If someone says the word “Andalucía” – what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Most likely it is something under the lines of colourful gypsy dresses, beautifully hand painted fans, castanets, stomping of the feet, elderly couples dancing away their years of Andalucían experience and culture in the striking plazas.
Many would say that Flamenco is more than just a beautiful and highly popular form of folk song and dance – it is a culture in itself, representative of the colours, romance, life and passion of the average Andalucían’s way of life. With roots in East Indian, Arabic and European Gypsy music, it has elements of many different genres but is unique and distinct from the music forms that helped create it. Flamenco is thought to have been born as a result of the persecution of the gypsies, during the Spanish inquisition and it served as an expression of protest and hope.
Nowadays there are said to be two types of flamenco – the first of which being a modern form, which has been adapted for the tourist-filled streets in Andalucía for shows performed in commercial venues known as “tablaos”. The other form is the old and authentic version known as “cante jondo”, meaning “deep song”, which originates from southern Spanish villages, such as Lebrija and Ultrera. Whereas Andalucía is often associated with colourful polka dot dresses, castanets and soft, mellow guitar sounds, this is not representative of authentic flamenco. In fact, castanets have simply been added to enhance the original finger clicking. There are four main elements of Flamenco, the cante (voice), the baile (dance), the toque (guitar) and the jaleo, which roughly means “hell raising” which involves stomping of the feet, clapping of the hands and shouts of encouragement and the audience is welcome and encouraged to participate in this part.
Andalucía has been a “tierra de musica” for centuries, when the Moors occupied it for over 800 years they left a strong impression of their dance and music in the land the generations to follow. Flamenco is often described as “teniendo duende (having duende), which describes the intense and elated feeling that flamenco generates and is the ultimate image and expression of flamenco culture. The word “duende” derives from Spanish mythology, meaning a goblin-type creature.
So, if you’re drawing up your itinerary for your next trip to Spain, make sure you spend enough time in Andalucía to get a real feel for the warmth and flavour that this region has to offer and to appreciate the rich culture that flamenco has provided in and around the area. ¡Baila y disfruta!
Evie Oswald, Language Co-ordinator