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Last week I went to see Paco Peña’s latest show Flamenco sin Fronteras at Sadler’s Wells, London, which had its first run there in September 2009, and now with its second season from 29 June to 3 July 2010.

I have always admired Paco Peña as a fine flamenco guitarist but there is another aspect of his career which has always been very inspiring and that is his collaborations with musicians from other musical genres. They have been inspiring because of Paco Peña’s respect for all music and musicians and his ability understand the essence of a style and then find a path for working together.


Photograph by Elliot Franks

In Flamenco sin Fronteras what Paco Peña has created is absolutely remarkable: a show with fabulous flamenco performances and fabulous Venezuelan music performances, running in parallel, so that the audience could really experience the best of both and make the connections between the two styles for ourselves.

The quality of all the performances was outstanding. Paco Peña’s company included the singers Inmaculada Rivero and José Angel Carmona, dancers Charo Espino, Angel Muñoz and Ramón Martínez, guitarists Paco Peña, Paco Arriaga and Rafael Montilla, and percussionists Nacho López and Diego Álvarez who played both the flamenco cajón and Venezuelan percussion. Balanced alongside this ensemble was the Venezuelan flamenco dancer Daniela Tugues, who often danced barefoot to the Afro-Venezuelan rhythms, played by singer and percussionist Carlos Tález, mandolinist and bandola player Ricardo Sandoval, with Edward Ramírez on cuatro and José Vicente Muñoz on bass. Each was given their solo moment to display their virtuosity; it was an evening of unforgettable performances.

My interview of Paco Peña about Flamenco sin Fronteras was published in the June 2010 issue of Classical Guitar magazine.

Would he be focusing more on the ‘ida y vuelta’ palos in flamenco?  Paco’s reply: ‘Although it is important and worthwhile to draw attention to the ‘ida y vuelta’ phenomenon, its history and the beautiful repertoire of cantes and subsequent bailes that came from that historical moment, I am concerned in this show with more than that; I am concerned with the variety of rich and powerful ways of making music in many parts of South America, with music forms that have their own strength.’

He continues: ‘There is a proper ida y vuelta piece that highlights the point, a guajira which actually is not solely a guajira but just sounds exactly like it; it is a lovely song I discovered when doing my research called galerón, from Venezuela and Mexico, singing about the beauty of the land and the greatness of its history and its people. It is wonderful to put the two styles together; you can absolutely hear a guajira and yet it is also a galerón. That very feminine dance is performed by Daniela and Charo Espino together while still highlighting their different, individual styles.

Tireless performer that he is, Paco Peña’s last performance of Flamenco sin Fronteras was on Saturday evening and on Sunday he was flying to Cordoba for his Misa Flamenca, which was to be performed at the Mezquita as the opening concert of the 30th Festival de la Guitarra de Córdoba.

© 2010 Thérèse Wassily Saba