The flamenco singing, how can we classify it?

Singing is one of the three fundamental elements in flamenco, together with dance and the guitar playing. If we take the RAE as a reference, flamenco singing defines it as “the agitated Andalusian song”, or the “most genuine Andalusian song, with a deep feeling”, also known as cante jondo.

As with dance or guitar, flamenco singing has its own characteristics, including shapes and styles that vary from one singer to another and, in addition, that differentiate flamenco singing from other artistic genres. The history of flamenco singing is not entirely clear, just as the data is diffuse about the origin of the art itself. However, it is believed that it was the mixture of various cultures that gave rise to the singing 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.

When reference is made to the first singers, what is really talked about is the pioneers of commercial flamenco singing, that is, those artists who dedicated themselves to it professionally.

Most likely, flamenco arose in the popular classes, specifically those of gypsy ethnicity, as a way of expressing daily life: problems of love, health, money and even routines.

Over time, he made the leap of family gatherings to the singing cafes, 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 in which this art left the private sphere to make itself known throughout the world.

The tablaos began to proliferate and flamenco settled down as part of the Spanish artistic fabric and, more specifically, as part of the Andalusian culture. The form and style of flamenco singing has evolved as society did. From the most primitive to others that are the result of the mixture of different flamenco styles.

Farina is a spanish flamenco singer

Flamenco singing, how to classify it?

It is difficult to make a closed structuring of flamenco singing, but artists often make a classification based on the feeling expressed by each flamenco club. Given this reference, we find:

  • ‘Cantes chicos’, lighter and more cheerful, which deals with themes related to love and happiness. Among the small songs are the alegrías, the bulerías and the tango.
  • Cantes grandes, also known as cante jondo. It refers to letters that express feelings as deep as anguish or death. Styles such as soleá, seguiriya and tonás are part of this type of cantes grandes.

Another way to categorize flamenco singing is based on the way it is executed, that is, how it is sung. In this sense, we talk about:

  • Cantes para adelante or pa´lante, they refer to those in which the singer has all the prominence, acting only on the tablao or accompanied by some musical instrument, which is usually a guitar.
  • Cantes para atrás or pa´tras are those in which the protagonism focuses on the dance and the singer accompanies from the back of the stage.

Soleá de José is a sevillian flamenco dancer

Most original flamenco songs

Flamenco songs are an art in itself. Everyone has their own charm and, on many occasions, that they like more or less, it depends a lot on the interpretation of the singer. Some of the most original flamenco songs are:

  • Soleá: appears in the 19th century by the singer Andonda. It spread through the south of Andalusia by the hand of gypsies in the area, although it was also very popular in Triana, a neighborhood that has its own cante as is the soleá de Triana.
  • Alborea: this song is typical in gypsy weddings. Its compass is similar to that of the light soleá or soleá por bulerías.
  • Bulerías: sing festive par excellence, with a lot of rhythm and compass. Born in Jerez de la Frontera, he is a cante pá´tras.
  • Martinete: considered purely gypsy and derived from the toná, the martinete accompanied only by a strong and percussion sound, which imitates that of the hammer when it hits the anvil.
  • Cañas: considered one of the most primitive flamenco songs. With Arab origins and shades of soleá.

Although in a flamenco show, the most colorful is dance, flamenco singing is the basis on which all this art is born. In fact, both the dance and the guitar were later incorporated into flamenco, since originally it was only singing. Watching a live singing, dancing and guitar performance is the best to realize what each one brings to this art.

At El Palacio Andaluz in Seville, you can enjoy a live flamenco show every day. A cast of unique artists, with whom you can appreciate the magic and elf that Andalusian art has.

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