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Thread: Thoughts About Cante Flamenco

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    Default Thoughts About Cante Flamenco

    One of my loves is traditional cante flamenco, usually a singer and a guitarist sitting closely together, perhaps a small coterie of friends and relations together around a table, able to offer encouragement, rhythmic clapping, palmas, as seems best, and to express their appreciation of particularly moving expression on the part of the singer. The idea is to convey emotion, or the simulacrum of emotion, from singer to the small world immediately around her or him. The guitarist, or tocaor, provides a constant sympathetic and complementary accompaniment to the cantaor/cantaora, often looking closely into the singer's face to ensure that the rapport is tightly maintained-- it's a remarkable pairing. The guitarists, who are seemingly numberless throughout flamenco Spain, are almost stupefyingly skilled at the technical aspects of guitar play, yet this amazing virtuosity is, in the best accompanists, kept in tight check to better "romance the stone" of the singer's utterances. The singers themselves most often do not have, and are not judged upon, the quality of their voices--by the standards of Western art song or popular song, their voices, and appearances, are rough, "untrained", ragged--but rather upon their knowledge of the various forms or palos of flamenco, their mastery of many of them, and their ability to move their audience to empathy and/or admiration.

    Sung flamenco, authentic cante, is an acquired taste. When I would play my flamenco albums in my room, my mother would ask when the chicken-strangling would be over. Yet the stories that revolve around the greatest singers of yesteryear--people like Manuel Torres, for example-- tell of people rending their clothing, crying uncontrollably, actually leaping through windows, while under the spell of his singing (such behavior often fueled by alcohol, to be sure). Anyway, what draws me into this world of cante flamenco is this experience of raw emotion, or often also of exquisite performance of the classical palos by both singer and guitarist, even in those cases where the emotional component is subdued, and the goal is to render a piece in a more detached manner. I just love it, and have since about the age of 15.

    I have relocated this post here from another part of the Forum (some will recognize having seen it before), as it serves reasonably well as an introduction to why I have long cherished traditional cante flamenco, and it will serve as an excuse for me to post some observations about flamenco and some examples of flamenco song, and to welcome others to comment as they choose. More to come, as time and circumstances permit.
    Last edited by Strange Magic; Dec-01-2015 at 16:13.

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    Default Some Books About Flamenco

    There are not many books published about flamenco in English, and often such books are either self-published or are from very small houses that may flash in and out of existence. A good place to search is Amazon, especially as used books. Herewith are some books that will take the reader a goodly way into understanding and possibly appreciating this fascinating music, and especially the singing which is at the center of flamenco:

    The Art of Flamenco, D. E. Pohren. Several publishers, from 1962 to 2014. Donn Pohren's book remains the best guide and introduction to traditional flamenco yet published. Pohren became obsessed with flamenco, moved to Spain, married a flamenco dancer, started and operated an inn for others wishing to experience the art at close range, and wrote several of the classic books on the subject. If you can afford only one book on the subject, this is it. Hardcover and paper.

    Lives and Legends of Flamenco, D. E. Pohren. A history and many short biographies and critiques of scores of the better-known singers, guitarists, and dancers of traditional flamenco. Pohren offers more insight into how flamenco performance is, or ought to be, appreciated. The author, recently deceased, had strong views on what constituted proper flamenco, but one always knew where Pohren stood on these matters of taste. I have the self-published 1964 edition, hardcover.

    Flamenco, Claus Schreiner, Editor. A series of excellent essays on aspects of flamenco written by German aficionados. 1996, Amadeus Press (paper). First published in German in 1985.

    More anon.
    Last edited by Strange Magic; Dec-01-2015 at 13:59.

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    Default More Books

    The Flamencos of Cadiz Bay, Gerald Howson. First published in 1965; currently or soon to be available in paper from The Bold Strummer. Howson, an Englishman eager to learn flamenco and to experience the "flamenco lifestyle", got employment in Spain as a teacher of English, and finally ended up in Cadiz, which, along with Jerez and the barrio in Seville known as Triana, was long recognized as one of the three centers of flamenco in Andalusia. Howson befriended the legendary Gatidano singer Aurelio de Cádiz, and, aided by Aurelio's patronage, was able to fulfill his dream. The book provides a rich account of the erratic and unpredictable lives of the flamencos of that day.

    Queen of the Gypsies, Paco Sevilla. Sevilla Press, 1999, paper. Paco Sevilla is one of the best historians of flamenco writing in the past 20 years. Queen of the Gypsies is his biography of Carmen Amaya, the Queen of flamenco dance, but also an unparalleled account of flamenco in the first half of the 20th century, including the all-important role of traveling-troupe flamenco--people such as dancers Carmen Amaya, José Greco, La Argentina, but also well-known guitarists like Carlos Montoya, Mario Escudero, and Sabicas-- who did so much to introduce flamenco to the world outside Spain. An outstanding book.

