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Spanish Flamenco: Origins and History

Discover the origins and rich history of Spanish flamenco dance and music. Explore the cultural significance and evolution of this iconic art form. 


Discover the origins and rich history of Spanish flamenco dance and music. GetYourGuide: Explore the cultural significance and evolution of this iconic art form.
Spanish Flamenco: Origins and History | Fenix.info

Dance drives you crazy: the hands of the dancer flutter like light butterflies, then tenderly stroke the tongues of flame, then contort in deep suffering... Bright fairy-tale dresses, delicate lace mantillas, graceful shoes, a rose in the hair, rhythmic castanet clacks, a deep passionate voice, guitar riffs — they pour into the heart and spread in waves throughout the body: they caress, enchant, excite, carrying you into the open ocean of feelings...


Singing, dancing, guitar: 3 components of flamenco


What is flamenco? Voice, guitar, and dance — they fill and complement each other, intertwining into one and evolving independently, giving rise to new forms and rhythms... The ancient does not disappear, it grows and flourishes: on the streets of Seville and in the modern rhythms of young people. Flamenco for Spaniards has long become a symbol of love and passion.


When, where, and from whom did this amazing art originate? It is easiest to answer the question "where." Flamenco as an art form originated in southern Spain, in Andalusia. Seville, Granada, Cadiz, Jerez de la Frontera, Malaga — locals consider their city the "cradle" of flamenco.


It is believed that singing (cante) was the first to appear. Later, singing was complemented by guitar, castanets, and dance. Flamenco did not appear overnight: the Arabic and Sephardic (Spanish-Jewish) cultures sprouted into each other, and the gaps were filled with Gypsy rhythms and Andalusian romances...


Discover the origins and rich history of Spanish flamenco dance and music. GetYourGuide: Explore the cultural significance and evolution of this iconic art form.
Spanish Flamenco: Origins and History | Fenix.info

Spanish Flamenco is a fusion of many cultures


It is impossible for historians to accurately trace the entire path of flamenco formation, as this mix of rhythmic dance and singing was passed down from generation to generation as folk folklore. Romans, Arabs, Jews, and then Gypsies — they all played an important role in the emergence of flamenco.


Andalusian "romances" (songs and ballads) were performed primitively, usually, without musical accompaniment. Born in the people from the fusion of all these cultures, they became the soil for the gypsies who arrived in the 15th century in Andalusian lands. With their help, the flamenco, which conquered the world, flourished brightly on this soil.


Written evidence of flamenco appeared only in the 18th century. The first evidence, which appeared in 1761, was left by a certain Marquis de Casinas. In a note to the city council of Cadiz, of which the Marquis was a member, he mentioned the policy of holding various spectacles and performances in the city.


In particular, it was said there: "The fandango dance (one of the popular Andalusian dances) excites voluptuousness when danced by Gypsies." 6 years later, he writes that the famous Giacomo Casanova mentioned in his "Diaries" about the "Fandango, which the Gypsies dance." In 1771 - 1774, another mention appears: in the "Moroccan Letters," Jose Cadalso describes in detail the flamenco holiday in one of the castles of Andalusian nobility.

At the same time, in 1775, the first known flamenco singer is mentioned, Uncle Luis from Juliana, which is located in the Spanish province of Jerez (Tio Luis de Juliana, Jerez). It is still unknown (and flamenco researchers are not unanimous on this issue): whether Uncle Luis was a Gypsy (gitano) or a "payo" (payo, means "not Gypsy". This word, which Gypsies call a person of any nationality, except their own).


In 1783, King Carlos III issued a decree regulating the social status of Gypsies in Spain. After centuries of persecution and harassment, they gained human rights. They became part of the Spanish kingdom and actively participated in the struggle of the Spanish people for liberation from the Napoleonic invaders in 1808 - 1812. This experience added facets to flamenco art: Gypsy dancers, musicians, and singers conquered the Royal Court in Madrid.


