Augustin Castellon, a Gypsy guitarist known to admirers of flamenco music simply as "Sabicas," has died in New York City from the complications of several strokes and pneumonia. He was 78 when he died Saturday at a hospital in Manhattan, where he had lived for 30 years.
Although he spent most of his professional life appearing in concert halls that seated hundreds, Sabicas was widely heralded for his intimacy with his audiences and his restraint with his instrument in a field where flamenco guitarists more often are known for their wild abandon.
Times music writer John Henken, in a review of a 1981 Sabicas concert at UCLA's Royce Hall, wrote that the guitarist "indulges in relatively little over-exhibitionism. Indeed, there was only one major left-hand-alone display, which may well set some sort of record in a field not noted for restraint."
Born in Pamplona, Spain, he took his professional name from a bean he liked to snack on as a boy.
The New York Times quoted him as telling an interviewer how proud he was of his heritage. "I'm a Gypsy and for the Gypsies, this is our music. My father played a little, and when I was 5 years old, I picked up a guitar, just to make noise. By the time I was 8 I had an audience."