    Seeking Silverio, Paco Sevilla. Sevilla Press, 2007, paper. This is what Paco Sevilla calls a "flamenco novel" but it is best described as an "enhanced biography" of Don Antonio Chacón, widely regarded as one of the greatest singers of the earlier years of flamenco. Sevilla pens a wholly-believable account of the flamenco of the last quarter of the 19th century and of the Andalusia of that time--the sights, sounds, smells, customs. The book serves as a prequel to his Carmen Amaya biography, but is very enjoyable in its own right.

    Enough of books, but I find that my enjoyment of any of the arts is hightened by any and all additional input, and I get such input usually from books.

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    Default The Palos: Some Ways of Classifying

    There are scores of song styles or forms in cante--palos--Donn Pohren lists about 60-70. Of these, only a little over a dozen account for the vast bulk of performance. The palos can be divided by seriousness/joyousness of their subject matter/lyrics into 3 categories: cante jondo or grande, cante intermedio, and cante chico. Cross-cutting against this classification scheme is one that identifies the palos as being largely of gypsy (gitano) origin, or of non-gypsy (payo), or "Andalusian", origin. Thus we have cante gitano, and cante andaluz. This latter way of distinguishing the palos of flamenco has resulted in many decades of argument as to who " invented" flamenco, gitanos or some other mix of Arab, Berber, Jewish, Celtic, Church or whatever influences. Nobody actually knows. I regard cante flamenco as being like a rope consisting of two equally strong strands twisted inseparably together to form a whole that is stronger than its parts. But the proponents of "gitanismo", led by the great gypsy cantaor Antonio Mairena, have long battled the payo school, which was represented by the equally renowned payo cantaor Aurelio de Cádiz. This argument now has turned to mutual charges of racism in Andalusian flamenco circles; the idea being that it is racist to deny gitano primacy in the evolution of flamenco, and also racist to affirm it. A conundrum. How would the Blues be dealt with? In my further discussions of the palos, I will note where each palo is in these two classification schemes, as the subject comes up as a matter of course in flamenco discussion.

    I plan to offer an example or two of each of the 14 palos that seem to me to represent most cante performance. I will list them here first by whether they are jondo, intermedio, or chico, and then add a G or A to show their possible origin as (maybe) gitano or (maybe) Andalusian/payo:

    Cante Jondo Palos--Soleares, Siguiriyas, Martinete, Serrana, La Caña, all G. Saetas, A.

    Cante Intermedio Palos--Fandangos Grandes, Malagueñas, Taranta, all A. Tientos, G.

    Cante Chico Palos--Alegrías, Bulerias, Tango Gitano, all G. Fandangos de Huelva, A.
    Last edited by Strange Magic; Dec-02-2015 at 16:30.

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    Default Bulerias: Cante Chico, Cante Gitano

    As may be clear from the listing of the palos, the alleged gitano palos seem to occupy the emotional extremes of cante--those that deal with the greater sorrows of life, the cante jondo forms, and those that express great enthusiasm, joy, festivity-- the cante chico ones. In contrast, the cante andaluz palos are more to the middle of the emotional spectrum, and are more often sung in a mood of reflection, but we see the usual exceptions to these generalizations....

    We will begin the review of the palos with one of the most well-known and loved, the exciting Bulerias. The first example has Bernarda de Utrera as cantaora, and Diego del Gastor as tocaor, in an outdoor village or "pueblo" setting, somewhere in or near the town of Morón. Diego del Gastor and the sisters Fernanda and Bernarda de Utrera, and some other local singers were prime exemplars of a simple, direct, exciting and very authentic pueblo flamenco that captivated the American expat Donn Pohren, who made Morón flamenco famous in his books and attracted dozens of young Americans and other non-Spaniards to the town and to Diego del Gastor to learn his version of real flamenco. This is the real deal.
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=lNT7yP8mPZE

    The second Bulerias is sung by the legendary Terremoto de Jerez in his prime, with his favorite guitarist Manuel Moreno "Morao" accompanying. Terremoto later grew obese and drank far too much, a fate suffered by many cantaors. The poet García Lorca wrote of such: "The heart gets most of them...a strange and simple people, they sing with their eyes fixed on a point on the horizon...and then they burst, like giant cicadas..."
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=FnfJJ7EvtUA
    Last edited by Strange Magic; Dec-03-2015 at 13:50.

