We find Juan Peña “El Lebrijano” immersed in a non-stop whirlwind of performances, presentation, official acts and promotion regarding his new record. An artist who has never been hesitant about risk-taking and placing his bets on his own ideas which tend to come out on top, leaving a wide path. These days he’s been appearing at various Spanish theaters with his show “Cuando Lebrijano Canta se Moja el Agua”, and taking advantage of a free moment we were able to chat with him.
After last year’s run of health problems, this year you’re working extra hard. How is it going?
They say after the storm comes the calm. This has been good for me, because it made me get in shape. I’m a person who can’t stop working, and when I’m not doing something, I’m thinking about some new project, for me it’s a sort of therapy.
You were in Madrid twenty days with the show “Convivencias”, what was the experience like?
Very good, because it made me feel stronger, and taking advantage of the fact that there were three siguiriyas in the show, over a period of twenty days I sang three different ones each day. Everything was recorded, so we ended up with sixty different styles of siguiryas accompanied by piano, and of these I hope to use the best ones for the anthology of soleá and siguiriyas I want to make. It wasn’t easy for me, but as soon as possible, and with the help of my brother Pedro Peña, I have the intention of recording another twenty or thirty styles of soleares which will make the anthology complete.
As a matter of fact, you’re now touring with “Cuando Lebrijano Canta se Moja el Agua”…
Yes, I’m very excited about this show based on the work of Gabriel García Márquez, and I have four concerts that are very important for me, because they are in large theaters, and the audience is very demanding, I want to give them my all. On November 20th I’ll be in San Sebastián at the Victoria Eugenia Theater which is a beautiful venue, and I’m told many tickets have been sold. On the 21st I’ll be at the Barañaín Theater in Pamplona, the 22nd at the Príncipe Felipe de Oviedo Auditorium and the 24th in Madrid at the Häagen Dasz Calderón. I’ve managed to bring together great musicians, the best in their respective specialties, under the direction of Dorantes and Pedro María. It’s not an easy thing to do.
“I identify with the gypsy Melquíades who every time he arrived in Macondo brought impossible inventions that fascinated and scandalized everyone”.
What do you want people to feel when they go to see this show?
My goal is to try bring audiences as close as possible to magical realism, or at least from our concept of music and dance, and I think we’ve managed to do that.
How do audiences in the north of Spain receive you?
I don’t like to make comparisons, but the fact is it’s exactly the same as in Andalusia, they don’t stop applauding and asking for encores, I’m very grateful to them.
You’ve also got Pastora Galván in this work. What does Pastora’s dancing bring to the show?
Pastora adds the element of dance which her style works between gypsy and avant-garde, with those surrealistic poses that are a kind of magical flamenco realism.
If you had to identify yourself with one of the characters of García Márquez’ work, which one would it be?
I identify with the gypsy Melquíades who every time he arrived in Macondo brought impossible inventions that fascinated and scandalized everyone. I also like the barber who pulled out the coronel’s teeth.
And Pastora Galván, what’s her part in the show?
She plays “the saint”, a fundamental part in the work and the part she dances.
Looking back at your discography with over thirty recordings, how does it seem to you in retrospect?
I think I have a very extensive body of work which is consistent with my way of being. I still have to record the anthology I mentioned, and I can tell you something interesting: it’s been twenty-five years since this idea has been kicking around in my head, and I want to make it happen as soon as possible. All I can tell you is it will include Dorantes, Pedro María, Faiçal and it will have a hindu sitar I want Anoushka Shankar to play, that’s Ravi Shankar’s daughter. And then maybe I’ll make another record after that, well, I don’t know because with my age, you know time catches up with you…
Good luck and good health, maestro…