Peña El Lebrijano
The master of cante
is releasing a mosaic-like album on a religious subject. He has just released
a record dedicated to Holy Week entitled "Lagrimas de cera" (Tears of wax), which
once again fans the flames of an old and dreary flamenco controversy. According
to Juan el Lebrijano, this is the most daring work of his long and daring career.
He talks here about this album, the audacious fruit of a chaotic conjunction of
musicians directed by a French producer. This is wax that burns.
Juan el Lebrijano
launches a new record full of religious sentiment, which is inferred from the
title, "Lagrimas de cera." Hardly one year after the well-received "Casablanca"
he has released a record about Holy Week with hardly a saeta, but with catchy
numbers like the tanguillos "Nazareno."
Our first question
to the singer was to ask how the theme of the album came about, and he answered
with all sincerity.
of the company wanted to record right away and it occurred to me to say, almost
as a joke, "I'm going to make a record about Holy Week." When I was on the AVE
to Seville I asked myself, "What did I say to this guy?" He called me up and said
"How are you going to do it?" And I said to him, "What am I doing?" Then he said
to me, "Come to Madrid because Hugo is here." He sent me the record "Mozart in
Egypt" and I said, "Damn, I'm in trouble: I'd better get to Madrid!" and that's
how the odyssey began, how the idea began to take shape.
This Hugo is Hughes
de Courson, an interesting guy. He is a Belgian producer living in Paris and has
achieved international recognition from his albums where he has taken Bach to
Africa and Mozart to Egypt. He then came down to Andalucía to make his
first contact with flamenco.
"When I really
held myself responsible for what I had done I was in the studio, and I got scared.
I saw how much was riding on me. There were moments of doubt as this record was
very daring for my career."
As soon as we
got there, in a recording studio on the Alameda de Hércules in Seville,
we put together a multicolored musical ensemble: a Belgian producer with his French
engineer, the Moroccan brothers that Juan has worked with for 10 years on strings
and vocals, four Bulgarian singers, Antonio Moya de Utrera on guitar, Rosario
Amador, niece of Raimundo also on vocals, and Sainkho from Southern Siberia. "It
was like the U.N.," jokes El Lebrijano. "You can't imagine what those women from
Bulgaria went through to get "arsa y toma." Heavens, what a pain: they just couldn't
get it right. Finally, after a thousand tries: but we thought a lot of them and,
in the end, they sang "toma, toma y toma."
of Bulgarian voices could provoke more than one comparison with Morente's latest
album, "Lorca," another mosaic of a record.
"No, I haven't
heard it, but to me the comparisons aren't important; what Morente has done before
I don't want to comment on. What I'm interested in is that the work is well done.
Morente used the Tangier Orchestra of Tunesia, though I was the one who sang with
them first. I respect Morente's work, and Morente is also a friend of mine. I
don't have anything against him, he does the kind of things that I like to do,
and I respect him. In the world of flamenco, it is a big mistake to compare artists.
"Lagrimas de cera"
at times is an electrifying experiment that has introduced some new sounds into
flamenco, the hands of ávaro, breathing: El Lebrijano was the one who introduced
one of the most original formulas into flamenco, the concept album. "Lagrimas
de cera" is his third religious work, before it there was "Ven y sígueme"
with Rocío Jurado and Manolo Sanlúcar, and a long time before that,
in 1972, a record that hinted at the future, "La palabra de Dios a un gitano."
expressed an evolution, a musical restlessness inside of me. That was where my
Calvary of being misunderstood, the tyranny began:.I don't know when they are
going to understand that Juan el Lebrijano is Juan el Lebrijano with all of his
faults and virtues. I respect the purists, I have done as much as I have been
able to. But no one can make me stop being how I am because God has made me like
this, with this restlessness to find other ways of understanding flamenco, trying
to make it more prominent, creating a tolerance between cultures, between people,
looking for a universal God :"
At 55 years of
age ("and understand now I wouldn't be getting any older"), El Lebrijano
has created some highly praised works: "It really got to me when García
Marquez wrote: "When Lebrijano sings, water gets wet.", but he has
also had to bear a lot of criticism. Speaking of the respect there is for him,
a comparison from the world of the bullfight: "I like
sing. Logically, I can like one singer more than another. Its like bullfighting;
the important thing in the bullfight is the bull. If you like the bull, then you
like the bullfighter. Just for going into the bullring, you have to show him a
certain respect. Later there is personal taste, what you hold deeply: but you
have to be open. I am stretching farther, for to minimize art is stinginess. That
kind of dogmatism doesn't work for me."
1999. Luis Clemente
Translation: Marie Jost.