With four catalogues, the Spanish Ediciones Senador label covers the lines Coliseum, Flamenco & Duende, Flamenco Abierto and Mano Negra. The Flamenco & Duende family of artists includes El Lebrijano, Paco Toronjo, Paco Taranto, La Macanita, Pedro Sierra, Nino de Pura, El Cabrero and Triana Pura. 2001's Sueños en el Aire by Flamenco legend Juan Peña 'El Lebrijano' revisits certain quasi-symphonic patterns of African/Spanish threads previously explored on the ground-breaking Encuentros and its Casablanca follow-up which juxtaposed Arabian and Spanish ensembles to perform the kind of music one might have heard in the classic Al-Andalus period when the Moorish caliphs ruled the Hiberian peninsula.
On select tracks of Sueños en el Aire, El Lebrijano introduces Basque/Romani/Greek accordion and clarinet and with singer Penka Karacheva 'Pepa' even culls from the quintessential Russian/Bulgarian Rom song "Jelem Jelem". Lyrics stem from Federico Garcia Lorca, Pedro Peña and Casto Marquez. Without once leaving the peculiar feeling of Spanish Flamenco, El Lebrijano manages to weave into it Transylvanian elements to demonstrate the common musical gene pool that exists between various Gypsy tribes from Spain and Bulgaria. It's one thing to know about these connections, it's quite another to interlink them such as to become seamless specimens of a joint musical syntax which, like a frozen mastodon, survives the cultural and geographical changes in time-capsule fashion to now be presented to 21st-century listeners in all its hairy, horned glory of charging mass.
But that high-wire act is exactly what Sueños en el Aire pulls off, from Alexis Lefevre's Middle-Eastern violin suggestive of a Tangiers orchestra soloist on "En el Soto" to the piercing soprano chorus of the "Calle Arriba, Calle Abajo" waltz with burbling clarinet accompaniment that could originate from somewhere in Bosnia-Herzegowina. While always strongly anchored by Flamenco guitars, there's even a piano and massed string pedals/pizzicatos on the main theme of "Si El Río Quiere Irse" to recall Camaron's heavily critiqued employ of a symphony orchestra during his rebellious heydays.
"Veinticinco Faroles" opens with an accordion solo straight from some Bulgarian wedding to lead into a jubilant Flamenco hymn about the glory of Granada, then ends with a high-speed Turkish clarinet improv that's mirrored by the guitar. Ditto for "Camino Zafra". Or how about Greche Talbot's bowed cello on "Una Rosa Vi"? Who woulda thunk that Bulgarian and Hispanic Gypsy styles could dovetail so easily? And always, there's the towering vocal presence of El Lebrijano. His powerful delivery reflects pre-Camaron days - less upper-register cries, less rebellious agitation, less throat, more full-bodied celebration, more gut-anchored timbre, a lower and more robust and steady tenor. Unlike the darkly moody Casablanca, Sueños' musical vibe is decidedly upbeat and celebratory, punctuated by many foot stomps and heavy cajon artillery and a wonderful way to conclude a Spanish-style fiesta.