...a night remembered with Miguel Funi
by Robert Charlton
Funi had been invited to a wedding where he was to sing. Paul Shalmy invited me to come along, but asked me not to bring my camera, since this was not Funi's group, but a different family or whatever. I could only comply, but one of my great regrets is that I didn't have my camera that night.
In any event, soon after we arrived, Funi became irritated and wanted to leave. Why? He had not been offered wine quickly enough. (Temperamental, I thought, but over the years I've come to learn the wisdom of Funi's reaction.) As the sun set, we left, drove aimlessly in the dark, it seemed, through half of southern Spain. We looked for a place to stop, to get some refreshment. Funi knew of a place, a long drive as I remember.
When we arrived, as best as I could tell at a little country road stop, there were warm greetings, and in a back room there was a welcoming fire. I didn't (and still don't) know much Spanish, so I remember only the ambience, of that flickering fire in the darkness and of us in the room. We sat for a while and had some wine. Funi was humming a little ditty, which he'd also been humming in the car. I think Shalmy asked him what it was. A little song he'd picked up from his daughter, who'd brought it home from school.
It was a nice, quiet time, but it was late and Funi was restless, and again we drove off into the night, back to Seville. Funi hummed in the car. We stopped somewhere at a bar. We were the only ones there. I don't know whether Funi knew the bartender, but if not they were quick friends, and they talked for a long while about (as I was told) the far off places the bartender had visited in his life as a seaman.
Silences. Funi occasionally hummed, then began to strum with his long sinuous fingers on the bar, at first tentatively, then suddenly bursting out into a strong rhythm that possessed him and filled the room. Shalmy looked at me, nodded, and I understood. This was one of those moments of "true flamenco" that he had described.
The image of Funi's fingers on the bar, rolling like a dance unto themselves, and the little ditty now a full voiced song from some depths inside him, possessed me then and possessed everyone in that room. I remember nothing afterwards of that night. I know that I slept and awoke, and that Funi's drumming fingers and song are still with me.