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Focus on: Music of Spain, Flamenco
Flamenco is practiced mainly in Andalusia (Spain's southernmost province) and is historically the music, dance and lifestyle of a minority. The exact point of its origin is hard to place, but is certainly a result of centuries of blending of Andalusian, Moorish-Arab and Jewish elements with the folklore of the gypsies who had settled there.
Flamenco in its truest form - more a ritual than mere entertainment - by its very nature does not lend itself to the stage. It is really only at home in the setting of the Fiesta or Juerga, the meetings of Enteraos, the initiated - musicians, singers and dancers.
The Cante Flamenco (song) is the oldest element of flamenco. It unites all the old influences and even today the gypsies of Andalusia have a considerable input. It is split into nearly 40 different forms differentiated basically by time, rhythm and mood. The spectrum is extensive and ranges from deep, inconsolable despair (cante jondo) to bright, explosive joy of life (cante chico). In contrast to dance (Baile) and the guitar (Guitarra), which is quite often subject to international influences and made famous outside Spain through performances by internationally known artists such as Paco de Lucia and Antonio Gades, the song in its original form will nearly always have its followers only among the initiated few.
By the late 19th century flamenco had become a public interest and performances had become popular in the Cafés Cantantes (music cafés). This became known as the Golden Age of Flamenco. It evolved further with the decline of the Cafés Cantantes, and found a new home in Spain's larger arenas, thus gaining enormous popularity but, according to many critics, becoming commercial and straying from its original purpose.
Important contributions to the preservation of flamenco were made in the nineteen-twenties and thirties by the composer Manuel de Falla, the dramatist Federico García Lorca and the lyricist Rafael Alberti.
The development of flamenco has reached an interesting stage, having clearly gained in popularity and seemingly even having become fashionable. It has burst out of the circle of the initiated, has crossed the borders of Spain and has reached a wider audience.
Today flamenco guitar playing enjoys a particular popularity, perhaps owing to the technical brilliance and virtuosity of the performances. The guitar lends itself better than virtually any other instrument to the presentation of the essentials of this music with its melodic and rhythmic aspects. Flamenco music incorporates strong elements of improvisation, particularly where the guitar is concerned.
In recent times different playing techniques and aesthetic influences became evident e.g. the remarkable collaboration of Sabicas and Joe Beck or of the Trio of guitarists Paco de Lucia, John McLaughlin and Al DiMeola, or the Spanish groups Ketama or Pata Negra. The results can be classified as Flamenco-Rock, Flamenco-Salsa, Flamenco-Jazz etc., and they can be regarded as part of the omnipresent trend of "Fusion-Music" and can be named Flamenco Nuevo.
Many examples of Flamenco music can be found on our website