Guitar a passport to world for Jose Feliciano
WHEN he was a young boy navigating a new country and a new language, music proved to be a universal form of communication for Jose Feliciano.
Known largely for his best-selling Christmas single Feliz Navidad, Feliciano is next month heading on a tour across Australia, which will wrap up at The Star Casino on the Gold Coast.
Feliciano, 72, said he could never have imagined how far his love for music would take him.
"My guitar has always been my passport for travel,” he said.
"It's taken me to many places.”
He first began playing the ukelele at the age of eight, before finding his six-stringed love a year later.
Decades on, Feliciano - also known for his rendition of The Doors' Light My Fire - has claimed more than 45 gold and platinum records, been nominated for 19 Grammy Awards and claimed a handful, as well as the Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011.
While connecting with people from all walks of life through song, his musical journey has also paved the way for Feliciano to connect with a host of cultures, and Australia's indigenous communities are no different.
"I learnt to play the didgeridoo,” he said.
"That was way back and I have one.”
Feliciano, who was born blind, said connecting with the music of a culture was always vital to connecting with a place.
"When I went to Turkey I bought an instrument called the Oud,” he said.
"When I went to India I learnt to play the sitar, many years ago, and I enjoyed it.”
This was a natural progression from the significant role music played in his life growing up in New York City, after relocating with his family from Puerto Rico.
"I didn't speak the language at the time and it was something you just had to learn,” he said.
"I had to learn to speak the language and there was no bilingual education at the time.
"We spoke English in school and Spanish at home, so I became bilingual.
"I think for me it was learning the music of the country I lived in and also mixing it with the music of the country I came from which was Latin music.”
While he was paving the way for Latin musicians in the Western world at the time, Feliciano doesn't see it that way.
"I was just a young kid who was into music,” he said. "But I can't believe where it's taken me and I am filled with gratitude.”
Feliciano said he was looking forward to touring Australia once more. He will perform in Canberra on March 7 before heading to Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide before the Gold Coast on March 17.
Australian singer Wendy Matthews will join him on several of the shows, including the Gold Coast gig.
"I am looking forward to coming to Australia,” Feliciano said.
"I haven't been there in four years so it'll be nice. I'm looking forward to it all.”
- Who: Jose Feliciano and Wendy Matthews
- Where: The Star Gold Coast
- When: Saturday, March 17, doors open 7pm (Qld)
- Tickets: Visit ticketek.com.au.