“My name is Juan de la Santa Trinidad, son of Bernardo and María, I'm a blond gypsy, and my eyes are blue like the sky of Lebrija”
Yo me llamo Juan (2003)
This morning I'm grieving with Lebrija. I'm crying with with friends and strangers from that town, with my dear Tere Peña and other family members, and with flamenco. We have lost the great Juan Peña “Lebrijano”, a basic part of a generation of interpreters that is disappearing at an alarming rate.
I remember the nineteen-sixties when suddenly, there was this young talent with a stylized Mairena sound, full of creative energy and uncommonly knowledgeable for someone so young. I hadn't yet heard the name of Camarón, when Juan made his first recording that awakened flamenco fans from a certain lethary. Guided by Antonio Mairena, and being a young maestro of the most traditional sort of cante, his lineage and disposition led him naturally to his destiny.
But his inquisitive nature led him through a long list of achievements, experiments and experiences. Fifty-three years ago, Lebrijano sang at the first edition of the Gazpacho Andaluz de Morón de la Frontera, which this Saturday, July 16th, is celebrating it's fiftieth anniversary. Juan Peña's famous wedding was recorded on CD, “La Boda”, with the participation of Antonio Mairena, Niña de los Peines and Pepe Pinto. He recorded with Niño Ricardo, with Paco de Lucía, with Manolo Sanlúcar and Rocío Jurado. He sang with Bulgarians, carried out major work with Andalusí music, created “galeras” and did experimental work with non-flamenco poetry, always preserving the essence of someone who also played guitar, and was an elegant dancer.
When I interviewed Lebrijano in 2003, I asked him directly if he preferred classic flamenco singing or fusion. Without a moment's doubt he answered: “No…what I like is classic flamenco. The thing is, an artist has the need to try things, and do a little of everything. I don't think it's necessary to move away from flamenco, but the artist who does so because he or she feels that need, why not give it a try?
Let's let those words serve as testimony and legacy that so honestly and directly portray the person, the artist, the maestro that was Juan Peña “Lebrijano” who this morning took his leave at the age of 75.