Discover the origins and rich history of Spanish flamenco dance and music. GetYourGuide: Explore the cultural significance and evolution of this iconic art form.
Spanish Flamenco: Origins and History | Fenix.info

Cafes "Cantante"


At the same time, in Granada and other cities of Andalusia, cafes "Cantante" (Span .: Cafe Cantante) began to appear. Cantantes were nightclubs where you could have a drink and a snack, and at the same time enjoy some musical performance. At first, not all the performances resembled flamenco.


Only in 1870, the famous cantador at the time, Silverio Franconetti, opened the first cafe-cantante, where flamenco ruled. Famous singers and dancers performed there in those years. In that cafe, in the competition for the best, real flamenco crystallized. Gypsies taught the payor (not Gypsy) their dance or singing technique. And they — memorized folk Andalusian songs and dances, which enriched and diversified their repertoire. It was in these musical cafes that the art of flamenco was polished.


The magnificent Spanish artist Ignacio Zuloaga y Zabaleta (Ignacio Zuloaga y Zabaleta 1870 - 1945) left many sketches of Gypsy life at the end of the XIX — beginning of the XX centuries. At that time, flamenco and cafes "Cantante" were in fashion, which allowed artists from amateurs to become professionals.


Flamenco is a living organism


Over the past hundred years, flamenco has evolved and turned into a true art form. And today, among the people, flamenco is still alive.

Spanish flamenco emerged as a separate, synthetic genre of art in the late 19th century. At the same time, the word "flamenco" itself appeared, which became the name of this new direction in singing, dancing, and music.


It is not exactly known why the art of flamenco is called "Flamenco." There are several hypotheses. One of them suggests that the name "flamenco" came from the pink "flamingo", the graceful long-legged bird, with which the character of the dance is associated. After all, in the east and south of Spain (especially where there are salt lagoons) — there are a lot of flamingos!


Discover the origins and rich history of Spanish flamenco dance and music. GetYourGuide: Explore the cultural significance and evolution of this iconic art form.
Spanish Flamenco: Origins and History | Fenix.info

Moorish Influence


The second hypothesis is based on the idea of the emergence of typical flamenco singing in the depths of Moorish culture in the Spanish south. Landless peasants - Moors ("fellah min gueir ard", they were called in the Arabic-Spanish dialect) — merged into Gypsy communities that had just settled in Andalusia. They, like the Gypsies, were marginalized and persecuted by the church and the crown. This united them.


The suffering of the persecuted peasants and Gypsies poured into mournful, prolonged songs, which some flamenco researchers consider the forerunners of "Cante Jondo" (Cante Jondo, a special, ancient manner of performing flamenco songs). It is hard not to agree that "cante jondo" really resembles viscous, throaty Arabic melodies. Historians and cultural researchers agree that flamenco absorbed the Moorish style of singing and dancing.


However, most "flamencologists" consider this hypothesis too politicized and "far-fetched"...

There are other hypotheses: one of them states that Spanish Gypsies came from Flanders (part of present-day Netherlands and Belgium). Spaniards still call the Flemish "flamenco." According to another hypothesis, Gypsies in Spain were also called "flamenco" in ancient times.


There is some evidence for this, but they were called that in the 15th - 16th centuries, and the art with that name appeared later, in the 19th century. The Gypsies themselves believe that this word comes from the word "flamenco" ("flama" — flame, fire) and indicates a fiery, passionate, and scorching Gypsy temperament! Anything is possible... All explanations are quite well-argued, but the exact origin of the word "flamenco" remains unknown...


Moorish Influence. Discover the origins and rich history of Spanish flamenco dance and music. GetYourGuide: Explore the cultural significance and evolution of this iconic art form.
Spanish Flamenco: Origins and History. Moorish Influence. | Fenix.info

Café Cantante and Cantaor


Let's finish our brief foray into etymology and continue the story about flamenco from where we left off, with the appearance of café cantante (cafe cantante) in Spain.


