The fire of flamenco is a genre and complex culture that has been burning in Andalucía for nearly half a millennia. Today the flames still burn hot and strong in this passionate and seductive form of art, which has evolved and diversified over the years.
From an original ‘gypsy’ form of music/dance expression, flamenco is now a rich spectacle enjoyed all over the world from true, basic participation level to tourist ‘tablao’; from tiny ‘peñas’ in Jerez de la Frontera to concert halls in Tokyo.
For centuries, flamenco has been a mystery to ‘payos’ (the word used by Spanish gypsies to describe anyone who is not of gypsy descent).
Traditionally the ‘payo’ concept of flamenco ranged from fiest and wedding ‘sevillanas’ (which are really just folk dances from Seville with a flamenco influence) to the spectaculars performed in Benidorm and Torremolinos hotels in the first days of cheap package tours for lobster-red, inebriated Brits and Germans.
Deeply emotional forms of flamenco such as ‘cante jondo’, a type of deeply emotional song, usually sad, rooted in the tradition were born in small Andalucian villages such as Lebrija and Utrera. It’s historically, very nicely described as a music form which ‘……still reflect the spirit of desperation, struggle, hope, and pride of the people during a time of persecution.
The colourful polka-dot dresses, castanets and the frenetic or, conversely, richly and haunting tones of the Spanish guitar have become the standard tourist concept of Andalucía. These do not represent authentic flamenco; castanets, for example, are only a modern addition added to enhance the clicking of fingers.
Flamenco traditionally came from around the lovely city of Jerez (home of sherry wine) originating from Hispanic, Celtic, Islamic, Sephardic Jewish, and Gypsy cultures that survived, and sometimes thrived, in Moorish conquered Andalusia, before the Christian re-conquest of Southern Spain. Latin, blues, rock and jazz have been influences in the more evolved flamenco styles, sometimes called flamenco ‘fusion’.
There has been much academic argument about what constitutes flamenco. I’m not an expert but when you experience the singing sometimes accompanied by flamenco guitar (toque), rhythmic hand clapping (palmas), rhythmic feet stomping (zapateado) and dance (baile) and your heart doesn’t miss a beat, you are probably in the wrong place and wrong country for a vacation…..
My name is Peter Harrison. I live here and love flamenco with a vengeance. If you’re ever visiting Valencia, mail me on [email protected]. We’ll share a bottle (or two) of sherry and my wife, Mercedes, from Jerez, might show you how the ‘palmas’ work. If you’re looking for a holiday or vacation in this land of ‘everything under the sun’ have a look at the experts: http://www.spaintours.biz/spain-portugal-combinations.htm