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  • Writer's pictureYumi La Blanca

Demi García Sabat - Unlocked during Lockdown

Percussionists have to do multitasking - hitting different surfaces of various instruments, coordinating your right and left, sometimes feet too, while responding to your fellow musicians. If you’re specialised in flamenco, you also have to carefully watch the dancer’s footwork.

Demi García Sabat isn’t just a multitasking percussionist. His talents are multidimensional. Not only that, he’s been super productive during the lockdown. Instead of waiting for updates from the world, he’s sharing his updates by music - now explained in his own words.

Why did you choose percussion for your career?

That's a good question. I mean, I always loved percussion. They bought me a snare drum when I was one year old.

My grandmother bought me a Spanish guitar to play flamenco actually. I love guitar, but I always like so much percussion, you know. The beginning was a drum kit, and after, I started to study more percussion. This is how I became a percussionist.

How do you normally spend your day during the lockdown?

OK, I'm the chef in the house basically, and we always have these things like breakfast, lunch and dinner, no? My wife is more a teacher, she was kind of helping a little bit with the teaching with the children. Myself, I was kind of doing a little bit of all the singles and writing music and things like that, and preparing a lot of lessons as well, I have a lot of students. I was kind of like, between family and myself doing my stuff, very busy.

Normally, (before the lockdown) I get more busy, because what I do is like lots of concerts, always travel far away, come back very late… That, at the end (now) I didn’t have to do that, no? But I was going to sleep quite late actually, just composing.

Did you actually have a plan of releasing singles before the lockdown, or did you decide to do it after?

It was in the lockdown period. I did a video with the musician, the guitarist Javier Fioramonti. He said 'Do you want to do the song Spain?’ You know, ‘Spain’ from Chick Corea, it's like Rumba. I said 'OK, but I don't have anything to record', basically. He said 'Why don't you buy a sound card, it's quite cheap’. For my birthday, my wife gave me a sound card. I’ve recorded with many projects, but never recorded myself, no? There, started everything. He said ‘Buy this, we’ll record this song, we’ll be fine.' And I said ‘OK, let’s do it.’

I started to go to sleep very late, watching a lot of Youtube, theory about how to record and all this stuff, I just started to learn. From there I said 'Wow, I'm gonna start to do the music myself... OK, I want to do it.'

But of course you need a lot of time. I was doing a kind of little project, one single, another single, another single... That's why it became like this.

You know, I’ve got my London school of cajon (London Cajon Ensemble), my first piece (De Jerez a Matanzas) is for the cajon, but because I was in lockdown I thought 'Why not my son puts a bit of cello, my wife plays violin... OK, let's put something together', you know. From there, started everything.

You’ve always been active, but do you think the lockdown situation accentuated your productivity?

That's interesting, because normally I’m working with a lot of projects. I have to learn so much music and choreography from different people, no? But since lockdown, I didn’t have these things, you know. I have so much time to do my stuff, basically.

As a drummer, I always work with so many people, and you learn so much repertoire from other people, like ‘Now comes someone from Spain, Alegrias, Siguiriyas...’, ‘Wow’.... listening, practising all the time.

I mean, I love to learn music from everyone, eh? It’s not about that, no? But I thought 'OK, now is the time to start to do some stuff'. Not like ’OK, I need to do this in lockdown’. It was just coming slowly, you know, naturally.

Your wife and children are also multi-talented and they contributed to most of the singles. Do you think music helps you to have a good family relationship?

Yeah, of course. I mean, the lockdown is difficult. My son is in the Royal Ballet (White Lodge), my daughter did an audition through lockdown and she got in for next year in the junior associates.

Basically we're working so hard with a lot of creative stuff. I think creating was a good moment to 'Don't think too much about what's going on'. It was good, because we did concerts between us as well (online streaming). I was DJing one day. I don’t know, we try to make us much fun, I mean, I know it's a disaster, but we try to be positive. The problem here, we don't have much space. I got my studio, but my son and daughter need more space for dancing, my wife plays instruments… you know what I mean? But at the end, we manage with our space.

De Jerez a Matanzas

(cover photo - the playlist is below)

Is there a particular reason why you wanted to release this track first, and especially for your cajon students?

I had it already in mind. I had all the compositions, basically. The only thing, I wanted to do that with the students. I told Pablo Dominguez (who mixed the track) 'I'm gonna play with all the students and we're gonna do it all together'. But at the end, it couldn't be like that. I think it's good to have it already like this, and maybe one day we perform it. (To prepare for it) Everybody can listen to all the breaks and things like that. But this one, already I had it more or less in my mind.


