A Chilean thought for Tony
I saw Tony many years ago in a concert in Edinburgh. As far as I can remember he was a support artist for The Tannahill Weavers. I was immediately attracted by his guitar playing technique and the beautiful sound he produced. Many years later I got to know him personally because I am also involved in music and I found, to my amusement, that he also played the Tiple, the 12 string Colombian instrument. I was fascinated that this excellent musician from Greenock played the Tiple. His own Tiple, however, was made in Japan and had only 10 strings.
While he was a member of Ossian, we had the opportunity to go to Nova Scotia as performers with the 7:84 Theatre Company. One day in our hotel he asked me for my charango and began to play tunes with it without me needing to tell him how to play it. Back in Edinburgh he taught me guitar, especially new ways of tuning which I thought were suitable for Chilean music. I was so excited by the result that I used them to compose two songs for my album Debo Cantar Bonito in 1989. These songs were played with the open tuning that Tony had taught me. I remember that at the recording studio Jim Sutherland who produced my album was very demanding and thought that my guitar for some reason was not good enough and told me to ask Tony to lend me his. Tony generously lent me his precious instrument for the recording session.
Yesterday I was on the phone to Tony in the Unites States in order to express my solidarity to his family in these very hard times. But while I was on the phone taking to him I was thinking also about the time when he invited me to play, as his guest, in a concert he gave at a 'wee' folk club in Fife. He was fantastic as you can imagine. I felt at the time that it was a real privilege to have the opportunity to meet a musician of his talent. Coming back home in my car I remember we discussed, among other things, pay conditions for folk musicians in Scotland as I was surprised to know how little he had been paid. I could not believe that Scotland, my adopted home, valued so little its artists. It was not in Tony's character to complain about his pay. What Tony knew was that his music had achieved its goal of bringing happiness to a small audience made up mostly of working class people. After all we both new that it was just a very small folk club which members could not afford to pay much for their entrance ticket, no matter how good the artist was.
For all of us who had the opportunity to know Tony it was not a surprise to find that he had to emigrate to a far away country in order to earn a living, but in doing so he took away from us his gentle "persona" and the pleasure of listening to his music and singing. Scotland has been very good to me and I do hope that the United States was a good place for Tony. I have not doubt that he and his family have given their new country something very important: their talent and skills and their great value as human beings. Scotland had in Tony a genuine cultural ambassador in the United States, a musician of a very high quality and a good friend.
Fuerza Amigos !
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