El Espina

Foto: Sabine Kunzer

At 15 years of age, he began to learn the 12 string guitar and the electric guitar.


El Espina formed a rock group and played covers, from Michel Polnareff to the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. At the same time, he developed a liking for composing his own songs and performed as a songwriter in youth clubs in Berlin. He broadened his knowledge of the guitar to include finger-picking, Bossa Nova and above all, the blues.

El Espina also plays the flute, which he took up during his music studies at the 'Hochschule der Künste' (HDK) in Berlin.


It was a delight for him to play Händel in the Philharmonic Orchestra of Berlin in 1978, together with his flute teacher at the time, Cecilia Brunschen (Swedish concert flutist).

In addition to all of this, El Espina also had vocal training. At the HDK in Berlin, he met his first guitar teacher (until this point, Espina had taught himself everything he knew). The professors Cecile Brunschen and F. Wiechel taught El Espina music history – the soulful accompaniment  of music, and above all, the art of music interpretation.

During the first trip to spain he get in contact with gipsy, a Flamencoguitar player. Espina was immediately taken with these compositions, and went on to play flamenco guitar for 5 years in the duo formation MANO MANGO (which he founded himself) on stages all around Berlin. The duo released its first professionally produced record, which at the time caused a sensation with its novelty flamenco guitar duos.

El Espina travelled to Cordoba many times, and it was in 1981 that he met Paco Peña, a flamenco guitar expert – and went on to be taught privately by him. (www.pacopena.com). It was the start of a very friendly relationship, which still exists today.

The music of Paco de Lucia began a new chapter in El Espinas style of playing flamenco guitar. Espina learnt the basic principles of a new playing technique, in comparison with other experts.

El Espina, who was an outstanding classic and south american ballroom dancer for many years, became enthusiastic about flamenco dance, and learnt the flamenco dance guitar accompaniment.



For the first time, he bought a Manuael Reyes flamenco guitar. Reyes is a specialist in the constrruction of guitars used to accompany dance. El Espina still plays on this 'Reyes' today.

He took lessons with Miguel Perez senior, who was Sabicas' guitar partner for 20 years, and who showed him many rhythms and playing techniques for flamenco dance guitar accompaniment. El Espina began an intensive and friendly working relationship with the son, Miguel Perez junior. El Espina and Miguel Perez have been playing for Bettina Castaño on stages all over Europe for more than 10 years.

El Espina did not only focus on Flamenco guitar throughout the course of his musical training. He also got to grips with the compositional techniques of the classical orchestra. As a result, a powerful „Caña“ was created for the symphony orchestra.

The innovative forsight of this musician has lead to a great enrichment of flamenco performances. Espina knows, that Flamenco perse is an artistic movement which can always be developed and expanded. So, it was no coincidence that he realized a Flamenco performance with the dombac and double bass in the Otto-Braun room in Berlin in 1986. That was the beginning of a series of musical surprises, which were masterfully integrated into flamenco shows, to the delight of the audience.




El Espina was the first musician to bring Flamenco to the big stage in Germany. An example was the 1986 performance at the Otto- Braun auditorium in Berlin. Later, fellow musicians followed in his footsteps.

El Espina created exemplary sound drum plates which could be connected to a computer. For the first time Bettina Castaño was able to record a drum solo with her feet.


This is the drum computer with 2 of the 9 sound drum plates which Espina had constucted so that Bettina Castaño was able to record her foot drum solo.

El Espina's eye for technical sophistication could be seen, if nothing else, in the plans and designs for the stage lighting which he created for the flamenco group.

Over time, El Espina formed many contacts with both foreign and local artists, and inspired and motivated them to build a creative and innovative cooperation with the flamenco group. As a result of this teamwork, different programs of the highest standard have been formed, with influences from european, persian and indian cultures, aswell as from classical music. Espina has written numerous arrangements for musicians, whether for the Berky virtuoso fiddlers from Bratislava (www.diabolskehusle.sk)



guitar arrangements for Appenzell string music (http://www.alderbuebe.ch),

For classical musicians such as Annamaria Kappus (the first violinist of the Basel Symphony Orchestra) -

or arrangements for the new program PULS INDIENS. (www.karunamurthy.com).


Karuna Moorthy and Matanoor Sankanrankutty

Espina gave particular attention to the percussion, and so it happened, that he invited the best Dombac player of the day, Mohammed Tahmasebi (died 14.03.2007) to join the group.

From left to right: Mohammad Tahmasebe, El Espina, Miguel Perez (Photo: Mädel Fuchs)
From left to right: Hakim Ludin, El Espina, Miguel Perez, Mohammd Tahmasebi Hakim Ludin, El Espina, Miguel Perez, Mohammd Tahmasebi
(Photo: Mädel Fuchs)


Since then, both the indian expert percussionists Karuna Murthy (Tavil) and Matanoor Sankurankutty (Chenda) have also joined the group.


