Writings and essays about flamenco

Category — Flamenco Guitarist Pedro Bacan

Two 1997 Obituaries of Flamenco Guitarist Pedro Bacán – Translations

I translated two obituaries of the outstanding guitarist Pedro Bacán after his death in a car crash in 1997:

First:

The Tuesday edition of the great French paper Le Monde had the following obituary of Pedro Bacán, written by Francis Marmande.  Please pardon my non-French:

PEDRO BACAN: FLAMENCO COMPOSER AND GUITARIST

“The musician Pedro Peña Peña, called Pedro Bacán, born in 1951 in Lebrija, province of Seville, Spain, died on Sunday following an automobile accident.

Of Pedro Bacán, one can say this:  He was the greatest guitarist in the flamenco world, the individual who more than any other carried the guitar and song toward the future.  No one who saw his recent recital, last December 19th in Paris, would doubt this claim.  Nor would anyone who attended the event in Bobigny a year ago, where he performed with the Pinini clan — his Gypsy family from Lebrija — and his sister, Inés.  Those who witnessed this, and saw the moment when Ines, who had never before sung in public, began to sing for him, witnessed something new and completely unforeseen.

Pedro Bacán died like a flamenco, that is to say, betement (violently?).  On Saturday, he played for Juan Peña and El Lebrijano, his cousins, at Lora del Rio, in the land of the fighting bulls.  Zahariche, the finca of the fabled Miura bulls, is there on a hill.  In the early morning, Pedro Bacán wanted to drive the 60 km. to his home.  The bullfighter El Cordobés once said “In the taurine world, the roads are more dangerous than the bulls.”

Son of Bastián Bacán, the nephew of El Pinini who was born in 1911 in Lebrija, he took that as a professional name.  Until his thirties, he was noted as an accompanist to the greatest singers.  His name on many recordings attests to this.  In 1980, he appeared at the Giraldillo del Cante  contesta ccompanying Calixto Sánchez.  That same year, he was awarded the National Prize for Flamenco Guitar.  Bizarre though it seems, the flamenco world is perhaps the only world where awards and compensations actually make sense.  The Musicology Department of the University of Washington offered one such recognition, the first in a long series in North America, inviting him to be  an Associate Professor.

He was as close to [the noted musician] Maurice Ohana, and the artists and intellectuals, as to the Gypsy community of Lebrija.  Intelligent, agreeable, generous with his person and his playing and his smile and his seriousness, Bacán moved forward.  He did not seek to cross, or mix, or recast, or rock, or reorder the look of flamenco.  He sought to seek out what he carried within himself.

He sought it with the best flamencos and with all the musicians he encountered.  “At the heart of the adventure, there is a spirit which is neither an intellectual idea nor a concept; something which one cannot understand, yet which one perfectly recognizes by its presence or its absence.  Curiously, the music is not an end in itself; it is a means, a vehicle.  After emerging from a night of flamenco, one should not be the same.”  Bacan  ________ the film of Carole Sierx:  “Inés Ma Soeur”  (My Sister Inés).”

End of obituary from Le Monde.  My lack of French is clear from that final reference, originally:  “Bacan se faisait une fete de montrer bientot le film de Carole Sierx: Ines Ma Soeur.”

End of article.

A shorter obituary in the left-wing French paper Liberation recaps information already posted.

Brook Zern

Second:

The Madrid newspaper El Mundo, on page 45 of Monday’s edition, carried this obituary for Pedro Bacán, by Alfredo Grimaldos:

AT THE ROOT OF FLAMENCO   (EN LA RAIZ DEL FLAMENCO)

“The tocaor Pedro Peña Peña, known in the flamenco world as Pedro Bacán, died yesterday in a traffic accident at age 45.  Born in Lebrija, in the breast of a family overflowing with artists, he was the great-grandson (biznieto) of the mythical cantaor Pinini; the son of Bastián Bacán, and a cousin of El Lebrijano.  He was also directly related to Fernanda and Bernarda de Utrera.

Pedro brought together the solid flamenco foundation he had accumulated since his childhood, plus a rare artistic restlessness and intelligence; he became a privileged and tenacious defender of the treasures of his own family’s heritage and the school of his locality — one of the last bastions of the purest and most traditional flamenco.

A very complete guitarist, his playing as an accompanist and as a soloist abounded with “solera” (the authentic feel of the region).  He began, with great effect, to direct musical projects to rescue flamenco’s history; these now constitute invaluable contributions to flamenco’s discography.  In 1990, he fathered and directed the important recording “Noches Gitanas en Lebrija”, recorded live and featuring all of his people.  In 1994, he recorded another disc called “De Viva Voz”, which offered the ripe and authentic aroma of the his family’s flamenco tertulias that he had been part of since childhood.  On the record, he joined his sister Ines in singing.  He also participated in more than 50 recordings, accompanying many of the principal figures of the cante.  Chano Lobato just recently drew upon his talent for the recording ”Nuez Mosca”.

With the production (espectáculo) “Pedro Bacán y Los Pinini”, which played successfully in many settings, he revealed the true roots of the art to which he dedicated his life, providing a necessary and much-awaited breath of fresh air to the confusing (enturbiado) panorama of current flamenco.

In 1980, the Cátedra de Flamencología y Estudios Folkloricos Andaluces awarded him the Premio Nacional de Guitarra.  Three years later, the Musicology Department of the University of Washington named him a Special Professor, and he presented solo concerts in various North American universities, theaters and cultural centers.  For some 20 years, he has been one of the players who most frequently participated in the summer Flamenco Festivals throughout Andalucia.

Bacan was an intelligent and studious artist, and a conserver of the best tradition, but he was not anchored blindly to the past.  He had a great gift for creating productions that were simple, direct, imbued with the old flavor of the tradition, very emotive, and based on a dynastic conception of flamenco, with no pretention other than showing the art naked, with a freshness and spontaneity, revealing the truth of the cante, the toque and the baile as it was presented within his family.”

End of translation.

I didn’t know Pedro Bacán very well, but on several occasions I was privileged to spend many hours talking with him, learning how he viewed flamenco and asking him questions that few others could have answered.  He seemed extremely intelligent, he had a capacity to reflect and to think before speaking, and he had enormous first-hand knowledge.  And of course, he was a magnificent accompanist as well as an original soloist.

His death as a still-young man is a terrible blow to the art of flamenco.

Brook Zern

February 5, 2014   No Comments