Peña La Platería
A “Peña Flamenca” is a flamenco club, and they range from people’s homes where people get together to hang out, sing and play to big establishments with stages where flamenco is performed for an audience. In the 1990’s when I lived in Granada there was one Peña that always seemed to have the best flamenco going on there, but that I wasn’t allowed to go to because I wasn’t a member – La Platería. Every now and then my guitar-maker friend Francisco Manuel Diaz, who was a member, would invite me to go with him, and on certain occasions they’d open the place to the public for shows or workshops. But it seemed you had to be pretty well-connected to be a member (and I wasn’t that), so it was always a bit out of reach and I’d always hear about the great performances I’d missed out on.
Back then I did regularly go to a different Peña – one that was much more open to anyone and where I ended up having some of my first opportunities to play for singers. This was the peña El Niño De Las Las Almendras, in the home of a singer and aficionado of the same name, and a place where I learned a ton about playing for singers (you can read some more about here).
Peña La Platería has a pretty amazing history, some of which tells us a lot about the history of Spain and about how Spaniards have viewed flamenco over the years. The founders of the Peña claim that its roots are in the meetings that lead to the famous 1922 Cante Jondo competition organized by none other than Manuel de Falla and Federico Garcia Lorca, among others, though the peña wasn’t officially organized until 1949.
The Franco government’s laws against assembly required a Secret Service agent be present at their early meetings to “chaperone,” and apparently the first agent slept through the meetings, where they would listen to records of flamenco and discuss. They also mention in their official history that though the prohibition of women attending peña meetings may today seem “machista,” it also would have been illegal for women to attend and could landed the members in prison. And it’s interesting to note that among the very first members were a Frenchman who sang por Caña and a Belgian painter, so the history of non-Spanish members is nothing new.
It was called La Platería (the silversmith’s shop) because they initially met at a silversmith’s shop. But when a bullfighting newspaper published the story of a Granada silversmith who hosted a group of flamenco-loving “undesirables”, the silversmith, lost all of his business as it was considered a disgrace at the time. [I’ve heard many differing accounts about how hostile or not Franco’s Spain was to flamenco. Here’s one interesting article on the subject for those of you who read Spanish: Was Franco a Flamenco?].
30 years later…
La Platería is still one of the best places in Granada to see great flamenco, but this time around Tara and I are members. This means we get to see all of that great flamenco on a weekly basis, and we get to invite our friends who otherwise would miss out. We feel very privileged to have this great opportunity, and to be connected to what some claim is the oldest flamenco peña in Spain. Since the Platería reopened after the lockdown we’ve seen some of the best, most intimate flamenco of our lives in this amazing space.
And we feel incredibly grateful to be allowed to shoot some of our videos at the Platería, on this amazing stage where so many of the flamenco greats of the past 50 years have performed. We shot our first Cante Play-Along videos at the peña this past week with the fantastic up-and-coming singer El Turry and with percussionist Miguel El Cheyenne.
A bit more common
These days cities have tons of flamenco peñas and there are plenty of them in the more real areas, too. Many of them are open to public on some level, and you can almost always tag along with a friend who knows the peña or is a member. They generally don’t publicize their activities the way Tablaos and theaters do, but if you ask around about the local peña wherever you happen to be in Spain you may find a great source of flamenco activity that’s almost guaranteed not to be touristy. And if you’re in Granada look us up and if it’s a Saturday night maybe we’ll be able to invite you to a show!