Jose Luis de la Paz, guitar | Credit: Courtesy

If, in the upcoming months, you begin to hear lively guitar and perhaps some passionate vocals while walking throughout Downtown Santa Barbara, don’t be alarmed, you have not been transported back in time to your last vacation to Spain. Rather, the renowned Flamenco Arts Festival (FAF) is back after a hiatus for the initiation of its much-anticipated 24th anniversary.

Magela Herrera, flute | Credit: Courtesy

Vibiana, the president and cofounder of the FAF, speaks to the challenges that accompanied the FAF’s hiatus, noting, “Our first festival was in 2000, and soon after came 9/11, the housing crisis, a recession, a few fires, a mudslide, another recession, and a pandemic. Looking back, I never thought of the organization celebrating 24 years…. I am so proud of the current directors and those from the past who never lost sight of the mission of presenting world-class artists from Spain and the U.S., and celebrating cultural diversity in the arts.”

This year’s FAF will shift toward year-long events beginning with the renowned performer José Luis de la Paz taking on the New Vic Theater on Saturday, May 6, with Adolfo Herrera, Magela Herrera, and Ana Bermudez, and will be followed by several events on August 4 at the Lobero Theatre, just in time for its 150th anniversary celebration.

De la Paz, often known as award-winning guitarist Mario Escudero’s pupil, originally performed at the FAF in 2003. His musical endeavors tend to focus on traditional flamenco, while still experimenting with its parameters, as evidenced by his latest work on Colin Farish’s East of the Evening Star. By bringing de la Paz back for the FAF 20 years later, Vibiana notes that she is “very committed to growing our music program, producing more music concerts, and enhancing the experience with classes in guitar, cajón [box drum], and singing. Our goal is to create ongoing music classes and train the next generation of flamenco musicians.”

Adolfo Herrera, percussion | Credit: Courtesy

When looking at de la Paz’s magnificent work, it might bring up the question as to what traditional flamenco truly is.

Vibiana notes, “Flamenco is composed of three main elements: baile, guitarra, and cante,” or, in other words, dance, guitar, and song. She continues, “It is hard to explain, but there is a dialogue between the dancer, singer, and guitarist. Each artist is aware of what the other is doing and responds to it to ensure a smooth and effective performance. It may be choreographed, or it may be improvised. Either way, it is a dialogue or communication that takes years to understand and perfect.”

With Santa Barbara’s rich Spanish history, as well as the Lobero Theatre’s record of holding Flamenco performances far before the FAF was founded, with Vibiana describing the top talent as “1950s [performances] with José Greco, José Manero, Luisa Triana, Juan Talavera, Gino D’Auri, Roberto Amaral, Lola Montes, and more,” it is evident that Santa Barbara embodies a location that not only invites artists from around the world to share the wonderful traditions of Flamenco, but also is a small part of this history as well. Vibiana even notes that “much like in Spain, children in Santa Barbara begin studying flamenco from a very young age.”

Ana Bermudez, cello | Credit: Courtesy

Vibiana continues her sentiments regarding Santa Barbara as the festival’s location, stating, “The FAF also fills a unique niche for culturally diverse arts programming in a community that is 46 percent Hispanic. The FAF audience is 62 percent Hispanic.”

Make sure to save the date to attend this vibrant festival and take part in what may be seen as a continuation of tradition. From performing once again at the historic Lobero, shifting August performances to occur during Fiesta week for the first time in years, and spreading the outreach of traditional flamenco across the world, you won’t want to miss the return of the FAF.

Tickets for Jose Luis de la Paz are on sale online at and at the New Vic Box Office.


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