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    Default Siguiriyas: Cante Jondo, Cante Gitano

    We turn now away from the gaiety and energy of cante chico and Bulerias, and to its polar opposite: the stark, tragic world of Siguiriyas, the most jondo of the several gitano palos. Unlike its close companion, Soleares, which tends to being more declamatory, the pain expressed by the darker, starker Siguiriyas is more in the nature of being wrenched from the singer. The dialect is the Andalu of Andalusia, which is not easy to understand in normal speech, and is rendered even more so by the conventions of flamenco song. The key to recognizing the various palos is to pay attention to both singer and guitar--the unique patterns that are common within each palo eventually become ingrained in the memory, and one need only hear a few moments of most palos to know which is being offered. In the various palos, short cadenzas, or falsetas are played by the guitarist in between the verses or coplas of the palo--evident in these two examples of Siguiriyas:

    The first is proof that traditional cante still lives here and there. The cantaora is the gifted daughter, Estrella Morente, of the cantaor Enrique Morente. The guitarist is Juan "Pepe" Habichuela. I feel no shame in the tears that well in my eyes when I hear this music.
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=3u66TxY1S88

    The second offering is sung by the then-young but renowned gitano cantaor Antonio Nuñez, aka El Chocolate, recently deceased. The guitarist is Eduardo de la Malena. The particular song here is one made famous long ago by the greatest of gitano cantaors, Manuel Torres.
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=T4mLYq9AacQ
    Last edited by Strange Magic; Dec-03-2015 at 16:29.

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    Default Malagueñas, y Taranta/Taranto: Cante Intermedio, Cante Andaluz

    Having briefly examined the extreme ends of the emotional spectrum with some cante gitano, we now gravitate toward the somewhat more moderate world of cante andaluz. The emphasis in these palos is somewhat less on direct expression of emotion and more on vocal control and phrasing--more of an Art Song approach. The cante andaluz palos lend themselves more toward being listened to, say, in a garden in the last of the day's sun as dusk creeps in, and one seeks respite from the Sturm und Drang of cante gitano, perhaps with a glass of wine in hand....

    Malagueñas is the most prominent of the many palos from the vicinity of Málaga. This example is sung by José de la Tomasa; the toque is provided by Ricardo Miño. It is far and away my favorite version of this palo, and is exquisitely both sung and played.
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=3lz1OHRc2cY

    The Taranta is the best-known of the mining-themed palos of eastern Andalusia. The subject matter of these strange-sounding songs is mines, mining, miners, and the dangers and terrors of that profession: "A miner cried out, in the bottom of a mine: Ayy, what loneliness I have! And although I have a lamp, I cannot find my way out." This example is sung by Carmen Linares; the guitarist is Rafael Riqueni.
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-2H8UoCBNcw

    Flamenco dancers wished to dance to Tarantas, but the absence of a defined beat in that palo led to the development of the Taranto, which does have a slow, steady measure that lends itself to a stately dance. Here is a Taranto sung by La Paquera de Jerez, a renowned gitana cantaora. The guitars are those of Juan Maya and Manolo Sanlucar.
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=9cnHZBeIjCo

    Many of the cante andaluz palos are even more of an acquired taste than are the better-known cante gitano forms, and take some time to appreciate. But they offer rich rewards to those with the attentiveness to give them ear several times.
    Last edited by Strange Magic; Dec-04-2015 at 15:07.

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    Default Serrana y La Caña; Martinete: Cante Jondo, Cante Gitano; Saeta: Jondo, Andaluz(?)

    Four of the less-heard palos: one at least of great beauty (Serrana), another of unparalleled harshness that is almost shocking in its disinterest in any semblance of euphony (Martinete). We will begin with the Serrana, a palo thought to have evolved from the much older La Caña.

    In 2007, an Italian-produced biopic of the Renaissance artist Caravaggio was released. I never saw it, but on some message board someone posted a short clip from the film and asked what was the haunting music heard in the clip. I watched and listened and was able to immediately identify the piece as a Serrana, titled Serenata, by the esteemed cantaor El Niño de Almaden, with Pedro Soler accompanying, and so notified the poster. It is a lovely piece, and works well, even though a flamenco palo in an Italian film. Here is that clip; the Serrana begins at about 3:55 and ends at about 6:50.
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=XNNx3Xuvz6g

    Some flamenco scholars believe La Caña to be one of the oldest palos of flamenco. It is distinctive in the ending of each copla with a ritualized, repeated (in threes) series of sung Ehes. While most cantaors know La Caña, the gypsy Rafael Romero is most closely associated with it. Here he is accompanied by Perico el del Lunar, the gifted son of a gifted guitarist father of the same name.
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=lgRj98vVWUM

    Some palos are sung without any accompaniment at all, they are sung "a palo seco", originally indicating time being kept by striking the floor or the ground rhythmically with a walking stick, but later including no accompaniment at all. The Martinete is an exclamation of grief and pain: "With the weariness of death, I crept to one side; with the fingers of my hand, I tore at the wall...". Many were originally sung as gypsies worked at forges, doing metalwork. This is uttered by Manuel Agujetas, regarded as a master of this palo.
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=vxClJJxlbVs

    The Saeta is what is sung during the Easter week procession in many Andalusian cities and towns. Statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary are carried through the streets, with bands of drums and trumpets. The procession will stop at certain places, there will be silence, and the Saeta, the "Arrow of Song" will pierce the silence like the cry of some strange bird, recounting the suffering of Christ and Mary. It is thought to be of liturgical origin by some; others differ. Some--many--times it will send chills down the spine. This is sung by Manuel Mairena, the gifted son of famed cantaor Antonio Mairena--flamenco is often handed down through generations in the same family.
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=mHhBHlpCtqk
    Last edited by Strange Magic; Dec-05-2015 at 16:23.

