Spain’s General Society of Authors and Editors (SGAE), announced today that Pedro Pubill Calaf, better known as Peret, died today at the age of 79 in Barcelona. Peret’s official website reported that he died of cancer. Peret was best known as “the father of Catalan rumba”, a musical style developed by merging Spanish gypsy rumba with mambo and guaracha. In 2010, Peret received the Lifetime Award from Spain’s Academy of Music, granted by the SGAE and AIE, in recognition of his professional career.
Peret recorded over 250 songs as a composer and lyricist. He wrote unforgettable songs that became part of Spanish popular tradition, such as ‘Borriquito’ (little burro or donkey), ‘Una lágrima cayó en la arena’ (A tear fell in the sand ), ‘Gitana hechicera’ (Gypsy sorceress ), ‘El jilguero'( The Goldfinch ) and ‘Que levante el dedo’ (Raise the finger ), to name only a few.
Members of the Board of the General Society of Authors and Editors expressed their condolences to the family and friends of the great artist.
Peret was born in Mataró in 1935, but grew up in Barcelona’s El Raval barrio. There, gypsy clans carried out a musical revolution led by Peret. The gypsy rumba mixed with guaracha and Perez Prado’s mambo gave birth to a new genre: the Catalan rumba. It featured the percussive strumming known as the hand fan. “That trick so ingenious and easy to implement,” said Catalan rumba renovator Gato Pérez.
Peret had a free and happy childhood, learning in the streets and markets, where he accompanied his father, a textiles dealer whom everyone knew as the half friend (Mig Amic). That’s how Peret titled one of his songs, a tribute to his father.
The boy had a musical vocation unknown to his family. Soon, the guitar became his best friend and his innate wit helped him at rumba parties that took place in the clothing markets. Peret changed his life after a motorcycle accident he had at 16. At that time, music became his full-time career. From there, Peret went on to perform at the Victoria Theatre, released his first singles, moved to Madrid in the late 1960s, and reached immense popularity in the 1960s and 70s, a time when disco DJs set aside a space for his rumbas.
The album Peret was released in 1968 and included hits like ‘Una lágrima’ (A Tear), ‘El gitano Antón (Anton the Gypsy), ‘Amor a todo gas’ (Furious Love), etc. Prestigious Spanish rock magazine Rockdelux listed it as one of the top Spanish albums of the twentieth century. In 1974, Peret arrived at the peak of his popularity. His song “Borriquito” reached No. 1 in Spain, Holland and Germany. He also represented Spain in the Eurovision Song Contest with ‘Canta y sé feliz’ (Sing and be happy).
In the 1980s, he turned to the evangelical church and left the music business. Peret returned to the music scene in the 1990s. Peret, Rey De La Rumba, a tribute album released in 2000 by Chewaka featured new versions of his hits recorded by Peret and his admirers from new generations, including Ojos de Brujo, Los Enemigos, Fermín Muguruza, Amparanoia and even David Byrne. His last album was De Los Cobardes Nunca Se Ha Escrito Nada.
In additional to his career as a singer-songwriter, Peret also worked as a record producer, movie actor, and TV and radio host.
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.