Origin of the flamenco peñas
Flamenco peñas are places of worship for this art form, but they were not always like this. Here we tell you about the evolution of these places, which are as intimate as they are peculiar.
Before the birth of the peñas flamencas as we know them today, aficionados used to meet in houses or taverns and also in private parties called "reuniones de cabales".
The wealthiest aficionados would invite the artists to their homes, and those who could not afford this luxury would go to the taverns, not only to listen to and enjoy the renowned artists, but also to see the aficionados who during the day worked at their jobs and at night spent their time singing. This has always been known as the afiición.
When did the flamenco peñas arise?
During the Second Republic, some Andalusian cultural centres used to programme recitals by artists. Already in 1930 in Seville the Centro Cultural Macarena was open. Sevillian cantaores such as El Carbonerillo, Antonio el Sevillano and Manolo Fregenal, among others, performed in this cultural centre, accompanied on guitar by Antonio Peana. They also took advantage of this space to meet, especially the aficionados, to talk about flamenco singing.
After the Spanish Civil War in 1936, the flamenco opera shows were still active throughout the country.
History of the peñas
From the 1950s onwards, a new flamencology was created with national competitions, the support of the mass media and, finally, the peñas. Although initially seen as simple places to meet to enjoy flamenco singing, they became places of worship where there was room for competitions, study weeks, conferences and gatherings. It was the beginning of a new era of flamenco.
The most important flamenco clubs of the time were Torres Macarena in Seville and Pozo de las Penas in Los Palacios y Villafranca. These two did the work of making the aficionados and professionals aware of the importance of having an organisation to fulfil the function of dignifying flamenco. In this way, they wanted to be able to change things a little so that the art of flamenco would not end up being just a tourist attraction for tablaos and discotheques.
This is how more flamenco clubs were born in the capital and in the villages. Since then they have formed a collective of thousands of people in the province of Seville alone, a phenomenon that happens only in this music, flamenco.
Peñas flamencas, a place of coexistence
Flamenco peñas are defined as cultural centres of coexistence. When the peñas first appeared, they did not receive any kind of subsidies and everything was made up of membership fees. Now the State grants them subsidies so that they can continue to develop this form of promoting and creating culture.
In addition to supporting flamenco culture, they offer the opportunity to young people who want to dedicate themselves to the profession, gaining valuable experience for local audiences before taking flight to the international scene. There are almost 400 federated peñas in Andalusia alone.
The decoration of the peñas
Decoration is a common denominator. Typical Andalusian high-backed chairs arranged around tables decorated with bright colours or bullfighting motifs and shawls are a common feature of a tablao.
Trophies, photos of the artists, paintings and posters are usually hung on the walls.
A peña does not exist without artists. Flamenco greats such as Camarón de la Isla or Enrique Morente started in them and sang for years in places like these.
Peñas flamencas all over the world
Most of the peñas are located in Andalusia, but there are also peñas abroad.
According to the Centro Andaluz de Documentación del Flamenco, international peñas account for less than 10% of the total number of registered peñas, a third of which are in France. There are also some in Belgium, Germany and the United States. In Japan there are some, such as the Peña Flamenca de Tokio, in the image and likeness of the more classical ones, and the Peña Flamenca Casa Gloria de Osaka.
In Spain there are peñas in communities such as Catalonia, the Basque Country or Madrid where some aficionados try to move away from the typical peña. Flamenco has lovers all over the world. Thanks to the peñas, flamenco continues to grow and to have more followers.