The first such establishment appeared on Lombard Street in Seville in 1842. It was a night café where wine flowed like a river and "firewater" Aguardiente (aguardiente — grape moonshine, popular on the Iberian Peninsula) was served.


Women of easy virtue ignited the passions of not very sober but very temperamental men. Here they drank and danced, sang and fought with knives... All this happened to the music, but it was not the main feature of such establishments.


It can be said that the first real café-cantante, as we have already written, where flamenco was the main dish, appeared only in 1870. It was opened in Seville by the famous cantador (flamenco singer) Silverio Franconetti. The café was called "Salon de Recreo" ("Recreation Salon") or "Cafe Botella" ("Bottle Cafe"). "Cafe Botella" quickly gained popularity among musicians, poets, artists, and bullfighters.


All Spanish café-cantantes were made according to the same pattern: a spacious hall with tables, walls decorated with mirrors and posters of famous bullfighters, at the back of the hall, a high stage "tablao" for flamenco artists.




Café Cantantes began to appear all over Spain


Café Cantantes began to appear all over Spain: first in Andalusia — Seville, Cadiz, Jerez, and Malaga. These southern cities of Spain led in the number of such places per capita. There were plenty of them in Madrid, Barcelona, Cartagena, and even in the Basque Country. Soon the flamenco fashion outgrew the Iberian Peninsula and spilled out into the world, quickly and forever conquering it.


In the development of flamenco as an art form, café cantantes played a crucial role. Before the appearance of such cafes, flamenco was performed, as a rule, at home, among friends, at improvised parties in taverns or inns, and sometimes at holidays at rich señors.


Café Cantantes allowed this passionate art to flourish


Café Cantantes allowed this passionate art to flourish: the best flamenco artists could now afford to professionally engage in guitar playing, dancing, or singing, as they were paid good money for performances.


Flamenco researchers believe that during the heyday of café cantantes (the early 20th century), this art form took shape, was structured, and acquired all those characteristic features and styles that became its "foundation and superstructure."


Basic standards of flamenco were developed


It was during the dawn of café cantantes that the basic standards of flamenco were developed: the specific manner of singing was refined, guitar playing styles were structured, and the art of dance flourished. At the same time, flamenco began to acquire elegance and severity, and violins and tambourines disappeared from the musical accompaniment forever.


Café Cantantes were night establishments that attracted a very diverse audience. In addition to the bohemians, flamenco artists, and bullfighters, such cafes were frequented by pimps, prostitutes, and other representatives of the criminal world. The contemporaries considered flamenco marginal art. Moreover, most artists were Gypsies, this did not add respectability to flamenco.


However, the hatred of the bourgeoisie for freedom and beauty did not stop the triumphant march of flamenco across the planet. After all, talents like Federico Garcia Lorca (Spanish poet) and Manuel de Falla (composer) were on the side of passion and love, suffering and poetry. They were on the side of flamenco.


Do you want to immerse yourself in the world of authentic flamenco right here, right now?


Or dream of embellishing your special day with the thrilling dance of Spain? With Casamiga Events, your desires will become a reality! Casamiga Events are the best organizers of various events in Barcelona and on the Costa Brava — birthdays, anniversaries, surprises, weddings, and corporate events. With the Casamiga Events team of organizers, your celebration will become an unforgettable event filled with passionate Spanish flamenco!


Do you want to immerse yourself in the world of authentic flamenco right here, right now? Or dream of embellishing your special day with the thrilling dance of Spain? With Casamiga Events, your desires will become a reality! Casamiga Events are the best organizers of various events in Barcelona and on the Costa Brava — birthdays, anniversaries, surprises, weddings, and corporate events. With the Casamiga Events team of organizers, your celebration will become an unforgettable event filled with passionate Spanish flamenco!


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