In Galway in the 90’s there was a thriving, young Spanish community. Indeed, the Galway/Spanish connection is centuries old as shown by the renowned Spanish Arch and the Latin Quarter. But at the time of which I speak there was a new, young and vibrant influx of Spaniards arriving in Galway both to work and study. Then there were those who came merely to change our lives for the better by giving us the beauty, the joy, the healing that comes from music. Luis was the foremost of these.
Being a musician in the city at that time was interesting. One would typically be in a band performing original material and also, probably, on some sort of social employment scheme. This would keep your head above the water, but only just. So for a bit of extra money it was a good idea to have a covers band on the side. I was in one that payed New-Wave, Punk and at my insistence, lots of Ska. We were doing quite well playing all over the country. Then one day I was approached by a keyboard player and a drummer, both of whom I knew by reputation and whom I had enjoyed seeing in other bands. They spoke about forming a kind of Soul/Funk band. They wanted me to sing and play guitar. I thought they were insane. They informed me, however, that the instigator of the project was certain that I had the chops. He could not be there just then because he was on his way back from Spain and I could meet him the following day.
The next day we called round to his flat. This was Luis Asturias. He constantly had some kind of musical instrument in his hand which he payed adeptly. I noticed, also, that he smiled warmly always and welcomed everyone. The flat was heaving with young Spanish and Galwegian groovers who had enthusiasm for music. He seemed to have a scene going on right there in his living room. He didn’t exactly create the scene. He simply attracted it. It just turned up and he smiled at it. He gently encouraged the beautiful mayhem. That was Luis.
We had some great years playing music, entertaining folks and having fun. The nature of the entertainment business means that people often drift apart and find new things to do. You learn not to let this fact make you sad. You learn to deal with it. Chances are you will bump into one another again somewhere down the road. So it was that while sitting in a dressing room in Arlington, Virginia eating lunch I heard a Spanish/Galway accent behind me saying ‘Hey Duffy!’ and I couldn’t believe it. Luis was playing bass with the support band on the tour. I was once again to be blessed with the presence of this man’s talent, his gentle demeanor and kindness.
Unfortunately not long after that tour he became ill. I don’t know the name of the illness nor it’s full nature, but it was bad. His heart suffered. Such a big heart that it took a lot of sick to make him suffer. His blood also suffered and his lungs. Never have I heard Luis raise his voice in anger. Never have I heard him complain. He always smiled in a gentle way and was quick with a joke.
When he had to go back to Spain for treatment a few years ago I was ready to buy a plane ticket so I could visit him to properly say goodbye. My heart was ready to break and I was trying to find the courage. Then I was told that he was returning to Galway. My heart leapt. Could it be? Had they found a cure?
I met him outside a local venue on his way in to play a gig. The tubes sticking out of his nose, the paleness. These things shocked me a bit. But still there was that ever present smile, that sparkle in the eyes. He told me that while in hospital all he could think of was getting back to Galway and playing music. All he wanted to do was entertain. To give what he had to give to others. He had not one selfish atom in his being. All he wanted was to give. And that he did. Right up until the end.
Yesterday he passed away, that bastard illness having caught up with him. Galway, Spain and indeed the world shall miss him. I miss him.
Goodbye, Luis, and from the bottom of my heart I thank you for your existence.