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Spanish Flamenco
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Flamenco is a form of art and a whole culture that developed in the south of Spain, in the Andalusia region. From a historical point of view, it was always the poor and depressed people's music – the lower class.

Flamenco was passed from one generation to another by the artists themselves. Verbally, or by singing, each artist used his own way and perspective with words and songs in different variations.

Flamenco consists of three major elements: Singing (Cante), Dancing (Baile) and Playing Music (Toque)

These basic elements are accompanied with different rhythms which are played by the clapping of the hands (Palmas) and a cajon - a Spanish drum shaped like a box on which one can sit on and play. Today, there are many other additional modern means. Flamenco started in singing alone accompanied with the hand clapping. At a later stage the dancing and the guitar playing were added and only in the twentieth century the cajon, the Spanish drum, was added, which today is an inseparatable part of Flamenco.

The roots of Flamenco can be found in Andalusia. Although there are some ideas as to how it has evolved, the exact details are lost with history and are not really clear. Even the root of the name "Flamenco" is not clear. According to some assumptions, the source of the name comes from the Flemish around the year 1500, who called the gypsies in their area "Flamingos" or "Flamenco". Another guess comes from the Arabic words: "Fellah Mangu" - which means: "the worker that sings". It is assumed that what has become over the years" Flamenco", had started already in the 16th -17th century.

The singing involves a combination of at least 4 different cultures:

  • The Gypsies (Jitanos) who arrived from India, and brought with them influences from the Indian's singing- the ragos and the Indian dance.
  • The Moorish (the Muslims) who ruled over Spain for hundreds of years.
  • The Jews that neighbored the Gypsies in most cases.
  • The original population of Andalusia.
The Gypsies are considered to be the fathers of Flamenco and played an important role in its creation. For many of them it was, and still is, a way of life and the natural way to express feelings. Flamenco was matured towards the end of the 17th century and is mentioned for the first time in the "Moroccan Letters" in 1774. Its source is in Gypsies who left India in the 12th century. They traveled Europe and some of them got to Spain in the 15th century. They brought with them a language of their own and oriental music - still today, one can find in Flamenco motives of oriental music in the accords and structures.

The Gypsies, the Moorish and the Jews were persecuted for many years by the Spanish authorities: the inquisition and the removal of the Moorish governing in 1942. These three nations found themselves united against the Christian enemy. They all neighbored and so there were mutual influences. The Gypsies received a cold, suspicious and discriminating treatment. This found expression in their hard life – they were not allowed to become land owners by law, and hence they were forced to find work in the coal mines, in building the train lines and etc. Only in the 18th century, the Gypsies were given recognition and equality in justice from the state's law point of view.

At first Flamenco could be heard in private homes, in parties and at work in the mines only. The words of the songs, for the big part expressed the sorrow and the daily hardships. The first Flamenco schools started between the years 1774-1860 in Cadis, Harass and Tirana neighborhood in Seville. In those years Flamenco established itself in bolls and parties.

Between the years 1860-1910, Flamenco-coffee places started to pop up. They were called "Café Cantanes"- "singing coffee places". Dancing had started to become popular in these cafes and reached a peak. Also the guitar players started to become famous not just as accompanying the music and dancing, but as recognized artists by themselves. These ensembles consisted of 1-2 singers, a few dancers - both men and women and about 2 guitar players. The audience that came for these shows included all sectors and classes of society. These coffee places brought together the Gypsy singing, especially the Cante Jundo – the deep, expressionist and the heaviest singing in Flamenco with the Andalusian folk singing. The guitar technique expanded and improved a great deal. Known guitarists such as Ramo'n Montoya introduced a more modern style. The popularity of Flamenco grew and spread to other regions of Andalusia, parts of Murcia and Extremadura and also to the big cities such as Madrid and Barcelona. Each such area added of its own to the Flamenco, even as far as South America with influences like the Rumba and the Guajirra.

