Flamenco styles: the alegrías
Alegrías, as its name indicates, is one of the most festive flamenco styles. Its origin goes back to the cantiñas, ancient songs typical of the Cadiz coast, more specifically, of Cadiz and the Ports. In fact, alegrías is one of the oldest flamenco styles, from which many of the choreographies and rhythms of other palos derive.
History of alegrías
Alegrías is a flamenco style that drinks from various styles. According to flamencoologists, the rhythms of the jaleos, fandangos, seguiriyas and romance coplas are some of the influences that have shaped this cante. However, the `jota navarro-aragonesa´ is the fundamental base of alegrías, which took root in the capital of Cadiz during the French occupation in which Aragonese and Cadiz were twinned against the common enemy.
If you stop to listen to the most classic lyrics of this flamenco form, you will find references to the Virgen del Pilar, Navarra and the river Ebro. From all this cultural mixture, came a kind of jota gaditana, which resulted in the current alegrías, full of jolgorio.
An example of this is the song Yo le di un duro al barquero, by La Niña de los Peines, which was rescued, under the title Coquinas, by the artist Estrella Morente on her album Mi Cante y un poema.
“Yo le di un duro al barquero
Por pasar el Ebro a verte.
Yo le di un duro al barquero
Los amores de Navarro,
Son caros pero son buenos”.
“I gave the boatman a hard-on
To pass the Ebro to see you.
I gave a hard time to the boatman
They’re expensive, but they’re good”.
In the middle of the 19th century, the rhythm of these `jotas de Cádiz´ began to “aflamencar“, resembling the soleá.
It was the cantaor Enrique Butrón who set the flamenco style of today’s alegrías. Although he never devoted himself professionally to flamenco, he was known in the neighbourhoods of Cádiz for his soleá, seguiriyas and alegrías cantes, whose style he inherited from his father, Enrique Bonfante.
His definitive contribution was to slow down the rhythm of this palo so that it could be sung, and he achieved this thanks to the help of El Mellizo and Ignacio Ezpeleta, known for being the one who introduced the “tiriti, trán, trán trán” before starting the cante.
Dancing for alegrías
The dancing for alegrías established itself as a new flamenco form, identical to the soleá, but with a much faster tempo, like the `bulería por soleá´. It is the perfect counterpoint to this more sober flamenco form.
The structure of the dance consists of the exit, the so-called “llamadas”, “desplantes” between lyrics, “escobilla with zapateado” and a singing silence in which the castanets take centre stage. They end with an outing in “desplante or bulerías” in jaleos.
Bringing roots from the soleá, it inherits forms from the oldest flamenco, from the purest and most jondo tradition.
To give you an idea, watch this video of La Perla de Cádiz in which it sings some alegrías, under the chords of guitarist Paco Cepero and the palmas of Curro La Gamba.
In 1909, Sebastián el Pena made the first known recording of alegrías. He was accompanied by the guitar of the Hijo del Ciego and the dance of La Macarrona.
They called the alegrías `jaleos´, colloquially, which emphasizes the party you are going to hear.
Alegrías is one of the dances that go through the flamenco show “Seducción Flamenca”. Our artists leave their skin and feelings on the stage to take a journey through the origins of this genuine art.
Come and see them live, jalear, get excited after a zapateado, feel the sound of castanets. And if you hear a “tirititrán, trán, trán” at the beginning, you know that some alegrías are coming. We are waiting for you!