 As a result of meeting the children´s book author Katharina Eva Volk(www.poesievolk.de)  El Espina , who called himself the children's 'Flap Tap' returned to composing songs. Touched by the author's wonderful, original texts, he has composed 25 songs. He responds to the author's linguistic humour and the powerful pictures empathically and with such emotion that the music lends itself perfectly to the texts, and delights both children and adults.


Photo: Katharina Eva Volk

As El Espina had had musical training, it was clear that he would become interested in dance notation (http://www.castanoflamenco.com/d/Kurse-Zapateado-Lehrheft.html). He developed his own system, following Bach's manuscript notation, in order to write the Zapateado. Since then, 2 Zapateado schools are in cooperation with Bettina Castaño. It wasn't only El Espina who was revolutionised by this style of writing, the notation for flamenco guitar has also improved., becoming much more exact.

His most recent works are 5 palmas lessons with 5 CDs (each one hour) in which many flamenco rhythms are documented.

From right to left: El Espina, Miguel Perez, Annamaria Kappus (Photo: Klaus-Peter Dorrn)

Here are a few media comments about El Espina from the years 1996-2010


1. APPENZELLERLAND, 30.10.1996 by Bernhard Laux

A fantastic cultural moment

... the second part of the performance became 'spanish'. The guitarrist El Espina opened the show with a Farruca solo, which succeeded in really getting under one's skin. With proffessional perfection and a virtually inconcievable technique, he managed to get tones out of his instrument which one would associate more with an orchestra than a soloist...



2. Thurgauer Zeitung from 26.8.1997 by jo

La Castaño – The queen of Flamenco

Wild evening in Steckborn – The performance at the Phönix Theatre.

An explotion of instruments

Not the dance -A lively Rumba began the evening – the 'Rumba Puebla'. It was performed by the gutarrists Miguel Perez and El Espina (the componist), aswell as Hakim Ludin from Kabul (Afghanistan) on the bongos. It was a musical and rhythmic explotion of ideas and ability, which expressed the elements of Flamenco solely through music. The other pieces they performed were also fantastic, although the instrumental solo ,,Granaina" played by El Espina was a class above the rest.



3. Dill-Post, Pressehaus from 25. August 1997 by kaw

La Castaño was the grand finale for the summer songs.

Atmospheric 'spanish evening' in Villa Grün Park

Gitarrists Miguel Perez and El Espina and percussionist Hakim Ludin from Afghanistan opened the spanish night with the rumba 'Rio Ancho'. They set the mood right from the beginning of the show, winning the audience over not only with expert perfection, but also with their power of expression and improvisational ability. They took the audience of roughly 450 people on a musical journey to Andalucia.......One of the high points of their performance was the Rumba Puebla, masterfully composed by El Espina. Following a calm beginning, the musicians- above all percussionist Hakim Ludin – created an explosion of temperment, emotion and improvisation......



4. Schwäbische Zeitung from 25.9.1997 by Vera Stiller

Dance and communication between instruments

It wasn't only La Castaño who won the audience over. Each instrumentalist proved himself to be an expert. In particular El Espina, who not only writes music, but is also able to translate this music fantastically on the guitar – in particular with his solo, which really got under the skin. His sucessful compositions and arrangements created fascination among the audience.....



5. Landshuter Zeitung from 21. Oktober 1998 by Michaela Schabel

Breathtaking flamenco

Raging applause for Bettina Castaño in the sold out concert at the Landshut Theatre

….the guitarrist El Espina arrived this time with a violin and a Dombac. The flamenco fusion went into persion roots and even more to slavic gypsy origins. The elaborate stage lighting (El Espina) created additional emotion.....



6. Nordseezeitung from 27.7.1999 No. 2 - by Babette Kaiserkern

Stirring flamenco as a seductive dance

Racy show in front of the theatre at the fish harbour

….. Francisco „Paco“ Arriaga, one of the best flamenco musicians of the younger generation, and the virtuoso and powerful El Espina, who also composed the instrumental piece of music, performed as guitarrists. The young violinist Anamaria Kappus, who is also a member of the Basel Symphony orchestra, added to the rousing music with refined mastery during the 'Rumba Nueva'.....



7. Kassler Zeitung No. 177, KULTURZELT MONDAY, 2. AUGUST 1999

Provocation and melancholy

...but it wasn't only La Castaño who showed her talent, the three guitarrists, El Espina, Manolo Perez and Paco Arriaga and their percussionist Mohammad Tahmasebi from Abadan also contributed to the high standard of the performance during this evening. With own compositions and rumbas their mastery was there for all to hear....



