Paco Pena played his first pro­fes­sional show when he was just 12. Sixty years later, he is recog­nised as pos­si­bly the best fla­menco gui­tarist in the world

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - SHOWS - ROSE SADLEIR

For Paco Peña, fla­menco is more than genre. It’s more than a sound, more than an art form, more than a feel­ing. Fla­menco is a way of life. The renowned Span­ish gui­tarist and com­poser ded­i­cates his ex­is­tence to keep­ing the ex­pres­sive tra­di­tion of fla­menco alive.

At 71 years of age, the mean­ing­ful form of Span­ish folk mu­sic and dance pulses through Peña’s veins.

The rhythm his heart­beat, the melody his lifeblood.

“It has a tremen­dous power. It is mu­sic that projects a lot of soul,” he says.

“Fla­menco is un­com­pro­mis­ing in its mes­sage that ‘this is what I feel’.

“I am re­spon­si­ble for con­vinc­ing and touch­ing people when I per­form.

“I must be hon­est and project (the mu­sic) purely so it touches people the same way that it touches me.”

One of the world’s most­loved tra­di­tional fla­menco play­ers, read­ers of Amer­i­can Gui­tar mag­a­zine judged Peña as the best fla­menco gui­tarist of the year – for five years in a row.

“I am madly in love with the gui­tar. It is a very in­ti­mate in­stru­ment,” he says.

“It’s like an ex­ten­sion of the per­son. It’s a beau­ti­ful sound. Very ex­pres­sive.

“It was the ve­hi­cle for me get­ting on in life. My life has been shaped by the gui­tar.”

Peña’s brother taught him to play as a six-year-old.

He played his first pro­fes­sional show at 12.

His love for the in­stru­ment has never di­min­ished and nei­ther has his talent.

“I am not tired yet. I still play as quickly as I did then,” he says.

“I used to prac­tise five hours a day.

“There is more re­flec­tion in the way I ap­proach it now.”

Peña brings his show Fla­men­cura – fea­tur­ing the Paco Peña Fla­menco Dance Com­pany – to the Gold Coast this weekend.

He says in fla­menco, dancing, singing and gui­tar have an ex­tra­or­di­nary re­la­tion­ship.

“The dancers ex­press feel­ing as­so­ci­ated with a song – they re­spond to the rhythm of the gui­tar and the emo­tions of the singer,” he says.

“The gui­tar is the in­stru­ment of Spain that in­spires the dance. The whole thing goes to­gether.”

Peña says the dancers of­ten de­vise pas­sion­ate move­ments on the spot, which fits in with the idea that fla­menco is both struc­tured and im­pro­vised.

“The rhythms are ra­zor sharp and some­times fast and ex­hil­a­rat­ing and com­plex,” he says.

“You have to un­der­stand the pat­terns of the rhythm to have the free­dom to swim around in that world, and project your own per­son­al­ity and they way you feel in the mo­ment.”

Peña prom­ises Fla­men­cura will be a mov­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

“I am glad to say fla­menco is the mu­sic from my people,” he says. “People ex­pose them­selves and open their soul. They do what they can to project emo­tions.”

Hav­ing been a per­former for more than five decades, Peña has had many ca­reer high­lights – he launched the world-fa­mous Cor­doba Gui­tar Fes­ti­val and started the first univer­sity course on fla­menco gui­tar.

In 1970 Peña founded his com­pany of hand-picked singers, dancers and mu­si­cians.

He has toured to some of the best stages around the world and played con­certs with artists such as Jimi Hen­drix.

“It was a won­der­ful oc­ca­sion to meet such an im­pres­sive man,” Pena says.

“He wasn’t very talkative. But I knew I was in the pres­ence of an im­por­tant hu­man be­ing. We chat­ted for a bit. It cer­tainly stays in my mind.” Paco Peña’s plays Twin Towns in Tweed Heads to­mor­row night.

Fla­menco player Paco Pena brings his art to Twin Towns

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