Flamenco entrevistas »

Interview with DAVID PEÑA 'DORANTES' Y FAMILIA

I'M NOT INTERESTED IN LABELS
February 8, 2010
Text: Pablo San Nicasio
Photos: Rafael Manjavacas

Convivencias. DorantesThe project “Convivencias” is the clearest proof that when something is done with love, and tattention to quality, everything else falls into place.  What was intended to be a one-shot performance in the Etnosur festival 2009, shows signs of becoming an event that will be travelling half the globe with some of our most important flamenco artists.

Directly from musical director David Peña “Dorantes”, and two of the major stars, his uncle Juan Peña “Lebrijano” and guitarist Pedro María Peña, we got some more detailed information about what’s behind the show which is already holding its own among the many musicals on Madrid’s Gran Vía.

A few moments of calm for the team of “Convivencias”.  We’re in the midst of a photo op and other dealings with the press.  And despite being a show with dozens of musicians on stage, there is no friction, or rushing, or pressure.  Everyone seems to know where and how they have to be, the rehearsal schedule is clear, and the cigarette break and chat are thoroughly enjoyable.

Along the way, it’s easy to have a relaxed talk with the main players in a show that’s getting much more mileage than they ever expected.

Pedro María Peña: “This project came about as a commissioned work, more than two years ago, from the director of Etnosur and of the Andalusian Philharmonic, who came to our house and proposed the idea to David.  With such a long time, you figure things have matured well, without last-minute improvisations.  So between the two of us, we sat down and hashed everything out with plenty of time, and in Jaén everything went well”. 

I guess so, because you’re the boss’ music director, isn’t that so?
“Yes. That’s the label they stuck on me.  But you could define what I do here in any number of ways.  I’d rather just say I’m a musician, and David’s brother, and since we have a good rapport, well, we talk about things, changing whatever needs to be done to enhance the work…that’s all”.

Convivencias. Alba Molina & LebrijanoI don’t know if you were counting on this extended run and subsequent tour with Etnosur:
“Not at all.  In actual fact, Javier Yera, director of the Philharmonic, considered the success of Etnosur to be so great, he was the main person behind everything that came afterwards, and it’s a lot, because we’re getting offers to go abroad.  And it’s not even the same musicians as in the summer festival, we had to stick our necks out and bring in people like Benavent, Pardo, Tino…the production team did a great job.

Juan Peña “Lebrijano” seems happy with the people on stage with him:
“I’m delighted with what these musicians do.  Especially my nephew, he’s fantastic, and I’m going to tell you why.  It takes a good musician and a good person to bring all these people together.  These stars who overnight signed up and are coming with us…that takes art.  I think these days in Madrid, and then on tour, the theaters are going to be rich with the aroma of rosemary, cinnamon and fine spices…”

LEBRIJANO:  “These days in Madrid, and then on tour, the theaters are going to be rich with the aroma of rosemary, cinnamon and fine spices…”

I suppose it’s a source of pride that your nephew has followed his path and put together this encounter between musical styles.
“Completely.  I was the first flamenco singer to experiment mixing and crossing styles, and that an artist such as David Peña has been able to do something like this, not only fills me with pride, but brings back many memories”.

Convivencias. DorantesFor the music director of “Convivencias”, David Peña “Dorantes”, the risk is turning out to have been worthwhile despite some last-minute changes:
“The fact is, the most recent additions to the cast haven’t had much time to study, barely three or four days, but in the rehearsals you can see they’ve done their home work and the show is coming out well.  It couldn’t be any other way with people like Pastora Galván, Tino di Geraldo, Jorge Pardo, Alba Molina, Lebrijano, Carles Benavent, the Andalusian Philharmonic with Javier Yera…”.

And you even direct the very leader of the orchestra…

  • “Actually, the thing of being music director is because most of the music here is mine, and because the commission named me, I’m basically in charge, but me…ordering people around…it’s not my thing.  As I mentioned, it’s not even necessary.  The level of these people is so high, for me it’s like a dream having brought them all together, first at Etnosur in Alcalá la Real, all those musicians.  And then here in Madrid these other ones.  I definitely wasn’t made to lead.”

As far as the musical genre that might describe “Convivencia”, David has some very clear ideas:
“The name of the show has a double meaning.  On the one hand, because there are so many musicians, this is a real challenge for us, the very fact of so many different people, and such a personal way of understanding music, this is already  difficult.  On the other hand, we all have our own personal experiences, “vivencias”, and that’s where the play on words comes from, it all comes out in the show.  The orchestra, the trio of Tino, Carles and Jorge, Alba, Pastora Galván, Lebrijano and Pedro…each one has place in the show, and demonstrates their own personal musical heritage, their perspective.  If you sit and think about each one of them…that’s a whole lot of experiences.

DORANTES: “As far as what genre…I’m not interested in labels.  I don’t know any other way to explain it to you.  Whether it’s fusion, cross-cultural, pure…this is music made by people who have spent their lives making good music with people from all kinds of styles, and they’ve proven themselves to be really good at this, in capital letters”.

“As far as what genre…I’m not interested in labels.  I don’t know any other way to explain it to you.  Whether it’s fusion, cross-cultural, pure…this is music made by people who have spent their lives making good music with people from all kinds of styles, and they’ve proven themselves to be really good at this, in capital letters.  If I had to define what comes out of this work, well, I’d say it’s “convivencia” music, that’s all.  That’s what it’s about, we’re looking for a message more than a definable musical cliché.  Living together in peace, making music, that’s all there is”.

The tremendous job of writing the orchestral arrangements was handled by several people:
“There are things of mine, of Joan Albert Amargós, other musicians I admire…”

But the music is yours, from all your different phases, including your beginnings as guitarist.
“Well yes, there’s a little of everything, even that time when I was only playing guitar.  There are things from Orobroy, and Sur, and the next record…and let me tell you, even though I don’t play guitar any more, it’s always a good thing to have the guitar handy, because you can’t ask a guitarist to play in the same keys as the pianist.  That’s what I’m seeing in this show, and in some of the compositions I’m making for several guitars.  There’ll be plenty of time to talk it over.

I played things of my own on the guitar, you know how we flamencos are, we always have to do our own things, and really that “Dorantes” was the same one as today, but with a different instrument”

Convivencias. Pedro María PeñaDORANTES:  “This is a dream come true, no matter how you look at it.  Being surrounded by so much talent, and then being able to tour outside Madrid…incredible…”

How did you manage to get all these people together in such a short time, and get them committed with no set dates?  
““This is a dream come true, no matter how you look at it.  Being surrounded by so much talent, and then being able to tour outside Madrid…incredible…I can’t ask for anything else after this, because I don’t deserve it.  And there are really a lot of people I’d like to record with… Paco de Lucía, Manolo Sanlúcar, Keith Jarret…I better stop now, the list is too long”.

Is it a very different focus in a theater as opposed to the open space you had at Etnosur?
“Yes, perhaps the way of dealing with it is different.  Like it or not, no matter how free you are, in a theater everything is more calculated, more serious, all the musicians are in a specific part of the stage, the time is marked out, there’s less room for improvisation.  A theater is always a theater, and even moreso here on Madrid’s Gran Vía”.

I suppose this must have held back the release of your record:

“Actually, it did, although I can’t take too much longer, the record company has a calendar they have to keep to…it’s almost done.  Things come up, you make changes in the collaborations, I’m on top of it, but this project keeps me here in Madrid…as soon as I get to Mairena del Aljarafe, to my house and my own studio, I’ll get straight to work.  There isn’t that much left to do, you’ll see it before long”.