8. Südkurier Villingen, 22. July 2000 by Knut Wedelring

Great emotion depicted in dance

A celebration of sounds with Bettina Castaño

….The excellent Ensemble was also made up of guitarrist El Espina, who is the miscal leader of the venture, and Miguel Perez, the singer Antonio Saavedr, the palmero Manuel Salgado and the violinist Anamaria Kappus.... El Espina's guitar duos delighted the Homberg audience......



9. Rhein-Main-Presse – Mainz from Wednesday, 31. January 2001 Feuilleton

Lyrical magic and flamenco fire

Beyond all cliches – From Sevilla, Bettina Castaño's performance at the Frankfurter Hof

… Next to Ludin were the excellent guitarrists El Espina and Miguel Perez, the powerful charismatic singer Antonio Saavedra, the palmero Manuel Salgado, and last but not least, the violinist Anamaria Kappus, who contested with the dancer in the second part with an extraordianry duet 'Las pedreras' and who shone during the vituosi Spiccato and Arco-Pizzi-cato combination, the 'Rumba Puebla' by El Espina – all of which the audience will not forget in a hurry.....



10. Basler Zeitung from Montag, 28. October 2002, No. 251 Kultur aktuell – by Alxeander Marzahn

Flamenco meets gypsy violin

Tournament opening by Bettina Castaño in the Basel city casino

The arm stretched delicately to the east

…the flamenco group (with singer and palmero), as well as the Berky Violin Orchestra are even a treat without any further accompaniment. In 120 pages, El Espina wrote the most extraordinarily succesful arrangements for this professional group......A highly dynamic evening, which will not be forgotten in a hurry....



11. Bensheimer Tageblatt from 24. June 2003 by grd

Flamenco dance and 'devils fiddler'

… A brilliant fusion of Flamenco and gypsy music, which were constantly praised with cheering and standing ovations......What flamenco guitarrists Miguel Perez and El Espina (composer and arranger of the music) achieved here, bordered on extraterrestrial power......



12. Schwäbischer Bote from 26.4.2004 by Willy Beyer

Flawless dance production

Bettina Castaño presented flamenco of the highest quality in the town hall museum

…..It was no showy folklore style entertainment with skirt swaying girls- the kind of show often offered in Spanish mass tourism destinations....even the predominantly improvised music was full of esprit and passion. The 'string magicians' Jose Tudela and in particular, the grey haired expert El Espina were flawless in fingerwork and plucking technique, and the obligatory 'clapper' Manuel Salgado also surprised the audience with the quality of his dance and flamenco tap footwork.....



13. Nassauische Neue Presse from18.07.2005

A breathtaking dance experience

„Flamencoriental“ enchants the Serenadenhof in Limburg

… The guitarrists showed their unbelievable ability during the 'rumba puebla'. What these men achieved on the guitar was simply unbelievable. The eye could no longer follow the speed of their fingerwork, but their precision could be heard clearly. A truly successful composition from El Espina.....



14. Tuesday, 15. AUGUST 2006 DARMSTÄDTERECHO Pg. 14

Searching traces of the orient

international summer festival

Bettina Castaño has established the roots of Flamenco

…..Guitars make up the basics of Flamenco – the guitarrists El Espina and Miguel Perez opened the Bensheim programm with a piece, in which they took turns in performing the melody and rhythm functions on the guitar, with a virtuoso melody on the lowest strings, which made the higher tones appear even more high contrast...... Spherical, atmospheric, percussive, and dynamic aspects worked together well – all of this was maybe just a touch of the substance which creates the synergy of flamenco. This style of music needs interpreters like El Espina (composition) and Miguel Perez.....



15. Starkenburger Echo, 30.7.2007, Marc Mandel

 Rhythmic spendour Andalusian –

indian flamenco evening at the Gesundbrunnen with Bettina Castaño

In addition to the guitarrist Jesus Torres, who is able to tell stories with his playing technique, und El Espina, who as a result of his 'Rumba Puebla' created a fantastic arrangement for the musicians, the Indian musicians Mattanoor Sankarankutty and Alapuzza Karuna Moorthy also fascinated the audience.....



16. Critic Bühl 15. March 2010 Badisches Tagblatt Bühlot-Acher-Kurier

The pain of the world expressed in just one syllable

Famenco dancer Bettina Castaño and her five-man ensemble delight the audience at the Bürgerhaus Neuer Markt ...

The programm began with a typical spanish 'Granaina' and a 'Rumba Mora' performed by the fantastic guitarrists El Espina and Mariano Campallo. Both players' virtuosi flamenco guitar playing techniques, which ranged from the 'Alpazua' to the racy whorl of strings in the 'Rasgueado', were mastered with great confidence by the musicians. A duo evening with El Espina and Campallo alone would even have been worth the entrance fee.

"Sensing the music frees the dancing muse."

Bettina Castaño (Foto: Anja Beutler)