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Flamenco History

Flamenco Styles1


Styles Derived From the Arabic Fandango

The fandango is an Arabic dance which over the centuries spread from Andalucia, throughout Spain and Portugal. This gave rise to many new forms of folk dance. The integration of fandango and flamenco took place in the latter half of the 19th century. There are now many variations, some having acquired independent names and others personal interpretations of famous singers.

Fandangos de Huelva This is one of the more popular fandangos and has a simple compás of 12 counts with 4 evenly spaced accents.

Musical example – compás of fandangos de Huelva

Malagueñas The malagueña is the first non gypsy style to enter into the flamenco repertoire and was introduced by Juan Breva (1844 – 1918) – a singer from Veléz Malaga. It has no compás and is related to verdiales (folk music from the mountains of Malaga).

Granaínas Granada was the last Moorish stronghold in Spain which was re-conquered in 1492 by the armies of Fernando and Isabel. The granaína has strong Arabic influences and is performed libre (without compás). This style is relatively new compared to other types of fandango.

Tarantas belongs to a group of styles known as Cantes de las Minas (mineworkers' songs). As with malagueñas and granaínas, this style has no compás. Tarantas is said to have originated in Almería and was later developed in Linares. Many styles have evolved from taranta including taranto (which has a compás similar to that of tientos) and mineras (again without compás). The gloominess and pessimism of the song followed by moments of lyrical beauty in the falseta create contrasts reminiscent of the light and dark above and below ground in the mines.

Cantes de Ida y Vuelta

Since the discovery of South America by Columbus in 1498 many Spaniards have set sail for the New World. The settlers brought with them songs which over the centuries became transformed into a rich variety of styles. Towards the end of the 19th century Latin American musical influences began to infiltrate the flamenco repertoire. Hence the name ida y vuelta (there and back). This group of styles includes guajiras, colombianas, milonga, vidalita and rumba.

Guajiras is sung in a major key and has Cuban influences. It was perhaps the first cante de ida y vuelta to be incorporated into flamenco and is written using alternating bars of 6/8 and 3/4.

Musical example – compás of guajiras

Colombianas is said to have been invented by the singer Pepe Marchena in 1931. It is sung in a major key and sounds similar to guajiras, except that the compás is the same as that of tangos.

Rumba is influenced by the Afro Cuban dance rhythm of the same name, and has gained great popularity in the last few decades. It frequently appears in both Spanish and international pop music. Rumba is written in 8/8 time with accents on the 1st, 4th and 7th beat.

Musical example – compás of rumba


The following styles do not fit into any of the categories above.

Peteneras Various theories exist as to the origins of this style. One theory suggests that it was the personal invention of a singer called La Paterna from the town Paterna de Ribera (Cadíz). Others claim that is of Jewish or foreign origin. Peteneras has a melancholic air and is sung in a minor key. It has the same compás as guajiras. Superstition surrounds the peteneras and some artists are reluctant to perform it.

Sevillanas Descended from a type of seguidilla (a dance) from Castille. Sevillanas are grouped together to make a set of four. Each sevillana begins with a short phrase called the salida: So called because it resembles the last phrase of the verse which follows. The verse (copla) is then sung, or played, three times often introducing a variation on the final repeat.

The melodies fit very neatly into a 3/4 time signature, however the accompaniment is performed with a strong accentuation in 6/8 time. This presents some problems when writing the rhythm of sevillanas. In the example below, both alternatives are shown. Notes with tails pointing up represent the melody written in 3/4 time, and notes with tails pointing down represent the accompaniment counted in 6/8.

Musical example – sevillanas rhythm

NOTE: Some transcriptions use two bars of 3/8 to denote one bar of 6/8, effectively doubling the number of bars.

Farruca The origins of farruca are unclear. It is said to take it's influences from Galicia in Northern Spain. The farruca is played in a minor key, with a rhythm similar to that of tangos. The dance is characterised by masculine moves and long passages of virtuoso footwork.

Garrotín This style also has influences from Northern Spain, namely Asturias. It has a compás similar to that of tangos and is sung in a major key. Guajiras is often danced with a hat.

Zapateado means footwork, and it is a male dance performed in duple time. The accompaniment is normally played in a major key and can be written in 2/4 or 6/8 time.

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