by Ada Tseng
José Tanaka was born in Kyoto, Japan. But his parents were so dedicated to flamenco music that they named him José, to make sure he’d always be tied to the traditional Spanish Romani folk art of singing, dancing, guitar and hand claps.
His father had been captivated by the music as a teenager after seeing legendary flamenco guitarist Sabicas perform on television. His mother, who’d been his father’s guitar student, became a flamenco dancer.
“We were a flamenco family,” Tanaka says. “There weren’t many families like us. In our building, the first floor was our guitar shop, guitar lessons were on the second floor, and the rest was our house.”