(cover photo - the playlist is below)

How would you explain this form of music from Salamanca to someone who isn’t familiar with it?

OK,’Ajechando’ is folk, it’s not flamenco, it’s from an area of Salamanca. They play ‘Ajechao’, no?. It's a style from Salamanca.

Basically, Ulises (Díaz), one of my best friends, he moved to Madrid, he said 'Listen, I got 15 songs'. I said 'Wow'. He sent them to me. 'Lisen, and see what you think. If you want to, we can arrange one, you could put all the percussion you want and you arrange all the breaks', and things like that. I said 'I love this song', and it’s good because it was like percussion and voice, basically. We started to work with this song. It's 6/8, no? North African rhythm as well. We produced between us, but I created all the breaks with the percussion and rhythms.

And I love to work with Ulises. It was nice, and in lockdown I had so much time with him, it was a good time as well to connect with people, you know, sometimes you don’t see them.

There is a possibility to work like that as well, someone from Spain, someone here. You just send music, you can do it, you know. It’s opened another way to work like this.

Always, flamenco has been so popular, quite strong, no? But we have so many different folk music from different regions, and now it's getting quite popular in Spain, this kind of stuff.

Ya Tenemos La Rumbita

(cover photo featuring Demi's grandfather - the playlist is below)

I felt Rumba is the best form to express solidarity, positivity and caring for each other. How important is Catalan Rumba to you as someone from Cataluña and also as a flamenco musician?

I was born with Rumba. My father loves Paco de Lucia, but in my house it was Rumba all the time, basically.

In 1992, I was 17-18, was the Olympic games in Barcelona, no? And Rumba Catalana, you couldn’t hear so much as a young person. Me, because my parents used to listen, but it wasn't so popular. But in 1992 it became very popular again. The last day of the Olympic games came like Peret, Los Amaya, all the gypsies in the stage, like singing. Songs from the history, no? I always like Rumba a lot. Even when I came to London I was playing more Rumba than Bulerias and everything. Later, I started to work more in flamenco deeply, but at the beginning I was listening to a lot of jazz, heavy metal.

Rumba was a part of my parents, especially my father. He was like a Rumbero. He was a chatarrero, working with the iron. In ‘chatarra’ there were lots of gypsies. He used to go all the time to their parties, some weddings. He was in Peret's wedding, actually. He knew Peret. He was for three or four days, because before, gypsies party was like one week. It was with him actually, it was amazing. It was my father basically.

What I wanted to do (with this track) was make everyone a bit happy, you know. It came like that - We have Rumba for you, let's have fun, even we're in lockdown. That was the message.

A Orillas del Rio Sil

(cover photo - the playlist is below)

This is by your new band CeltFlamenc - a fusion with flamenco, Celtic music and Iberian folk. How did this project happen?

This band came before lockdown. We did a concert, but not with bagpipes. I used to play with Maria, the guitarist and the singer, in La Bodega, a Spanish restaurant in Portobello. We used to play Rumbas and Fandangos, because she's from Huelva. She's an amazing Fandango singer, and Sevillanas, Tangos, Tanguillos…

It was a Galician restaurant. That night, me and her played as a group, more flamenquito, and afterwards, (David Carril Castiñeira) was playing the bagpipes with his band, like Galician music, like Celtic music, no? They said 'Why don't you play two or three songs together?' I said 'OK, I've never played Celtic music, but...'

We started to play one song in a style of Bulerias with the bagpipes, and two Rumbas basically. It felt good. We said 'Come on, let's do something like this', like mixing quite different styles. In lockdown, we thought 'Let's do one track and release as a single'. This one is a cover actually, it's not an original song. We did our own interpretation with the bagpipes. It came like this actually. It was fun, and I like to mix a bit more folk now with flamenco as well.

There are four singles so far - are you planning to make more?

Yes! I'm trying to make more.

But now I'm going for holiday if I can. We're trying to go to Spain but I don't know, the situation is a little bit…

Maybe another one after my holiday. I'm writing lyrics now actually. It's gonna be quite psychedelic, something different as well. It's my own composition but I'm gonna use different musicians. This gonna be a quite strong message with the lyrics.

Also with Ulises, we're working on another. With Lourdes (Fernandez) I'm working on something else as well. Siguiriya as well, various things. It’ll come more stuff, I'm sure.

(This interview was done on 30th July 2020)

Demi’s Lockdown Singles - Spotify playlist:

Details of the singles:

Demi on Facebook:

CeltFlamenc on Facebook:

Ya Tenemos La Rumbita - video

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