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Interigual. Flamenco

The Flamenco

The roots of flamenco are uncertain, as it has been an art that has been transmitted over the years by oral tradition, so it seems that we have no written documentation about these manifestations until the twentieth century.

It can almost certainly be said that the art of flamenco was born in Andalusia, in the heart of a marginal and intercultural community, where Jews, Arabs, Christians and gypsies lived together, and which was joined, during the 16th century, by the rhythms of the black population, who stopped over in the port of Cadiz, before leaving for the American plantations. Traditionally, it is associated with the gypsy people because they were the main diffusers and interpreters, as well as the ones who best knew how to fuse into a single musical container sprouts of such different roots as the Arab melodies, the Jewish songs of the synagogue, remote fragments of the Byzantine liturgy and contributions from the Andalusian musical culture. It is thought that the first “Palo” was “La Toná”, this cante was not accompanied by guitar or dance and its area was between Cadiz, Jerez de la Frontera and Triana.

We have to take into account that flamenco emerged from a people with a marginal character and constantly rejected because of its origin, which is why we see elements of extreme pain in its music, but it is also a people that learned to survive, which is why we see how its contagious joy is expressed through its dances and songs.

The flamenco art developed from some basic cantes that the “cantaores” interpreted as a hobby in the family meetings. The Andalusian people had a very particular private behavior; through their meetings in inns and taverns, where dancing, singing and guitar were the main motives, a musical, literary and choreographic genre was forged that today responds universally to the name of flamenco. This embryonic cell had its settlements in the poorest neighbourhoods.

It was not until the second half of the 19th century that flamenco was represented in theatres and cafés where singers from Andalusian cities such as Cádiz, Seville and Jerez de la Frontera, and cantaores (flamenco singers) began to become artists, developing new songs and adding the guitar and dance to their art as another part of flamenco expression.

The first time that there is written evidence of the existence of flamenco is in a passage from the Cartas Marruecas by José Cadalso as a first precedent for flamenco festivities. It is the story, fictitious but based on real experiences, of a character who, after getting lost in the Sierra de Cádiz, meets a ‘señorito’ (gentleman) who kindly invites him to stay at his house on the very night that he had organized a night party for his friends, prior to a hunting trip the following day. In the party he describes, the gypsy Uncle Gregorio and his relatives entertain the guests with their singing, guitar playing and clapping.

And it is from 1830 onwards, when some foreigners who passed through Seville, left a record of this fact that was beginning to emerge, that after witnessing with enthusiasm Spanish dances in the theatres, distinguished people were given the opportunity to attend a private performance. Here is what we consider a key step in the origins of flamenco.

In 1856 there were already academies that used to hire professional singers to perform certain dances, especially the so-called jaleos. This is how dance shows were set up in halls halfway between the academy and the café cantante. The denomination of flamenco to this type of show, as a specific genre, appeared in April 1866, when the Salón de Oriente announced a great concert “of dances of the country with flamenco songs and dances” instead of the usual “of dances of the country and Andalusian songs”. Flamenco music and dance was introduced to the upper social classes in the early 19th century as a coffee-house entertainment.

In the 20th century, Manuel de Falla and other intellectuals like Federico García Lorca organized the first exclusive flamenco concert, called “Concurso de Cante Jondo”, which took place in Granada in 1922. There Manolo Caracol, who won a first prize, began his successful career. Then came the era of the tablaos and the publication of the first books and essays on flamenco, as well as other competitions such as the Concurso Nacional de Arte Flamenco in Córdoba.

In Franco’s time, the cante will have a markedly folkloric development, being “la copla” its maximum representation. But with the arrival of the sixties, two artists created the guidelines for a new way of interpreting flamenco, managed to internationalise this art form and opened up a new path that other artists would follow. We are talking about Camarón de la Isla, on vocals, and Paco de Lucía, on guitar; both of them. I leave a video of both of them.

Currently, flamenco is in a moment of crossbreeding with other rhythms such as jazz, salsa, bossa nova and other ethnic sounds. A fusion of which established artists such as Pata Negra, Ketama, Navajita Plateá or Chano Domínguez, among others, have been pioneers: and the so-called pure flamenco, cante jondo, also continues to have a place today, with artists such as La Paquera de Jerez, considered by many to be the queen of bulerías; Alonso Núñez Núñez, better known as “Rancapino”; Miguel Poveda or José Mercé, among many others.

I leave you two videos of Miguel Poveda and Rosalía with the same lyrics of a song in two different styles, we are going to dedicate an entry to each of these two artists:

“Si me das a elegir

Entre tú y la riqueza

Con esa grandeza
Que lleva consigo, ay amor
Me quedo contigo
Si me das a elegir
Entre tú y la gloria
Pa que hable la historia de mi
Por los siglos, ay amor
Me quedo contigo
Pues me enamorado
Y te quiero y te quiero
Y sólo deseo
Estar a tu lado
Soñar con tus ojos
Besarte los labios
Sentirme en tus brazos
Que soy muy feliz.
Si me das a elegir
Entre tú y ese…” ( Los chunguitos)

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