The most important thing in flamenco is passion. It is not about technique, but about emotion – if you don’t feel it, you can’t do it. It’s not just a physical expression – it must come from the heart
Flamenco performer Sara Baras
What is flamenco exactly? Is it a dance, a music genre or both?
Flamenco is indescribable. It’s not only dance or a song you can learn, but you must also feel it with your soul. Professional flamenco artists tell a story with their whole bodies. That’s why flamenco performance inspires so many people. Centuries of fusing traditions from different cultures gives an amazing result – flamenco.
Read this article and you’ll understand the origins and traditions of Flamenco.
All about Flamenco :
1. Flamenco Origin
Firstly, traditional Flamenco was invented in Andalusia. The area where the major styles of Flamenco originate is the “Holy Trinity”. It’s Andalusian cities: Cadiz, Jerez de la Frontera and Seville. Flamenco is popular in all Spain, but the purest Flamenco performances are in Andalusia.
The most important influence on flamenco is Gipsy culture. Centuries ago the Roma people or Gipsies travelled from northwest India to Europe. They introduced Europeans to their traditional songs, dances and music.
But, life for Roma people was very tough. The authorities discriminated them, demanded to abandon Gipsy culture and identity. Gipsies had to settle down, couldn’t wear traditional clothes and perform rituals.
So, Roma people moved to the mountains where they lived together with Jews and moors. There, their cultures blended, giving us the amazing flamenco.
At first, flamenco songs were only accompanied by hand clapping. In early XX century flamenco began to take its shape we see today. During the Golden Age of flamenco, the performances began to include all the elements: singing, guitar playing and dancing.
2. Flamenco Songs: lyrics and poetry
Flamenco songs tell stories from everyday Gipsy life. Stories about difficulties of discrimination, terror, grief or happiness of wedding celebration. Many songs are in Andalusian Gipsy language Calo which is a mix of Andalusian Spanish and Romany languages. Also, the song depends on the singer’s emotions- the same lyrics can be expressed in various ways.
- Cante Jondo – the most complex and emotional songs. The thymes are usually sad such as death, loss, despair and anger.
- Cante intermedio – less complex and livelier songs than cante jondo. Also, cante intermedio is accompanied by guitar and castanets playing, shoe tapping and hand clapping. The songs have elements of various Spanish folklore styles.
- Cante chico – the lightest and simplest style of Flamenco music. Thymes include love and humour, the rhythm is light and quick.
3. Flamenco Music: the rythm of Southern Spain
Flamenco is the music of passion. Traditional Spanish music flamenco songs are usually unwritten but passed down from generation to generation. Also, flamenco musicians improvise to match the emotions of the singer. So, a true flamenco performance is always a unique storytelling experience.
– Guitar Playing
Flamenco guitar and regular guitar playing are different in several ways. First, flamenco guitar players use a capo to get a higher key. Also, flamenco guitar is played with fingers and nails, not a pick. Flamenco guitar playing techniques include strumming as well as tapping.
Castanets is a wooden musical instrument known for a unique sound in Flamenco music. Phoenicians about 3000 years ago invented the instrument. Castanets were made of common wood and traded all over the Mediterranean region. The instrument is used in Portuguese and Latin American folklore, but it’s known for the use in Spanish culture.
4. Flamenco Dance: Andalusian soul
Flamenco dancing is very passionate. Dancers tell a story of the song as well add their own elements to it. Performers use castanets, a shawl, a trail of the skirt, their shoes and, of course, the flamenco dance moves.
As it was mentioned before, originally flamenco was a song accompanied by hand clapping. When flamenco singers started to perform at singers cafes the performers added new elements: guitar playing, shoe tapping and finger snapping.
Flamenco dancers create bases of the rhythm with their hands. Thus, flamenco hand clapping is more difficult than it looks from the first glance. Another method for accompanying the music is shoe tapping. The special flamenco shoes like Irish tap dancing shoes have a specific sound.
5. Traditional Flamenco Costume
Flamenco costume originates from Seville. Gipsy women in late XIX century wore robes with ruffles to do their chores.
– Typical Spanish Flamenco Dress: tradition and fashion
The most important part of a flamenco costume is the dress. It is usually bright-coloured or with a polka dot pattern. The dress skirt is made of ruffles that weight up to 4.5kg. The performer uses a long ruffle trail for dancing and expressing emotion. Male flamenco dancer costume is much simpler than the female. The male dancer wears skinny black pants a shirt and a short jacket or a vest.
One of the most unique things about Flamenco dressing is that it’s not only a typical dress but an alive tradition. Every year new trends come out and there are even Flamenco catwalks where you can take notes for the Flamenco Fashion the following year.
– Flamenco Shoes: the key sound in Flamenco dancing
Another part of the costume is flamenco shoes. Flamenco performers dance on a wooden stage called tablao. The shoes have nails driven into the soles of the shoe. It allows dancers to go with the music by tapping on the stage.
– And, of course, the accessories for Flamenco dress!
Flamenco dancers wear their hair in a bun and add flowers to it. Also, the dancer has a colourful fan, wears earrings, necklaces and bracelets. Also, during the dance, the performer uses a traditional embroidered shawl with tassels.
6. Best Flamenco show in Malaga or Granada? Check it out with Oh My Good Guide!
Flamenco is unique and you have to experience it during a live performance. Don’t hesitate and join me for an authentic Gypsy Flamenco Show in Malaga or Granada! There will be flamenco passion, singing, clapping, dancing and Spanish wine 🙂
Do you like Flamenco? Which is your favorite part: dancing, singing or maybe just watching? 😛 Leave us a comment! We are always looking forward to hear from you!