Ostensibly the most prominent Spanish music art-form, the Flamenco has its origins in the different folkloric music traditions of Andalusia. It incorporates singing (cante), guitar playing (toque), dance (baile), vocalizations (jaleo), hand clapping (palmas), and finger snapping (pitos). Although intensely influenced by the Romani people in Spain, it is uniquely Andalusian in style. Flamenco is so popular that it is taught in various schools even in non-Hispanic countries like the United States. For instance, there are more schools that teach flamenco in Japan than there are in Spain. The major components of a flamenco music performance are the Cante, the Toqu, and the Baile.
Cantes (Palos) — Flamenco Song
Singing is a major piece of a flamenco. Sung by a Cantaor, the cante is the heart and soul of the music genre. Also called Palos, the more than 50 different known Cantes have unique rhythmic patterns, chord progression, mode, stanza and even origin. The three primary classifications of Cante are the seriously profound Cante Jondo, the middle Cante Intermedio, and the lighthearted Cante Chico. Some Cantes have instrumental accompaniments like a guitar while others don’t. Some types of flamenco are danced. There are flamenco styles performed solely by men, some by ladies, and yet others have no gender bias. These days, however, these traditional rules are being abandoned as we now have women performing the Farruca, a once exclusively male dance.
Toque — Flamenco Guitar
This is the part of the flamenco art performed with a flamenco guitar — just like the classical guitar but with slimmer tops and reduced internal bracings. The guitarist (tocaores) for the most part provides a brief introduction which sets the Cante’s tonality, tempo, and compás.
Baile — Flamenco Dance
Renowned for its expressive use of the arms, proud carriage, rhythmic stamping of the feet, and its emotional intensity, the El Baile Flamenco is a captivating flamenco dance form. The 20th-century flamenco dances at gitano (Roma) festivities in Spain are viewed as the most valid type of flamenco. Youngsters don’t perform in traditional flamenco because they are viewed as lacking the emotional maturity required to satisfactorily express the duende (soul) of the music genre.
Most Spanish flamenco dance organizations usually perform the “Classical flamenco” style which indicates attributes adopted from the traditional Spanish Seguidilla dance. It is a characteristically proud and upright dance style with little hips movement, firmly-held body, and long arms, as in a ballet dance. “Flamenco Puro” is the closest to the gitano style. The dance is always performed solo, not choreographed and at times, features castanets. The “Flamenco Nuevo”, a choreographed dance featuring bare-chested men and women in plain pullover dresses is a recent style in flamenco with the occasional use of props such as castanets, shawls, and fans.
Modern flamenco is exceedingly specialized and requires long periods of study. Flamenco music is often a combination of several Palos made up of Letras (verses) and punctuated by Falsetas (guitar interludes). Precise exceptionally fast footwork is emphasized for male and female performers alike. In addition, a dance may need to utilize props such as castanets, shawls, and fans.