Juan Peña “El Lebrijano” In Memoriam

The flamenco singer Juan Peña “El Lebrijano” died today aged 75, victim of a heart ailment. Innovative, but at the same time an orthodox and a purist of flamenco singing, he was considered one of the greats of the artists of the second half of the twentieth century.

Encuentros (encounters or collisions) is the first collaboration between the Gypsy flamenco singer Juan Peña Lebrijano (known as “El Lebrijano” because his family hails from Lebrija, Spain) and an Andalusian orchestra from Morocco. With the musical direction and flamenco guitar of Paco Cepero tying it together, the song writing team of poet and lyricist Caballero Bonald, P. Rivera, and El Lebrijano craft some wonderful mixes of the two heritages. The album has sold over 200,000 copies. The liner notes are skimpy and give no particulars about the Moroccan orchestra. The ensemble consists of Western strings (featuring a violin played Moroccan style), Arabic percussion, a few Arabic instruments like the quanun, a kind of hammer dulcimer, chorus, and solo voices. In general, the strings and chorus provide a dramatic backdrop and commentary to the interplay between El Lebrijano and the Moroccan singers, on the one hand, and the flamenco guitar and the violin and quanun, on the other. The words are in both Spanish and Arabic and tell of love, freedom, and murder. The album is raw, passionate, and engaging, but not without flaws. It clocks in at 35:07, a disgracefully short time in the era of CDs. The recording quality is less than polished — for example, the percussion is too prominent in the mix and some of the Arabic instruments are inaudible at times. And of course, it is criminal that the Moroccan artists receive no credit by name whatsoever. Still, a vital album for anyone interested in either of the two traditions that so fruitfully collide here. (Source: AllMusic Review by Kurt Keefner).

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