Noa Drezner, soul of flamenco

By Massimo D'Angelo

Noa Drezner, flamenco guitarist, composer and producer, one of the few women in her field in the world.  

She lived for a decade in southern Spain, where she studied flamenco guitar, played alongside leading artists and participated in countless events and festivals in Spain, Israel and abroad.  

Noa brings the warm and authentic sound of the Spanish guitar to new and surprising areas, between Tel Aviv and Cadiz.  

She is considered one of the most prominent female characters in the world of flamenco in general, and the Spanish guitar in particular.  

Her Israeli roots, her travels around the world, especially in India and Spain where she lived, provided her with the basis to create and visualize music "with more freedom" and to design a sound that is truly hers.  

Noa's debut album, "The Red string," published in 2019, was recorded in Spain and Israel and is the ultimate example of the global influence of flamenco.    

GE: Who's Noa?

ND: Well, Noa is a person, first and foremost, who likes music, culture, people, languages and getting to know places in the world. Finding inspirations, hearts... it’s like an energy that attracts me and takes me to places, like the red thread.

GE: When and how did Tel Aviv-Spain happen?

ND: Well that really started in India, from Tel Aviv I went to India, traveling I met my ex partner who is Argentine. Together we had a craft business and that's how we came to Spain. He already worked here and I came with him to sell necklaces and bracelets and things we were doing. Soon after, as I always played the guitar since I was 12 years old, I discovered flamenco. I had never heard it before, because in Israel you don't hear it and then I started to be aware of that kind of guitar, that kind of playing. We were in Granada and I saw a concert. It left me shocked, I was 24 years old and I really wanted to take flamenco guitar lessons. I had already taught jazz, rock, blues... After a while I started playing and everything else disappeared and that was it. I went to live in Jerez, I left everything else and I dedicated myself completely to that.

GE: What does flamenco have that the other musical styles you've practiced don't have?

ND: Flamenco gives you a framework and tools where you have to know how things work, and you can do it your own way. To be able to play, sing or dance flamenco you have to know more or less everything. To accompany vocals well you have to know a lot about vocals, it's not just having good technique or knowing the chords. You have to know about singing, dancing and things around you, it's not just the guitar. It's not just playing a ‘falseta’ or having a compás, you have to know a lot about the whole flamenco culture. I think it's something special.

GE: And at the level of feeling?

ND: I think flamenco is a way of expressing, it's an art. Flamenco has a lot of personality, and I identify very much with the personality it has. I'm not a very melancholic person but I can be. I like flamenco to be deep, serious; people have respect when they listen to a siguiriya. I've tried to play blues, jazz or rock, but I've never been able to compose in those genres. They may not have been my way of expressing myself, even though I love rock, heavy and blues. At home I always listened to Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple... I was trained listening to rock, but then flamenco also has that, flamenco is also 'heavy', flamenco can be many things, it's much bigger than we thought and it's still growing.

GE: What do you miss about Spain when you're in Tel Aviv? And what do you miss about there when you're here?

ND: I always miss Spain. It's a lot of things, like the way of living here which is quieter; and everybody knows that there are a lot of problems in Israel. Life there is another struggle. When I am in Spain I miss my family and my dog very much. All my people. But in Jerez you can be on the street and people sing to you and you can play for them, in Israel we only have one cantaor, who is very good by the way, but when he can't play, then nothing happens. Flamenco is still growing in Israel, it's difficult to have variety and develop yourself as a flamenco musician. You have to come here, that's what I tell my guitar students: "I can only teach you up to a certain point, but then you have to go and drink from the fountain itself". I'm still learning.

GE: How did the idea of recording an album come about?

