Flamenco (Spanish pronunciation: [flaˈmeŋko]), in its strictest
sense, is a professionalized art-form based on the various folkloric
music traditions of Southern Spain in the autonomous communities of
Extremadura and Murcia. In a wider sense, it refers to
these musical traditions and more modern musical styles which have
themselves been deeply influenced by and become blurred with the
development of flamenco over the past two centuries. It includes cante
(singing), toque (guitar playing), baile (dance), jaleo
(vocalizations), palmas (handclapping) and pitos (finger snapping).
The oldest record of flamenco dates to 1774 in the book Las Cartas
Marruecas by José Cadalso. The genre originated in the music and
dance styles of
Andalusia which is mostly related to the
Flamenco has been influenced by and
associated with the Romani people in Spain; however, its origin and
style are uniquely Andalusian.
Flamenco has become popular all over the world and is taught in many
non-Hispanic countries, especially the United States and Japan. In
Japan, there are more flamenco academies than there are in
Spain. On November 16, 2010,
UNESCO declared flamenco one of the
Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
4 Forms of flamenco expression
4.1 Toque (guitar)
4.2 Cante (song)
4.3 Baile (dance)
5 See also
8 External links
There are many suggestions for the origin of the word flamenco as a
musical term (summarized below) but no solid evidence for any of
them. The word was not recorded as a musical and dance term until
the late 18th century.
One theory, proposed by Andalusian historian and nationalist Blas
Infante in his 1933 book Orígenes de lo
Flamenco y Secreto del Cante
Jondo suggested that the word flamenco comes in fact from the
Hispano-Arabic term fellah mengu, meaning "expelled peasant". This
term referred to the many Andalusians of the
Islamic faith, the
Moriscos who remained, and in order to avoid religious persecution,
joined with the Roma newcomers. Another theory is that the
Spanish word flamenco could have been a derivative of the Spanish word
flama, meaning "fire" or "flame". The word flamenco may have come to
be used for fiery behaviour, which could have come to be applied to
the Gitano players and performers.
Main article: Palo (flamenco)
The Palos of Flamenco
Palos (formerly known as cantes) are flamenco styles, classified by
criteria such as rhythmic pattern, mode, chord progression, stanzaic
form and geographic origin. There are over 50 different palos, some
are sung unaccompanied while others have guitar or other
accompaniment. Some forms are danced while others are not. Some are
reserved for men and others for women while some may be performed by
either, though these traditional distinctions are breaking down: the
Farruca, for example, once a male dance, is now commonly performed by
There are many ways to categorize Palos but they traditionally fall
into three classes: the most serious is known as cante jondo (or cante
grande), while lighter, frivolous forms are called cante chico. Forms
that do not fit either category are classed as cante intermedio.
These are the best known palos:
Bulerías por soleá (soleá por bulerías)
Fandango de Huelva
A typical flamenco recital with voice and guitar accompaniment,
comprises a series of pieces (not exactly “songs”) in different
palos. Each song of a set of verses (called copla, tercio, or letras),
which are punctuated by guitar interludes called falsetas. The
guitarist also provides a short introduction which sets the tonality,
compás and tempo of the cante. In some palos, these falsetas are
also played with certain structures too; for example, the typical
sevillanas is played in an AAB pattern, where A and B are the same
falseta with only a slight difference in the ending.
Flamenco uses the
Flamenco mode (which can also be described as the
modern Phrygian mode (modo frigio), or a harmonic version of that
scale with a major 3rd degree), in addition to the major and minor
scales commonly used in modern Western music. The Phrygian mode occurs
in palos such as soleá, most bulerías, siguiriyas, tangos and
Descending E Phrygian scale in flamenco music, with common alterations
A typical chord sequence, usually called the "Andalusian cadence" may
be viewed as in a modified Phrygian: in E the sequence is
Am–G–F–E. According to
Manolo Sanlúcar E is here the tonic,
F has the harmonic function of dominant while Am and G assume the
functions of subdominant and mediant respectively.
Guitarists tend to use only two basic inversions or "chord shapes" for
the tonic chord (music), the open 1st inversion E and the open 3rd
inversion A, though they often transpose these by using a capo. Modern
guitarists such as Ramón Montoya, have introduced other positions:
Montoya himself started to use other chords for the tonic in the
modern Dorian sections of several palos; F♯ for tarantas, B for
granaínas and A♭ for the minera. Montoya also created a new palo as
a solo for guitar, the rondeña in C♯ with scordatura. Later
guitarists have further extended the repertoire of tonalities, chord
positions and scordatura.
