FLAMENCO jazz guitarist Eduardo Niebla begins his 2014 Scottish tour at Plockton Hall on Thursday.
Born in Tangier, brought up in Spain and now based in Yorkshire, Eduardo will be accompanied by fellow guitarist Matthew Robinson, with the tour will also taking in visits to Lewis and Skye.
But Eduardo recalls clearly how he first began to play guitar.
He said: “The first time I put my hands on a guitar was when my older brother had bought one – he was about 19 or so and I was six – and he’d told me never to touch it.
“My brother wanted to be a songwriter and I remember sitting on the floor of his room listening, and in my mind I was trying to copy three chords he was playing. I tried to make a picture of his hands making the chords.
“When my brother was out, I went and got the guitar and started trying to play these chords. Then he arrived and he was going to shout at me, but he looked at me and asked me how I’d learned how to do that. And I said ‘I remembered from last night’. After that he let me play!”
Since his first exploration of flamenco at the age of eight, Niebla formed symphonic rock band Atila in 1973, spent some time in Paris, then arrived in London in 1978 with only his guitar, an arrival which was supposed to be a stepping stone to studying jazz at Berklee College of Music in America, but one which he never made.
“I was on my way to America, but I didn’t speak much English, so I decided to stay here in the UK and learn some English first.
“I met some musicians here and things started to happen.”
So does Eduardo ever regret that he never made it to Boston?
He laughed: “You never know what was there for you! But here I’ve lived a life full of experiences and that is what enriches your music, so I don’t have any regrets. The older I get, the more relaxed I am about everything.”
Eduardo recorded the album Fairy Tales with Mother Gong and appeared with the band at Glastonbury. And over the years, he has explored classical, jazz and world music with the likes of Nishat Khan, the Dante String Quartet, Adel Salameh, has recorded in session work for people including George Michael and Craig David. He has also worked with writers and poets Michael Horovitz, Fran Landesman and Yorkshire bard Ian McMillan.
His 2014 tour will showcase pieces from his forthcoming album, his 24th, as well as revisiting his back catalogue which covers four decades – and Eduardo always looks forward to his Highland dates.
“The landscape is so beautiful up there, When you are a musician and you are travelling a lot and it’s so full on, it’s almost as if you’re in another life. You get so close to people that you are meeting and playing for. Then you go to another place and it’s the same again – you are so much in the present.
“One of the times we were in the Highlands, myself and an American drummer who was with me for those dates, travelled around in a campervan.
“He was absolutely amazed at how beautiful the West Coast is. He said ‘Next time you are going to Scotland, I will come and play for nothing!’.”
“And we try our best to leave something special behind.”
Tickets for his Plockton show, which is promoted by Lochalsh Arts Network, can be booked by telephoning 01599 577296 and cost £9, £7 for members and £3 for under 18s.