Paco Peña embodies both authenticity and innovation in flamenco. As guitarist, composer, dramatist, producer and artistic mentor he has transformed perceptions of this archetypal Spanish art form.
Born in the Andalucian city of Córdoba, Paco Peña began learning guitar from his brother at the age of six and made his first professional appearance at the age of 12. In the late 1960s he left Spain for London, where his recitals of flamenco music captured the public imagination.
In 1981 he founded the Centro Flamenco Paco Peña in Cordoba, later becoming artistic director of the Córdoba International Guitar Festival. Plans are underway for a new educational initiative in Peña’s hometown, complementing his work as the world’s first Professor of Flamenco Guitar, a role established in 1985 at Rotterdam Conservatory in the Netherlands.
In 2002 Paco Peña enjoyed the collaboration of the renowned theatre director Jude Kelly in what proved to be the spectacular show Voces y Ecos, which took the audience on a kind of journey through the history of flamenco and the most significant moments in its development – the show was hailed as the best flamenco show in years.
Other ambitious projects followed with Jude Kelly’s collaboration A Compás! was aimed at transmitting vividly to audiences the compelling nature of a range of flamenco rhythms; Flamenco sin Fronteras took a look at a group of flamenco forms that emerged at the turn of the 20th century as a result of Spanish musicians, singers and dancers arriving in South America to conduct tours of their shows and discovering a rich folklore that at times reminded them very strongly of their own musical traditions. This new group of styles was called ‘Cantes de Ida y Vuelta’, and the show sets out to combine the best of flamenco and its environment with Latin America and the great variety of music that exists there. The show was toured in the UK by Music Beyond Mainstream.
Paco Peña has been named Oficial de la Cruz de la Orden del Mérito Civil and awarded the Gold Medal in the Arts by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington. Both honours were bestowed by King Juan Carlos of Spain.Paco Peña Website