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The Musician at Bar Al Ambique


Seville, Spring 2001 —


Three Musicians, 1921 Pablo Picasso

We were doing an after-hours bit down Calle Betis from el restaurante Mex Rock, after work, when a shabbily-dressed man came in off the street carrying a guitar.

"Estamos cerado," the barman Kiko said. We're closed. But the guy just wanted to play a song. So okay.

He strummed and sang in the flamenco vein, standing there by the front door. His guitar was ill-tuned and missing strings. His voice was great, scratchy and bad.

After the song, he walked to the back end of the bar where we were—Eugenia, myself, Kiko, his girlfriend Elo, and another guy. The musician asked us each for change, monedas; I gave him 100 pesetas and didn't worry about his further negotiations—I was poor. Kiko held out and asked the guy to sing more. Wouldn't give him a bottle of water, as he requested, or anything.

Taking a place standing just behind Eugenia and myself, he played on for about fifteen minutes. He played "Como el Agua" twice. That's a great song. We had a good old buzz on, and quite enjoyed the fellow—especially Eugenia and myself, I think. It was sad and humorous, and beautiful in its way.

One of his remaining battered old strings broke while he played. He kept playing, and commented on it only at the end of that song.

After he had finished playing, he asked Kiko again for a bottle of water. Kiko gave him one, and a 1000 peseta note* as well.


  • I lived in Seville from December 2000 until June 2001.



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* 1000 pesetas** was worth almost exactly $5 USD in 2001.

  **About €6 when the Europe-wide currency was adopted in 2002.

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