There are also palos in major mode; most cantiñas and alegrías,
guajiras, some bulerías and tonás, and the cabales (a major type of
siguiriyas). The minor mode is restricted to the Farruca, the milongas
(among cantes de ida y vuelta), and some styles of tangos, bulerías,
etc. In general traditional palos in major and minor mode are limited
harmonically to two-chord (tonic–dominant) or three-chord
(tonic–subdominant–dominant) progressions. (Rossy 1998:92) However
modern guitarists have introduced chord substitution, transition
chords, and even modulation.
Fandangos and derivative palos such as malagueñas, tarantas and
cartageneras are bimodal: guitar introductions are in Phrygian mode
while the singing develops in major mode, modulating to Phrygian at
the end of the stanza. (Rossy 1998:92)
Dionisio Preciado, quoted by Sabas de Hoces  established the
following characteristics for the melodies of flamenco singing:
Microtonality: presence of intervals smaller than the semitone.
Portamento: frequently, the change from one note to another is done in
a smooth transition, rather than using discrete intervals.
Short tessitura or range: Most traditional flamenco songs are limited
to a range of a sixth (four tones and a half). The impression of vocal
effort is the result of using different timbres, and variety is
accomplished by the use of microtones.
Use of enharmonic scale. While in equal temperament scales,
enharmonics are notes with identical pitch but different spellings
(e.g. A♭ and G♯); in flamenco, as in unequal temperament scales,
there is a microtonal intervalic difference between enharmonic notes.
Insistence on a note and its contiguous chromatic notes (also frequent
in the guitar), producing a sense of urgency.
Baroque ornamentation, with an expressive, rather than merely
Apparent lack of regular rhythm, especially in the siguiriyas: the
melodic rhythm of the sung line is different from the metric rhythm of
Most styles express sad and bitter feelings.
Melodic improvisation: flamenco singing is not, strictly speaking,
improvised, but based on a relatively small number of traditional
songs, singers add variations on the spur of the moment.
Musicologist Hipólito Rossy adds the following characteristics (Rossy
Flamenco melodies are characterized by a descending tendency, as
opposed to, for example, a typical opera aria, they usually go from
the higher pitches to the lower ones, and from forte to piano, as was
usual in ancient Greek scales.
In many styles, such as soleá or siguiriya, the melody tends to
proceed in contiguous degrees of the scale. Skips of a third or a
fourth are rarer. However, in fandangos and fandango-derived styles,
fourths and sixths can often be found, especially at the beginning of
each line of verse. According to Rossy, this is proof of the more
recent creation of this type of songs, influenced by Castilian jota.
Compás is the Spanish word for metre or time signature (in classical
music theory). It also refers to the rhythmic cycle, or layout, of a
The compás is fundamental to flamenco. Compás is most often
translated as rhythm but it demands far more precise interpretation
than any other Western style of music. If there is no guitarist
available, the compás is rendered through hand clapping (palmas) or
by hitting a table with the knuckles. The guitarist uses techniques
like strumming (rasgueado) or tapping the soundboard (golpe). Changes
of chords emphasize the most important downbeats.
Flamenco uses three basic counts or measures: Binary, Ternary and a
form of a twelve-beat cycle that is unique to flamenco. There are also
free-form styles including, among others, the tonás, saetas,
malagueñas, tarantos, and some types of fandangos.
Rhythms in 2
4 or 4
4. These metres are used in forms like tangos, tientos, gypsy rumba,
zambra and tanguillos.
Rhythms in 3
4. These are typical of fandangos and sevillanas, suggesting their
origin as non-Roma styles, since the 3
4 and 4
4 measures are not common in ethnic Roma music.
12-beat rhythms usually rendered in amalgams of 6
8 + 3
4 and sometimes 12
8. The 12-beat cycle is the most common in flamenco, differentiated by
the accentuation of the beats in different palos. The accents do not
correspond to the classic concept of the downbeat. The alternating of
groups of 2 and 3 beats is also common in Spanish folk dances of the
16th Century such as the zarabanda, jácara and canarios.
There are three types of 12-beat rhythms, which vary in their layouts,
or use of accentuations: soleá, seguiriya and bulería.
peteneras and guajiras: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12. Both palos start
with the strong accent on 12. Hence the meter is 12 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
The seguiriya, liviana, serrana, toná liviana, cabales: 121 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12.
soleá, within the cantiñas group of palos which includes the
alegrías, cantiñas, mirabras, romera, caracoles and soleá por
bulería (also "bulería por soleá"): 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12. For
practical reasons, when transferring flamenco guitar music to sheet
music, this rhythm is written as a regular 3
Bulerías is the emblematic palo of flamenco: today its 12-beat
cycle is most often played with accents on the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 10th and
12th beats. The accompanying palmas are played in groups of 6 beats,
giving rise to a multitude of counter-rhythms and percussive voices
within the 12 beat compás.