At the end of the 19th century, the glory of these cafes faded and the theaters became more popular through the years 1910-1936. Styles like "Flamenca Opera" and "Flamenco Ballet" developed. The audience's taste was tended to the more delicate singing – Cante Bonito with little touches of the intensity and passion that were so typical to the earlier Flamenco. A famous singer at that time was Antonio Chacun. World War I put a stop to the development of Flamenco. The more traditional Flamenco could have been seen in private parties only. It came back in 1950 in a new wave of festivals in Cordova, Harass and Malaga.

The art of guitar playing kept developing. It was influenced by classical music and started to put emphasis on solo parts. Players such as Sabicas, Paco De Lucia added elements and influences from jazz music. Flamenco has become modern Flamenco. Today's guitarists like: Tomatito, Vicente Amigo and others added to their music flute, electric bass, percussions and more. Flamenco is now open to a larger audience and to different styles. Critics from within, claim that this Flamenco is missing the strong emotions one could have found in the traditional one.

Dancing, like the guitar playing, expanded and has become popular on an international level. Schools opened everywhere in Spain and all over the world. Thanks to great dancers such as Antonio Gades, Jose Greco, Carmen Amaya and many others that the art of dance spread. These artists developed the dance, the leg and body technique, and brought it to new peaks. They started filming Flamenco movies create new productions that were shown in theaters all over the world.

In Spain, there is a lot of appreciation and focus on the Flamenco singing- something a stranger cannot understand. The singing that might sound noisy and harsh to the stranger's ear will sound full of emotions and oriental nuances to Flamenco lovers. The famous singer Cameron De La Isla has reached a status of an idol. These days, singers such as Carmen Linares, Jose Merce and others play almost the same role. The young audience goes wild, clapping the hands in the different rhythms, cheers and cries out loud and is an active participant in the show.

Flamenco is composed of archetypes of diverse and different rhythms. Each such archetype is called "palos". Each such palos has a characteristic "compas". A compas is a basic rhythmic sentence with clear emphasis that repeats itself many times. The cmpas constitutes the basis for the music, the singing and the dancing on which the singer, the dancer and the players will improvise. Each palos has a distinctive style of its own. Music and typical melodies, typical singing and dancing steps that are called "marcajes"- marking steps that stress parts that are induced by the dancer's movements.

All the paloses in Flamenco have a defined structure that in short consists of a vocal opening by the singer, entrance and a call for the dancer's tempo- "Yamada": the dancer "calls" for the singer and players to start. He defines the speed of tempo and starts the dance - such "calls" maybe heard later between the different stanzas of the dance). Afterwards, first stanza- "Letra"- poetry, music and dance which match the nature of the dancing style. Tempo closings of complete movement sentences – "Remate" and "Desplante" – a special emphasis at movement's end which emphasizes its power will appear during the verse and at its ending. Often, afterwards will be a rhythmic part in which the dance improvises based on the basic tempo and shows virtuosity – "Escobilla". Often the tempo will increase and "Salidai" - an exit of the dancer. The structure can be lengthened to many verses and change. The Paloses are classified into different families. They can be classified by the type of the compas - the base Tempo, they can be classified by the singing and its origin, they can be classified by the origin – where they were born, a region, area, population, etc. For example, classification by the Tempo.

Temops can be classified by "heavy" and deep Tempos and "Light" Tempos. The "Heavy" Tempos (Martinete, Suigiria) are characterized by deep singing – "El Cante Jundo" – "The Deeps Singing" – This singing is the most ancient form of Flamenco. It expresses deep feelings. The singing topics touch the Gypsies life daily hardships. The hard work, the suffering, lost of love, etc. The dancing style is typically self-controlled. The body is held. Many breaks between the very slow tempos to fast tempo – something that creates ups and downs in the dancing, tension and interest. The "light" tempos (Bulerias, Tangos, and more) are characterized by provocative atmosphere, pranking and joking. They were born out of "Fiestas", the different celebrations and events within the Gypsy family, events out of the lifecycle (weddings, births, etc,). The dance is gay, usually fast. The dancer presents himself as a peacock. An atmosphere of playing the fool – everyone is expressing themselves in one's turn, as they wish. - Wikipedia







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