form captures the impossible of pure inspiration. Without the batting of an eyelid, Riqueni´s art wrings our heart.
Rafael Riqueni del Canto was born in Seville in 1962, on Fabié street, in the heart of the Triana district and since his early childhood he began to astound his listeners with his amazing talent for the guitar. Early on his musical formation started, first under the direction of Manolo Carmona, and then as a disciple of Manolo Sanlucar. He was thirteen when he offered his first solo performances, and at only fourteen he triumphed taking Spain´s two major national guitar prizes: the Premio Ramón Montoya for Guitarra de Concierto in the VIII Concurso de Arte Flamenco de Córdoba and the first prize in the VI Certamen Nacional de Guitarra de Jerez de la Frontera. From that point on his career started to blossom, alternating between solo performances and collaborative events with artists such as Rocío Jurado, Mario Maya, Isabel Pantoja, Fernanda de Utrera, María Jiménez, Naranjito de Triana, the Montoya family and José de la Tomasa. In 1981 he walked away again with the first prize at the X edition of the Certamen Nacional de Guitarra de Jerez de la Frontera.
He was to quickly become a recognized concert artist, in 1984 he was part of the Giraldillo de Toque at the III Bienal de Flamenco de Sevilla. In 1985 he participated in the V Festival Internacional de la Guitarra de Córdoba, and jointly with Manolo Sanlucar and Enrique Morente, we find him at the II Cumbre Flamenca de Madrid. In 1986 he was giving concerts at the Frankfurt Opera theater and, with producer Ricardo Pachón, Riqueni released his first album, Juego de Niños, a work that became an object of admiration due to its innovations in harmony and composition, that increasingly identify Rafael Riqueni´s unique style. In 1987, through the aegis of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Rafael Riqueni represented Spain in different international festivals. In that same year, while on tour in Germany, he was offered the opportunity to record his next album there. This time Riqueni again surprises us with a pure flamenco record, full of virtuosity . José Ramón Gamboa in his book, Guia Libre del Flamenco, defines this album as: a real master lesson in Flamenco playing and composition. The Minera from this album may well be the best one in flamenco recording history. In 1989 we find him giving concerts in Los Angeles. In that same year he is composing the music for La Reina Andaluza, the first Theater play by Centro Andaluz de Teatro (CAT).
In his next work Rafael Riqueni experiments with what is referred to as “musical nationalism”, a classical music genre that had been developed by musicians such as Isaac Albeniz, Manuel de Falla and Joaquín Turina. Riqueni´s Suite Sevilla was published in 1992, It was quickly recognized as yet another of his outstanding works. In Suite Sevilla, Riqueni is confirmed as a great Spanish music composer, with an album which is inspired by flamenco as well as classic sources. Returning to the writings of Norberto Torres we read ‘His (Riqueni´s) music is unique because it escapes forms. His music reflects so much anguish, desperation and a burning desire to give freedom to the creative gift that burns within him as it bursts the dykes of flamenco forms to allow the flow of the flood of ideas, proposals, discoveries and urgencies in need of expression. Flamenco offers us very few artists whose need for expression forces them to search beyond the established forms and molds’. His Suite Sevilla had its world premiere at the Festival Internacional de Houston, in the United States, Since then Rafael Riqueni has taken it to many Spanish and international stages. It´s last incarnation was by the Ballet Nacional de España in 2012 under the same title, based on Riqueni´s work, with Antonio Najarro´s choreographic inspiration and direction, and was staged for the first time at the Teatro de la Zarzuela. From there the work was taken to other parts of Europe, to America and to Asia.
In 1993, as part of the XIII Festival Internacional de la Guitarra de Córdoba, Riqueni gave the premiere performance of Sabicas’s and F. Cofiner´s previously unreleased Gipsy Concert, performed by the Cordova Symphony under the direction of Leo Brouwer. In the same year, with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Rafael Riqueni undertook an European tour. He also participated in the VIII Festival Internacional Andrés Segovia de Madrid. Continuing his artistic tour de force he performed at the VII Festival Internacional de Guitarra de la Habana, at the V Mostra de Jazz Europeo de Barcelona, and at the XIV Festival de la Guitarra de Cordoba, together with Tomatito, he presented Jondo para el Siglo XXI. In that same year, in collaboration with María Pagés and Carmen Linares, he performed in the Bienal de Flamenco de Sevilla with the world premiere of De la Luna al Viento. With reference to this work, Rubén Gamboa writes: Through the fruit of his study and recuperation of the legacy of the nationalist composers comes an arrangement for guitar of Font de Anta´s processional Amargura. When this work was interpreted in 1994 at the Bienal in the Teatro de la Maestranza, it provoked a considerable stir in the auditorium. In 1994, Maestros was produced by Enrique Morente. This record pays homage to the great flamenco guitarists of the past. In Maestros Riqueni interprets works by El Niño Ricardo, Esteban de Sanlúcar and Sabicas, He achieved truly prodigious recreations of these pieces, with which he continued awakening an enormous admiration among guitarists and flamenco aficionados. Soon after we find him offering concerts in London, Manchester, Dublin and in Athens. In the Centro Cultural de la Villa de Madrid he offered De Triana a Lavapies, and he ended the year with a tour of Latin America which took him to Chile, Peru, Brazil and Argentina. In 1995, with Carmen Linares, he stars in Carlos Saura´s Flamenco.
In 1996 Rafael Riqueni received the Premio Andalucía de Cultura and shortly after that, in 1996, he released Alcázar de Cristal, another work which was quickly recognized by his admiring public. He also offered us via his recordings, works such as “Calle Fabié” and the Taranta which gives its name to the recording. Alcázar de Cristal was presented to the public at various sites, among them at the45 Festival Internacional de Música y Danza de Granada,at the IX Bienal de Flamenco at which Riqueni stands out as one of the really great protagonists. At the IX Festival de Mont de Marsans in France, he was to realize the most outstanding performance of his career, to date. At the Teatro de la Zarzuela in Madrid, along with José Mercé, Esperanza Fernández, Tomatito, Moraito Chico and J.M Évora, he offered his public a commemorative performance of Suite Sevilla for the Día de Andalucía in 1997. In that same year, he performed at the Gran Teatro de la Habana, taking part in the Encuentro de Son y Flamenco. El Lebrijano, the Familia Fernández and Manolo Soler also took part in this musical event.
During his long career Rafael Riqueni has collaborated with many outstanding international and national artists of the world of jazz and other forms of world music. Such artists as Al Di Meola, Anouar Bahem, Rainer Brunninghaus, Bill Whelan, and Spanish artists such as Carmen Linares, Estrella Morente, Javiér Barón, María Pages, Esperanza Fernández, José María Gallardo, Carlos Núñez, Javier Vargas and Joan Albert Amargos have shared the stage with him. Among them all, Enrique Morente stands out and together with him Riqueni produced various recordings as well as numerous concerts, including the 30 Festival de Jazz de Vitoria-Gasteiz, the I Velada Iberoamericana para la ONU, in New York, the VII Festival Flamenco Pá Tos in Madrid in 2006. He also took part in the tour which presented Pablo de Málaga, the record by the maestro Enrique Morente from Granada.
In September of 2011, at the Teatro de Lope de Vega in Seville, Rafael Riqueni presented his Parque de María Luisa. The performance so full of emotion was filmed as part of a documentary dedicated to him and his art. In Parque de María Luisa he describes memories of his youth in this emblematic setting and again truly opens a totally new chapter in his work as one of the most essential and innovative creators for the flamenco guitar throughout the history of this music.