Bulerías with emphasis as  1 2  4 5  7  9 
11 – also the rhythm for the song America from the West Side Story
Forms of flamenco expression
Paco de Lucía, one of the most commercially successful exponents of
The origins, history and importance of the flamenco guitar is covered
in the main entry for the
Main article: Cante flamenco
Flamenco performance by the La Primavera group
The origins, history and importance of the cante is covered in the
main entry for the cante flamenco.
El baile flamenco is known for its emotional intensity, proud
carriage, expressive use of the arms and rhythmic stamping of the feet
(often confused with tap dance or
Irish dance but
with a completely different technique). As with any dance form, many
different styles of flamenco have developed.
In the twentieth century, flamenco danced informally at gitano (Roma)
celebrations in Spain was considered the most "authentic" form of
flamenco. There is less virtuoso technique in gitano flamenco, but the
music and steps are fundamentally the same. The arms are noticeably
different from classical flamenco, curving around the head and body
rather than extending, often with a bent elbow.
Flamenco puro" is considered the form of performance flamenco closest
to its gitano influences. In this style, the dance is always performed
solo, and is improvised rather than choreographed. Some purists frown
on castanets (even though they can be seen in many early 20th century
photos of flamenco dancers).
"Classical flamenco" is the style most frequently performed by Spanish
flamenco dance companies, tending to exhibit more clearly the
characteristics derived from the Seguidilla, a traditional Spanish
dance. It is danced largely in a proud and upright way. For women, the
back is often held in a marked back bend. Unlike the more gitano
influenced styles, there is little movement of the hips, the body is
tightly held and the arms are long, like a ballet dancer. In fact many
of the dancers in these companies have trained in ballet as well as
Flamenco has both influenced and been influenced by ballet,
as evidenced by the fusion of the two created by 'La Argentinita' in
the early part of the twentieth century and later, by Joaquín
In the 1950s
Jose Greco was one of the most famous male Flamenco
dancers, performing on stage worldwide and on television including the
Ed Sullivan Show, and reviving the art almost singlehandedly.
Modern flamenco is a highly technical dance style requiring years of
study. The emphasis for both male and female performers is on
lightning-fast footwork performed with absolute precision. In
addition, the dancer may have to dance while using props such as
castanets, shawls and fans.
Flamenco nuevo" is a recent style in flamenco, characterized by
pared-down costumes (the men often dance bare-chested, and the women
in plain jersey dresses). Props such as castanets, fans and shawls are
rarely used. Dances are choreographed and include influences from
other dance styles.
Los Angeles, United States
The flamenco most foreigners are familiar with is a style that was
developed as a spectacle for tourists. To add variety, group dances
are included and even solos are more likely to be choreographed. The
frilly, voluminous spotted dresses are derived from a style of dress
worn for the
Sevillanas at the annual Feria in Seville.
In traditional flamenco, young people are not considered to have the
emotional maturity to adequately convey the duende (soul) of the
genre. Therefore, unlike other dance forms, where dancers turn
professional early to take advantage of youth and strength, many
flamenco dancers do not hit their peak until their thirties and will
continue to perform into their fifties and beyond.
Claudio Castelucho, Flamenco
Flamenco Work Sample
José Villegas Cordero, Baile Andaluz
John Singer Sargent, Spanish Dancer
A doll depicts a dancer with the traditional costume
Scenes of flamenco performance in Seville.
Latin music portal
Andalusian Centre of Flamenco
Concurso de Cante Jondo
Festival Bienal Flamenco
Latin Grammy Award for Best
Flamenco Los Angeles
Camarón de la Isla
Paco de Lucia
David Peña Dorantes
Traje de flamenca
^ Landborn, Adair (2015).
Flamenco and Bullfighting: Movement, Passion
and Risk in Two Spanish Traditions. Jefferson, NC, USA: McFarland
Books. pp. 107–108.
^ Akombo, David (2016). The Unity of Music and
Dance in World
Cultures. McFarland Books. pp. 240–241.
^ Hayes, Michelle Heffner (2009). Flamenco: Conflicting Histories of
the Dance. McFarland Books. pp. 31–37.
