Sabicas (Agustín Castellón Campos) was a Flamenco guitarist, of Romani origin, who was born on 16 March 1912 in Pamplona, Spain and died in 14 April 1990 in New York.
Sabicas began playing guitar at the age of 4 and made his performing debut 2 years later. His early style was influenced by Ramón Montoya, with whom he was related on his mother’s side of the family. Extensive collaboration with important cantaores (male Flamenco singers) of the period helped him develop his unique personal style.
Leaving Spain in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War, he went into exile in South America with bailaora (dancer) Carmen Amaya. He lived in Mexico City, married Esperanza Gonzalez Erazo, had four children: Maricruz Castellon Gonzales, 1944, Carlos Castellon Gonzales, 1946, Agusting Castellon Gonzales, 1952 and Margaret Castellon Gonzales, 1956. Agustine and Margaret live in New York City, Maricruz lives in Alaska, and Carlos is deceased. The two toured together several times. Sabicas later settled in New York City in the United States. He did not return to his native Spain until 1967.
Sabicas was instrumental in the introduction of Flamenco to audiences outside of Spain and the Spanish-speaking world. He was probably best known for his technical skills: blazingly fast picados (scales), fast arpeggios, quality composition for the many forms of flamenco, and infallible rhythm, which was critical if playing with a dancer. Also, he was considered to have perfect pitch. “The finest technique around has got to be Sabicas, the Flamenco player,” famed guitarist Chet Atkins told Guitar Player Magazine in March 1972.
Sabicas was a tremendous genius[peacock term] of his day, not only with technique, but with major contributions, playing Flamenco previously unimaginable and giving new tools and possibilities for the solo instrument. He brought this art to concert halls and major theaters where all classes can enjoy.
Notable contemporary players such as Paco de Lucía, Tomatito, Serranito, Juan Manuel Cañizares, El Viejín, Vicente Amigo, Gerardo Nuñez and many more claim large influence from Sabicas’ music.