El Lebrijano, Innovative Flamenco Singer, Dies at 75

Cristina Quicler/AFP/Getty Images
Juan Pena El Lebrijano performs during the rehearsal of the Gala Giraldillos an act part of the "September is Flamenco" in Sevilla on Sept. 8, 2015 

Juan Peña, the celebrated flamenco singer known as El Lebrijano, died Wednesday morning (July 13) at his home in Seville, Spain. He was 75.

“The singer has left behind fundamental contributions to the development of an art that he inherited in a natural way as a member of an exalted flamenco family,” flamenco critic Fermín Lobatón wrote in an obituary for El Lebrijano published in Spain’s El Pais newspaper.

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Peña was born into a family of musicians in Lebrija, a historic walled town outside of Seville. As El Lebrijano, he was known as a flamenco innovator whose more than 30 albums included collaborations with a symphony orchestra and recordings of poetry set to music. His album Cuando Lebrijano Canta Se Moja El Agua (When Lebrijano Sings, Water Gets Wet), a phrase that Gabriel Garcia Marquez was said to have used to describe the flamenco artist’s impact, was based on texts by the Colombian writer.

El Lebrijano paid homage to flamenco’s Moorish roots, recording with the Andalusian Orquestra of Tangier. His Evangelio Gitano, from 1981, considered the first Andalusian opera, was recorded by artists including singer Rocio Jurado and guitarist Manolo Sanlucar. He was the first flamenco artist to perform at Madrid’s Teatro Real.