^ Manuel Ríos Ruiz notes that the development of flamenco is well
documented: "the theatre movement of sainetes (one-act plays) and
tonadillas, popular song books and song sheets, customs, studies of
dances, and toques, perfection, newspapers, graphic documents in
paintings and engravings....in continuous evolution together with
rhythm, the poetic stanzas, and the ambiance". Ríos Ruiz, Manuel:
Ayer y hoy del cante flamenco, Ediciones ISTMO, Tres Cantos (Madrid),
1997, ISBN 84-7090-311-X
^ Mendoza, Gabriela (2011), "Ser flamenco no es una música, es un
estilo de vida", El Diario de Hoy, p. 52
^ En El Salvador la agrupación Alma Flamenca es considerada la
máxima representante y pionera de este movimiento musical. Mendoza,
Gabriela (2011), "Ser flamenco no es una música, es un estilo de
vida", El Diario de Hoy, p. 52
^ El flamenco es declarado Patrimonio Cultural Inmaterial de la
Humanidad por la Unesco, Yahoo Noticias, 16 de noviembre de 2010,
consultado el mismo día.
^ Harper, Douglas. "flamenco". Online Etymology Dictionary.
^ Infante, Blas (2010). Orígenes de lo
Flamenco y Secreto del Cante
Jondo (1929–1933) (PDF). Consejería de Cultura de la Junta de
Andalucía. p. 166.
^ Muhammad Ali Herrera (March 2006). "Breve biografía de Blas
Infante". Alif Nûn (36).
^ Ana Ruiz (2007). Vibrant Andalusia: The Spice of Life in Southern
Spain. Algora. pp. 165 ff. ISBN 978-0-87586-540-9.
^ Pohren, Donn E. (2005). The Art of Flamenco. Westport, Connecticut:
Bold Strummer. p. 68. ISBN 0933224028.
^ "Los Palos del
Flamenco Distingue los Diferentes Palos del
^ www.flamenco-events.com. "Flamenco-Events Palos et compas".
www.flamenco-events.com. Retrieved 2018-01-30.
^ Manuel, Peter (2006). Tenzer, Michael, ed. Analytical Studies in
World Music. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 98.
^ Martin, Juan. Solo
Flamenco Guitar. Mel Bay Publications.
p. 48. ISBN 0-7866-6458-4.
^ Manuel, Peter (2006). Tenzer, Michael, ed. Analytical Studies in
World Music. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 96.
^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-03-08. Retrieved
^ "Revista de Folklore". funjdiaz.net. Retrieved 2014-02-10.
^ Koster, Dennis (1 June 2002). Guitar Atlas, Flamenco. Alfred Music
Publishing. p. 5. ISBN 978-0-7390-2478-2. Retrieved 4 March
Álvarez Caballero, Ángel: El cante flamenco, Alianza Editorial,
Madrid, Second edition, 1998. ISBN 84-206-9682-X (First edition:
Álvarez Caballero, Ángel: La Discografía ideal del cante flamenco,
Planeta, Barcelona, 1995. ISBN 84-08-01602-4
Banzi, Julia Lynn (Ph.D.): "
Flamenco Guitar Innovation and the
Circumscription of Tradition" 2007, 382 pages; AAT 328581, DAI-A
68/10, University of California, Santa Barbara.
Coelho, Víctor Anand (Editor): "
Flamenco Guitar: History, Style, and
Context", in The Cambridge Companion to the Guitar, Cambridge
University Press, 2003, pp. 13–32.
Mairena, Antonio & Molina, Ricardo: Mundo y formas del cante
flamenco, Librería Al-Ándalus, Third Edition, 1979 (First Edition:
Revista de Occidente, 1963)
Martín Salazar, Jorge: Los cantes flamencos, Diputación Provincial
de Granada, Granada, 1991 ISBN 84-7807-041-9
Manuel, Peter. "
Flamenco in Focus: An Analysis of a Performance of
Soleares." In Analytical Studies in World Music, edited by Michael
Tenzer. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006, pp. 92–119.
Ortiz Nuevo, José Luis: Alegato contra la pureza, Libros PM,
Barcelona, 1996. ISBN 84-88944-07-1
Ríos Ruiz, Manuel. Ayer y hoy del cante flamenco, Ediciones Istmo,
Tres Cantos (Madrid), 1997, ISBN 84-7090-311-X
Rossy, Hipólito: Teoría del Cante Jondo, Cresda, Barcelona, 1998.
ISBN 84-7056-354-8 (First edition: 1966)
Caba Landa, Pedro y Caba Landa, Carlos. Andalucía, su comunismo y su
cante jondo. 1ª Ed Editorial Atlántico 1933. 3ª Edición, Editorial
Renacimiento 2008. ISBN 978-84-8472-348-6
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