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Flamenco History

Flamenco Styles2


Flamenco Styles

Flamenco styles can be categorized in various ways. Most commonly they are grouped according to origin rather than by some musical feature. The following categorisation closely follows that defined by Antonio Mairena and Ricardo Molina. It is important to note that there is much debate about the origins of many styles of flamenco, and that this article is only intended as an introductory guide.

Gypsy Styles

Tonás are a group of styles which are sung without accompaniment. Tonás represent some of the most ancient styles of Cante known and include toná grande, martinete, carcelera and la debla.

Martinete is the song of the forge worker. It is a type of toná and is performed to the compás (rhythm) of seguiriyas. The rhythm is often hammered out on an anvil (yunque).

Seguiriyas A. Mairena and R. Molina are of the opinion that seguiriyas dates back to the end of the 18th century, when it was another type of toná without a name. They speculate that it acquired both its name and compás in the latter part of the 19th century. The compás contains 5 unevenly spaced accents, as shown in the example.

Musical example – compás of seguiriyas

Other styles which use this type of compás include martinete, serrana, livianas and cabales.

Soleares comes from the word ‘soledades’ (solitude) and is thought to have originated in Triana (district of Seville). Although this cante may have existed earlier the name soleares did not appear until the later half of the 19th century. Many types of flamenco music have adopted this compás such as la caña, el polo, bamberas and cantiñas.

Musical example – compás of soleares

Bulerías Origins unknown, the bulerías has the same accents as soleares but is performed faster. With soleares most falsetas begin on the 1st count where as with bulerías they mostly begin on 12. For this reason it makes sense to relocate the 12th count to the beginning of the compás.

Musical example – compás of bulerías

Accents can sometimes be moved around, be added or omitted. This depends on the type of melody or variation being developed.

Soleá por bulerías is like a kind of cross breed. It has characteristics of both soleares and bulerías. It is performed slightly faster than soleares. Most melodies begin on the first count; however, it is just as convenient to begin counting on count 12.

Tangos According to Jose Otero (Tratado de Bailes – published 1912) el tango is an ancient festive dance. It has a swinging compás with 8 counts.

Musical example – compás of tangos

Tientos is derived from tangos and uses the same compás. It is much slower than tangos and has a more sombre mood. Often tientos will finish up-tempo with a short section of tangos.


Mainly sung in a major key, this group of styles all have the same compás as soleares. Las cantiñas can be subdivided into two groups: gypsy cantiñas and those of folkloric origin which include romeras, mirabrás and alegrías. Many authors classify caracoles as a type of cantiña, however not all flamencologists agree on this.

Alegrías In Spanish alegría means happiness and this cante has a festive character portraying optimism and gaiety. Alegrías is derived from la jota de Cadíz which in turn comes from el fandango morisco. The historical transformation of la jota de Cadíz to alegrías is not clearly defined. The two co–authors A. Mairena and R. Molina are of the opinion that this process began sometime after 1850 and that alegrías did not appear as we know it prior to 1875 (Mundo y Formas del Cante Flamenco – published 1963).

Romeras is another type of cantiñas. According to Mairena and Molina romeras is thought to originate from the rural areas close to Cadiz, however this is only a theory. Romeras takes its name from a commonly sung line in the verse, 'Romera, ay mi romera', but to whom or what this refers is a mystery.

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