They served as actual visionaries in times of extreme hardship for everyone; in our case, this was multiplied due to the old clichés and prejudices that have followed us down the centuries for the simple fact of being who we are.
Like all the children of my generation, I grew up between school, street games, superheroes and black-and-white movies on TV. But unlike what went on in the homes of my playmates and school friends, music was a nearly obsessive constant in my family environment.
My father, Pedro Peña Fernández, explained all this very well in his essay ‘Los Gitanos Flamencos’, which for many people in the know is the ‘bible’ of flamenco.
Working as a national schoolteacher, he was probably one of the first Roma in our country to be licenced to teach, and he would delight my siblings and myself every morning with a variety of exquisite music before heading off for school. Many mornings he woke us up that way. Ludwig van Beethoven, Juan Talega, Lole y Manuel, Tomaso Albinoni, Los Smash, Triana, Diego del Gastor, my grandmother ‘La Perrata’, Oum Kalsoum, Antonio Mairena and many other artists from diverse genres, chosen with exquisite taste and concern in order not to contaminate our delicate virgin ears. In this way, the dose of sensitivity we received every morning upon waking made us feel everything the day was to bring in a very special way.
But in addition to being a cultivated passion, in my family a sort of liturgy exists around music, particularly flamenco, that goes beyond the standard concept, situating it as the principal axis of communication from which we drew so much to express good fortune and bad. It is an ancestral tradition that also makes us feel, in an intense and different manner, the link shared by those of our ethnicity, regardless of whether or not we belong to the same lineage or area.
Our get-togethers were, and continue to be, musical shows of the highest order. I remember one time when we were all gathered for some celebration, and there was a little time to bring out the instruments and start getting organised in a natural way, as if it were a stage, in order to facilitate the singing, dancing and guitar performances. From one moment to the next, the most perfect harmony reigned among all those present: children, adults, performers, those who accompanied on guitar and clapping, and those who just listened. Not everyone was admitted as a guest; you had to know how to behave and have absolute respect for what we did.