Pedro María Peña: “I relate to that young man in love with his guitar, full of dreams”
Pedro María Peña is perhaps facing one of the most important moments of his career. After becoming an artistic director and producer, as well as being an accompanist, he will now debut “Paseo de las Delicias”, his first show as a composer, which will be premiered on September 15 at Seville’s Bienal de Flamenco.
Pedro María Peña is perhaps facing one of the most important moments of his career. After becoming an artistic director and producer, as well as being an accompanist, he will now debut “Paseo de las Delicias”, his first show as a composer, which will be premiered on September 15 at Seville’sBienal de Flamenco.
-Q: Your whole life has been devoted to flamenco, and we could say that you’ve experienced most of its aspects: accompaniment guitarist, manager, producer and musical director of your brother David Peña “Dorantes”, the brilliant bailaora Manuela Carrasco, the master Mario Maya, your uncle Juan Peña “Lebrijano” and artists of other musical genres such as Nolasco, Deojananá and Las Corraleras. Why did you choose precisely this moment, after so many years, to produce your first show as a concert guitarist and to release an album with your own compositions, as well?
-A: Actually, my professional beginnings were as a guitarist, and all the studies and training I’ve had since childhood were aimed at being able to embark on this adventure one day, so perhaps this is not that strange. My decision to focus on myself, instead of on others, came after the death of my uncle Juan Peña “Lebrijano”, with whom I had a strong bond through my whole life, both professional and artistic, being his guitarist for the last 20 years, as well as being the musical director of his last stage and recording productions.
-Q: “Paseo de las delicias”. Why did you pick up that name for your first show?
-A: Seville, besides being the most beautiful city in the world (in my opinion), is my city, and its Paseo de las Delicias (literally, “Boulevard of Delights”) gathers the best of it: its light, its river, its history… It’s a very romantic place, joyful and very scenic, and metaphorically speaking, that title, perfectly summarizes all I want to convey: the most important things in my humble history and my personal and professional experiences, portrayed from a positive and grateful attitude for all that has happened.
-Q. What can you tell us about that show and album? What would the public find when they attend Pedro María Peña’s debut?
-A. Well, I understand that it’s the most important show I’ve ever faced, and somehow I understand that my whole life goes with it, I couldn’t say it better. For the first time, after many years, I’m betting on myself, on the way I conceive guitar and flamenco. My artistic proposition, as guitarist and composer, is created with the conviction that all artists must be a world unto themselves, different from each other, with their own personalities. I’m continually exploring within me, and that’s what I really want to show. As a good friend of mine says, “the winner takes it all”, and I add “all, except our own self”. For this show I’ll have the collaboration of the violinist Faiçal Kourrich, who is like a brother to me, and with the cantaora Anabel Valencia, among other artists who will join me, who in my opinion represents the most solid and authentic future for the cante flamenco that is to come.
-Q: For more than 30 years you were the producer, musical director, manager and guitarist of flamenco stars such as your uncle Juan “Lebrijano”. How do you think all that experience has influenced your upcoming show?
-A: A lot, of course. I’ve been fortunate to have always worked in what I like to do, so all projects I’ve undertaken have had a positive influence on me. It would be impossible to be totally devoid of all that baggage in every step I take. I have a fascination for the stage, and my knowledge of scenography (and all its potential, technical and artistic), learned through all my multiple experiences, is always with me.
-Q: In all the facets of flamenco where you’ve been professionally involved, which one do you feel more comfortable with, and which one would you pick as your favorite?
-A: Without a doubt, the guitar is the instrument that allows me to express myself more naturally, and I feel more comfortable with a guitar in my hands. Yet, there are other aspects of flamenco that have been blooming within me, unknown to most flamenco aficionados: singing. I have a great passion for cante and I believe it’s the most important feature of this musical genre. That same passion has discovered my inner, silent voice, so I have the privilege of experiencing the joy of singing, besides playing the guitar, limited by my vocal skills, naturally, because I don’t practice singing as often I practice guitar, for example. My father and master, Pedro Peña, was the one who instilled in me this passion for cante, as he did with guitar.
-Q: Many people don’t know that in 1986 you were awarded a prize as a guitarist at the Festival de Jerez. Yet, what about today’s guitarist Pedro María Peña, who is debuting his first show? What can you tell us about him?
-A: A lot of rain has fallen since those days… That was a very beautiful period in my life, there was nothing more important than guitar at that time. Precisely, I nowadays relate to that young man with his guitar, full of dreams and very focused in making his dreams come true. Somehow, I’ve taken that path again. Yet, unlike before, today’s Pedro María Peña has lived, has being in love and experienced heartbreak, has felt the intense pain of the loss of the most special person in his life, his mother, as well as other people he has loved and admired. He has great friends and has enjoyed every good moment that was worth it. All of that necessarily is always within me, and it’s reflected in my compositions and in the way I express myself.
-Q: What’s your opinion about contemporary flamenco in general, and about the world of flamenco guitar, in particular?
-A: Flamenco artists have never had it so good as now, and that’s something they deserve, due to the great worth of what they do and what they represent. Likewise, flamenco enjoys a great interest and respect outside of Spain, and it’s performed in the best stages of the world. Regarding flamenco guitar, it’s experiencing a very interesting and wonderful period. There are many high-level artistic propositions. Flamenco guitar has been hugely influenced by other genres and it has been taken to new heights unfathomed by our predecessors. Yet, at the same time I believe is straying away from its true essence. A flamenco guitarist, particularly if he’s a soloist (as that implies having a deep knowledge), has the obligation to know flamenco really well. With the greatest respect to all my colleagues, I find a bit disturbing that most are very familiar with the last album by Pat Metheny (to name someone greatly regarded among flamenco guitarists, whom I love, of course), yet few have ever heard the cantes of Marrurro, Silverio, Cagancho, Chacón or La Andonda, to name a few of flamenco’s most important creators. Frankly, I don’t think anyone is interested about this, although it’s true that no one requires learning anything about it, which is even more disturbing. In other genres of similar relevance and importance, such things don’t happen. It’s not possible to evolve with a firm step from unconsciousness, ignoring the value of our true legacy, the foundation of the basic pillars of flamenco and its greatness. Flamenco must be known in depth, even if just out of responsibility.
-Q: We’ve spoken about your diverse work in the world of flamenco and how you’re performed a multitude of roles always involved with big stars, such as Mario Maya and Manuela Carrasco, whom you managed, or your own brother, Dorantes, with whom you worked as a promoter, director and musical producer. Yet, if you had to pick one artist, who would that be?
-A: Well, without a doubt it’s hard to pick one, because each person, particularly when we talk about such great artists, teaches us a lot. My brother David is an angel whom I really love and admire in a very particular way, he’s a genius. Yet, perhaps for all the experiences I lived with my uncle Juan “Lebrijano”, I’d pick him, for all these years we were together and all the things I learned from him: my trade, self-respect, not to mention the many experiences we lived together and the great love and admiration that united us. He really believed in me, much more than I myself, and he would tell me that repeatedly. Accompanying him por soleá or por seguiriyas, we would become one, I would get into a trance and I’d forget about the world and about wherever we were performing. Perhaps one day, when the time is right, I’ll tell all the many stories and anecdotes about him and all the memories I keep in my heart.
-Q: Many thanks for your time, master. We wish you a great success in your premiere…
-A: You are very welcome. I’ll be there, giving it all, with great excitement and very eager to enjoy that moment. It’s been a pleasure.
By Juan de los Dulces