Taranto, flamenco of mines

 In Flamenco
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The taranto is a style of flamenco that is born from a popular song, just like the farruca, which is considered a workers’ song. Its origin is located in the province of Almeria, more specifically in the mines, and it is believed to be a derivation of the taranta, whose main difference is the presence of the compás, which makes it danceable, in the style of the zambra Mora (a flamenco dance of the gypsies of Almeria and Granada).

As it happens with most of the styles of flamenco, the taranto started as a cante, resembling in the tonality the fandango, since it is performed in Re major. However, it was soon joined by dancing, forming a sober and elegant style that breaks up with strong movements, marking of the lyrics and brushes, all to give it greater intensity.

“Pepe el Morato” is considered the first taranto singer, although there were several pioneers, such as Juan Martín, better known as “El Cabogatero”, Ciego de la Playa and “Chilares”.

flamenco taranto

History and evolution of the flamento taranto

The development and fullness of this cante jondo began between the 19th and 20th centuries in Almería, more specifically in the towns of Garrucha and Cuevas de Almanzora. During this period it began to take centre stage, above all thanks to the singing cafés of the time, some of which were ‘Frajalito’, ‘Lyon de Oro’ and ‘España’.

And as has happened with other styles of flamenco flamenco palos, the taranto has been enriched with other styles, especially from the eastern part of Andalusia. Due to the proximity and its also mining activity, Murcia influenced with its cantes, becoming these two zones in the passage of some cantaores, like “El Morato”, who lived between Cartagena and Almeria.

Jaén capital, and the municipalities of Linares and La Carolina also influenced the flamenco taranto, with artists like “El Bacalao”, “El Cabrerillo” or “Basilio”.

As for the dance, the figure of the great artist Carmen Amaya, considered the mother of the taranto in the 1940s, should be highlighted. Such was her passion for flamenco and, especially, for this style of flamenco, that she shot, when she was ill, a film with the name of this flamenco form (“Los Tarantos”), the premiere of which she could not attend because she died before it was produced.

Fragment of the film Los Tarantos, 1963, uploaded to Youtube by José Luna.

The genius of Carmen Amaya was there during a tour she made of New York, as she came up with the idea of adapting a four-by-four beat to the rhythm of the taranto. This introduction was extended, becoming one of the most danced flamenco dance styles.

Taranto flamenco: simple, “jondo” and primitive singing

According to everything we have been saying, we could affirm that the taranto is, in short, one of the simplest and most primitive flamenco songs. Its rhythm bears witness to this, being considered a more intimate, pure, in short, “jondo” flamenco. Its sobriety is influenced by the abrupt ending with which the cantaores usually end the taranto, sometimes even with a kind of quejío (aaaaayyy queee!)

The lyrics talk about love or everyday life in the mining area of Almería, all about a copla composed of four or five octosyllable verses. The sobriety extends to the dance, collected, with markings and a certain elegant rhythm similar to the tango.

To enjoy a flamenco taranto is to live this art in its fullness, in its most essential form, without artifices. It is one of the styles of flamenco palos that keeps this part of our culture alive, considered by the UNESCO as Intangible Heritage. Olé!

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