The flamenco singing
Singing is one of the three fundamental elements of flamenco, along with dance and guitar playing. Flamenco singing is, according to the RAE, “the Andalusian agitated singing”, or the “most genuine Andalusian cante, of deep feeling”, also known as cante jondo.
As with dance, flamenco singing has its own rules, including forms and styles that vary from singer to singer. The history of flamenco singing is diffuse, as are the origins of the art itself. However, it is believed that it was the mixture of various cultures that gave rise to the cante we know today:
- Islamic monochord songs.
- Music of the Jews.
- Popular songs of Mozarabic Christians.
- Folklore of the gypsies who arrived in Spain in the 15th century.
Although there is talk of first flamenco singers, it really refers to the pioneers of commercial flamenco singing, that is to say, to those who devoted themselves to it professionally.
It is most likely that this first part of flamenco emerged in the popular classes, more specifically those of the gypsy ethnicity, as a way of expressing everyday life: problems with love, health, money and even routines.
Later, it moved from family gatherings to singing cafés, acquiring a more professional form and accompanied by other elements, such as dance and music. It was the golden age of flamenco, the years of expansion and knowledge in which this art left the family environment to cross more than half the world.
Tablaos began to proliferate and flamenco established itself as part of the Spanish artistic fabric and, more specifically, as part of Andalusian culture. The form and style of flamenco singing has evolved as society has evolved. From the most primitive to others that are the result of a mixture of different flamenco styles.
Classification of flamenco singing
It is difficult to classify flamenco singing, but artists usually refer to a type of classification based on the feeling they express.
On the one hand, there is the `cante chico‘, lighter and happier, whose themes are often love and happiness. Bulerías, alegrías and tango are considered small songs.
On the other side is the `cante grande‘, also known as cante jondo, whose lyrics reflect depth of feeling, such as anguish, loss and even death. The soleá, seguiriya and tonás are part of the cantes grandes.
Another way of categorizing cante is the way in which it is performed, that is, it is sung. There are cantaores para adelante or pa’lante, in which the cantaor acquires more protagonism, since he is alone in the tablao or accompanied by some musical instrument.
The cante para atrás or pa’tras is in which the cantaor stays at the back of the stage, giving all the protagonism to the dancers, who are placed in the first row, to the delight of the public.
All of them have a characteristic richness of tone to which each singer gives his own “touch”. In fact, it can take some time for a flamenco singer to find his place in the cante.
Lucas Ortega, one of the cantaores of the Tablao Cuna del Flamenco, knows up close that moment when one is “finding oneself”. “When I was with my referent, my teacher, the Lebrijano, I spent 3 months in which my voice was not there. This stage marked me a lot because it totally changed me, he managed to turn around everything I used to do. But when I discovered the mystery he wanted to show me, I began to feel full.“
Flamenco singing is an art in itself. They all contain a bit of magic, of “duende”. Next, we are going to introduce you some of the most original flamenco singings:
Alborea: this cante is usually heard at gypsy weddings. Its rhythm is similar to that of the soleá ligera or soleá por bulerías.
Bulerías: joyful flamenco singing, with a lot of rhythm and compás. Born in Jerez de la Frontera, it is a cante pá’tras.
Cañas: considered one of the “mother” flamenco songs. With Arabic origins and nuances of the soleá, it is one of the most primitive.
Martinete: considered purely gypsy and derived from the toná, the martinete is considered `ancient singer’, without accompaniment, only of a strong sound and percussion, which imitates that of the hammer when it hits the anvil.
Soleá: appears in the 19th century by the hand of the cantaora la Andonda. It spread through the south of Andalusia with the help of local gypsies, although it was also very popular in Triana.
Although dancing is the most showy part of a flamenco show, flamenco singing is the basis on which all this art was born.
To enjoy and discover it up close, the best thing is to see a live flamenco show. Book your ticket online in any of our 3 daily passes. We look forward to seeing you!