In 2014, the MMI created the Masters of Mediterranean Music Award to honor the great maestros of Mediterranean music. The award itself was designed by Vicente Carrillo, an internationally renowned flamenco guitar maker. Learn more about the craftmanship behind the making of this award.
Two of the greatest flamenco artists today, guitarist Pepe Habichuela and singer Jose Mercé, were the first artists to be given the new award. At the MMI spring concert on April 8, 2015, MMI directors Matthew Nicholl and Javier Limón gave harmonica player Antonio Serrano the award in recognition of his work fusing jazz and flamenco, and for his innovative contribution to flamenco music by introducing the harmonica to the genre.
On October 30, 2015, flamenco singer, composer, and producer Pepe de Lucía, considered a living legend of flamenco, was honored with the award for his contribution to flamenco throughout the span of his impressive musical career.
Read more about the winners below.
Pepe Habichuela is considered one of the great flamenco masters and one of Spain's finest contemporary guitarists. His musical contribution is unmeasurable, being one of the first flamenco musicians who incorporated other musical styles into flamenco, including Indian music and jazz, working with artists such as Don Cherry and bassist Dave Holland.
José Mercé is one of the major flamenco phenomenons of all time. Having made 17 albums since his debut in 1968 and sold more than 600,000 copies in the last 15 years, the singer-songwriter from Jerez is an artist who has known how to transmit, like few others, that flamenco is for everyone, making it popular while keeping it authentic.
Mercé's flamenco covers of artists such as Manu Chao, Luis Eduardo Aute, Victor Jara, Louis Armstrong, Pablo Milanes, Pop Tops, and Joan Manuel Serrat position him as a key artist in Spanish music. He received the Medal of Andalusia in recognition to his cultural contributions.
His latest album, Mi Única Llave, published by Blue Note, was produced by MMI's artistic director Javier Limón and features the Berklee Balkan Pletenitsa Choir.
Antonio Serrano is one of the most promising young Spanish jazz and flamenco musicians in Spain. He was born in Madrid in 1974 and began studying harmonica under his father at age 7. He later studied piano, violin, percussion, music reading, music history, art history, and choral ensemble in conservatories in Madrid and Alicante, Spain.
Serrano was a member of Paco de Lucía's group for 10 years. It was as a member of this group that he introduced harmonica to flamenco. Serrano has played and/or recorded with artists such as Larry Adler, Toots Thielemans, Winton Marsalis, Jerry Gonzalez, Chano Domínguez, Lou Bennett, Jorge Pardo, Vicente Amigo, Tomatito, Armando Manzanero, Luis Salinas, and Javier Colina, among others.
Serrano's latest album is called Harmonious. He been touring this album in Europe and Australia over the past few years.
Pepe de Lucía
Born in 1945 in Algeciras, Spain, Pepe de Lucía began his musical career at a very early age. He formed a duo, accompanied on guitar by his younger brother Francisco, later known as Paco, called Los Chiquitos de Algeciras. By the age of 16, they had toured internationally, including in the U.S., and de Lucía had won his first National Award.
Pepe de Lucía’s extended discography ranges from hits like Caminando—recently reissued in the album Los Hijos de Lucía—to his solo album El Orgullo de mi Padre to a vast array of catalogue albums on which his unique vocals and execution are on display. His contributions to music are felt deeply on albums he shared with his brother, Paco, such as Sólo Quiero Caminar, Live in America, and Live…One Summer Night. In addition to his own legendary works such as the song “Como El Agua,” his long list of credits as a composer includes work for artists such as Alejandro Sanz, Azucar Moreno, Camarón de la Isla, and Tomatito, among many others.
Throughout the course of his illustrious career, he has also collaborated with acclaimed artists such as Joan Albert Amargós, Niño Josele, Vicente Amigo, Remedios Amaya, and Carles Benavent, to name just a few.