ND: The idea of recording an album came from my audience. I didn't think anyone would want to listen and it was very difficult for me to value my own work. It took me many years to understand that what I do is worthwhile. I don't know if it's because I'm a woman or because of my personality. I should believe a little more in myself and what I'm doing. But because of the social networks and the concerts, people started asking me for an album. So first I released two singles, one in 2016 and another at the end of that same year, and the audience liked them a lot, so they began to demand more of me. But of course I'm an independent artist and an album is very expensive, I'm also a perfectionist and it was very difficult for me to manage everything. So in the end a crowdfunding project arose and thanks to my audience I was able to get half of the budget and make the record. The album is out now and available everywhere.

GE: Why ‘El Hilo Rojo’?

ND: The album is called El Hilo Rojo, it's an Asian legend about destiny, it's a way of leading life and having faith. Legend has it that when we are born the Gods come down to Earth to receive us. They already know our destiny, then they tie a red thread to the little finger that is invisible to us and this thread is connected to everything we have to find in life, places, people, music, love, everything. A friend told me the story in San Fernando and I loved it, because I have come by some things by destiny, my story is a little strange, with some very special and curious roads. I myself think, "what a miracle this has happened". So when I had to name the album I decided to call it that, because I let myself be carried away by fate and in the end I always end up where I have to be.

GE: What was your first guitar?

ND: My first guitar was a very cheap one. I was going to be 12 years old and I wanted to play the guitar but since I was already with the piano and my parents knew that I changed every two months they told me, let's wait a bit. But when my birthday came (12 in Israel is like communion) they had to give me an instrument. I already knew that it wasn't going to be a piano, so I told them "a guitar". My guitar became my best friend, I was looking forward to leaving school to play it and I was with it all day. But I lent it to a friend and he never gave it back to me... Then I switched to electric, I had a couple, then when I started to travel I bought an acoustic and then in India I started to play the sitar and I forgot a little bit about the guitar, until I arrived in Spain and then I got into flamenco. I had a guitar by Francisco Díaz of Granada and, since 2008, I play guitars by Eitan Bartal, who is an Israeli luthier who has learned to make guitars here in Spain. He has done something similar to myself, coming here to learn things that can only be learned here. He's been making guitars for some time for very good musicians both here and all over the world. He makes them by hand and just handed me a new one a month ago. I have another one, which is white; this one is black and it's beautiful. I saw it when it was just a piece of wood, and not only does it sound good, it's very pretty, and it sounds very flamenco.

GE: What have been the best moments of your career?

ND: There have been many because I've been very lucky and many doors have been opened to me that I thought were going to be closed. One very nice thing I remember is that two years ago I was invited to play at the Osuna Guitar Festival and I shared the bill with Diego del Morao. He was watching me playing and told me that he liked my soleá. That was very important for me because I watch a lot how he plays and for me he is one of the best guitarists today. So having the opportunity to play my stuff and Diego del Morao being there for me has been a great thing.

I also had two opportunities to collaborate with Rafael de Utrera, a great cantaor, in Israel. I like his singing; it has been one of the most beautiful moments of my career. Being able to share those moments with people I admire is very nice and gives you strength. For day to day guitarists the fact that your companions say good things about you gives you light, and a reason to continue. I tried to do the same as an artist with those who are just starting out.

GE: And the worst?

ND: I don't usually talk about it much, but we all know that Israel is a country with many conflicts and they talk about it all over the world, and I've had to stop playing in places because I'm an Israeli. I was refused a spot on a festival because they didn't want artists from Israel. My message is that if we want to do it right we have to stop judging people by their place of origin. If musicians have one good thing it is that they have nothing to do with politics and can carry a nice message even if they are from an enemy country or one that is frowned upon. I love to listen to everyone's music, without mixing with what kind of government they have. People are people, artists are artists and musicians are musicians, and they usually bring a nice message. You have to leave room for people even if they come from a conflictive place. There are German composers who worked for Hitler and we are listening to their music in Israel today. It's true that terrible things have happened, but the music is not to blame. Music is pure feeling. To reject someone because of where they were born seems to me to be a mistake. I think it's nice that people care and get involved in what's going on elsewhere, I like that. But the artistic boycott is a thing that has no place. Nobody would consider boycotting a doctor, but they would consider boycotting an artist.

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