Flamenco art is pure and genuine, usually related to Andalusia and its people. To answer the question “what is flamenco” one must talk about feelings, about quejío (lament) and duende, without losing sight of the origins.
To start talking about flamenco you have to go back to the 19th century, the rise of the singing cafes, places where flamenco left a family environment to enter the cultural scene of cities and towns. However, even though the 19th century is the height of its popularity, it would not be entirely correct to say that this is where the flamenco art emerged.
In fact, this form of expression, today considered art, is still part of a way of life characteristic of the gypsy ethnic group (today this does not have to be the case, although the term “flamencos” is still used to refer to gypsies).
So, to start talking about what flamenco is, we have to take into account that it was not always an art and a profession, but a sign of identity of a community and that it has been transmitted for generations, giving rise to the flamenco we know today.
After the singing cafés, flamenco shows became a part of the culture of many cities, including Seville, the place chosen by Silverio Franconetti in 1881 to open the first one. There, numerous flamenco artists, such as singers, guitarists and dancers, would gather on stage to delight those present with their art.
Although they were authentic flamenco paintings, however, there was still some way to go before all the parts that make up flamenco were synchronized, that is, the guitar playing, the dancing and the singing.
Flamenco art in Seville
Flamenco art in Seville is one of its identifying features, being the object of decorations, souvenirs and even bar themes. Sevillians have incorporated flamenco into their lives in such a way that it is not difficult to hear a Sevillian in a discotheque or to hire a flamenco group to liven up a family celebration, such as a wedding or a private party.
Each flamenco form expresses a different feeling: bulerías, party and joy; soleá, deep feelings, often related to pain, with a jondo sing; sevillanas, the favourite form of the Fair of Seville, is perfect for dancing together. Each one has variations that the dancer and the cantaor make their own, some even marking sub-genres within flamenco.
Therefore, we can talk about a flamenco jondo (as it is popularly known), whose expression is more solemn, without so much artifice. They are deep songs, with a theme that deals with death, pain and even love, although always from an intimate point of view. The cante jondo is considered by many to be the purest flamenco, among them, flamenco palos such as soleá, tiento or farruca.
On the other hand, there is a type of flamenco that is more festive, more lively and colourful in terms of singing and dancing, and which encompasses the flamenco palos (forms) that are best known by all. Surely you’ve heard of sevillanas, bulería or alegrías.
To be able to follow the line and understand what flamenco is, we also have to take a look at the structure that the styles of flamenco follow, both in terms of metrics, dance, singing and the steps that are performed. Although they may seem like choreographies, the truth is that even those with marked steps, like the sevillanas, are not closed dances and you can give them your touch and grace.
There are more rigid dances, although it would be unfair not to admit that the basis is improvisation, especially when you go to see a live flamenco show.
When the artists get into the tablao flamenco, as it happens in Cuna del Flamenco, they let their feelings and their art guide them, making each pass, each styles of flamenco art, special, unique and different. This is how Marisa Risu, a flamenco dancer, expressed it when she said that “the magic comes when you don’t know what is going to happen in the tablao”, referring to the show that comes to life every evening on the stages of the Tablao Cuna del Flamenco, in Seville.
And just as important are the dancer’s movements and the voice and quejío (lament) of the flamenco singer, as the flamenco instruments: the guitar, the castanets and the cajón, to name but a few. Most of them were late additions to flamenco art, although nowadays it is difficult to imagine a flamenco show without them.
In this sense, it is the same as with the other elements, the improvisation of each artist is what makes everything fit, that is different, that the question “what is flamenco art” can be seen in a movement of the mantoncillo, in the strumming of the flamenco guitar, in the castanets.
Flamenco art: see a live flamenco show in Seville
So, to be able to answer the question “what is flamenco art”, if you are in Seville we recommend you to come and see a live flamenco show, like the ones that take place every afternoon at Cuna del Flamenco.
Before going on stage, the artists get together to find out which style of flamenco you would like to play that day. And yes, we say “feel like” because, in short, and as we have been saying, flamenco is feeling, is sensation, desire, strength, life and death, purity.
Don’t miss out on a ticket and book online for one of our three daily passes: 5:30 pm, 7 pm and 8:30 pm. Olé!