History of Flamenco

“The colorful art of flamenco, rooted deeply in Spanish Folklore,
is joyful and rhythmic, soothing and romantic,  passionate and lyrical.
It is an art form which expresses the most basic emotions of human feeling.”

The first time Flamenco is reported in literature is in the “Cartas Marruecas” of Cadalso, in 1774.  The first flamenco-schools created were: Cádiz, Jerez de la Frontera and Triana (Seville).

Flamenco is a genuine Spanish art, and to be more exact a genuine Southern Spanish art. It exists in three forms: Cante, the song, Baile, the dance, and Guitarra, guitar playing.

Gypsies are very often named as its father of flamenco, and at least it can be taken for  certain that they played an important part in its creation. But also the popular songs and dances of Andalusia have influenced early flamenco considerably.  Certainly there were other influences, too, and it is not surprising in a country that has been dominated by many diverse cultures and civilizations during its different historical periods. There were the legendary Tartessos, and seven centuries of Muslim occupation hardly could have passed without leaving traces. All of this, directly or indirectly, influenced flamenco. Early flamenco seems to have been purely vocal, accompanied only by rhythmical clapping of hands, toque de palmas.

During its Golden Age (1869-1910) flamenco was developed in the Spain’s numerous music cafés (cafés cantantes) to its definitive form. Also, the more serious forms of flamenco in expressing deep feelings (cante jondo) dates from then.  Flamenco dance increased in it’s popularity during this time, being the major attraction for the public of those cafés cantantes. Guitar players featuring the dancers increasingly gained a reputation.

The time from 1910 to 1955 flamenco singing is marked by the ópera flamenca, with an  easier kind of music such as fandangos and cantes de ida y vuelta. The latter clearly showed South American influences.  From 1915 on, flamenco shows were organized and performed all over the world.

1955 started a sort of Flamenco Renaissance, the great performer Antonio Mairena being its key figure. Outstanding dancers and soloists soon made their way out of the small tablaos, successors to the early cafés cantantes, to the great theaters and concert houses. It was also during this time that flamenco guitarists came into greater prominence as accompanists to the dancers.

Flamenco frequently shows influences of other kinds of music, as Jazz, Salsa, Bossa Nova, etc.

Also Flamenco dance has changed, especially as female dancers try to showcase their temperament rather than the artistry that is flamenco and can now joined in fusion with other styles. The flamenco guitar that formerly was just featuring the dancers arrived to be a solo art form, with the great virtuoso Paco de Lucia being the pioneer of that development. Mass media has brought flamenco to the world stage, but it has always been and will remain an intimate kind of music.

To fully appreciate authentic flamenco, it would be necessary  to come together in a juerga with a small group of friends, at midnight somewhere in the South of Spain, when there is nothing around but the voice, the guitar and the body of a dancer moving in the moonlight.