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    Default Intermission: 1950s Recordings of Cante--What Was Available?

    My interest in cante flamenco was born in the 1950s, largely as the result of seeing dancer José Greco and his troupe on the Ed Sullivan Show on American TV. Greco usually would have a singer or singers, and something in their delivery, a suggestion of exoticism and wildness, appealed strongly to me. Flamenco albums were few at the record store, but the non-Spanish audience for cante was well served by what was available: a mix of traveling-troupe and recorded-in-Spain cante and some baile (dance) of very high quality. I bring this up because I will be using some examples of this 1950s cante from those recordings, that have found their way onto YouTube, because it is some of the finest realized flamenco combining cante, dance, and guitar. I will list some of the most important LPs of that era, some of which served to bring a knowledge and appreciation of cante flamenco to a huge audience outside of Spain. These recordings are still of enormous value and interest today.

    The Hispavox/Westminster "Anthology of Cante Flamenco", with many singers, all accompanied by Perico el del Lunar. 3 LPs. This recording put cante flamenco on the map. Historic.

    "A History of Cante Flamenco", sung by Manolo Caracol, accompanied by Melchor de Marchena. 2 LPs. A legendary singer (and guitarist).

    Several albums on the Spanish Montilla label; one (Serenata Andaluza) with Sabicas and singer Enrique Montoya and dancer Goyo Reyes, has my favorite Alegrías, both sung and danced. Alas, not available on YouTube.

    And two final gems of 1950s cante, only selectively available on YouTube--

    "Festival Gitana" on Elektra, with Sabicas, Diego Castellon, and Mario Escudero on guitars, and singers Enrique Montoya and Domingo Alvarado. This wonderful LP had superb examples of Bulerias, Fandangos, Siguiriyas, and Tientos, this last I will feature in the section on Tientos and Tangos. This was available on CD at one time, under the title of "Fiesta Flamenco" (sic).

    "Danzas Flamencas" on Decca, with José Greco dancing, The incomparable Manolita de Jerez and Rafael Romero singing, and an unidentified guitarist--perhaps Miguel Garcia, perhaps Triguito. This disk offers world-class Soleares, Bulerias, Fandangos (all three of which are in the YouTube clip that I will offer as an example of Fandangos), Tientos, Zambras, and La Caña. Sadly, this outstanding recording has never been transferred to CD, for it is one of the finest recordings of flamenco performance incorporating song, dance, and guitar.
    Last edited by Strange Magic; Dec-06-2015 at 05:33.

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    Default Tientos y Tangos: Cante Intermedio y Cante Chico; Cante Gitano

    Here we present Tientos and Tangos together, as they are very clearly related: Tientos being a slower version of Tangos, or Tangos being a faster form of Tientos. As is often the case in flamenco lore, the authorities are divided as to which came first--some say Tientos, with Tangos evolving as a speeded-up, less serious, happier offspring, or the reverse, with Tangos maturing into a more grave and somber palo, dealing with more grave and serious subjects. As you listen to the two palos, you will immediately hear the similarity of structure--indeed, the two palos are often combined, with several coplas of Tientos then switching into and concluding with the faster rhythm of Tangos--these combined versions are often called Tientos y Tangos. First, two presentations of Tientos....

    The first is from the LP Festival Gitana, with Sabicas, Diego Castellon, and Mario Escudero on guitar and the cantaors Enrique Montoya and Domingo Alvarado. What created the power and intensity of this recording was, in my opinion, the bringing together of two competitive singers singing alternate coplas and thus each striving for and reaching depths of emotion unusual for either, under the stimulus of working with the then-acknowledged master of flamenco guitar, Sabicas. The result was amazing.
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=stthlgaxOTM

    Next is a Tientos sung by Rafael Romero, "El Gallina" as he is called, with guitar accompaniment by Perico el del Lunar hijo, as sons are usually labeled; his father, also Perico el del Lunar, would be referred to as viejo, the Elder. Rafael Romero excelled at many of the lesser-known palos as well as forms such as Tientos, and was a major contributor with Perico viejo to the historic Westminster/Hispavox anthology.
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=a6Q4kMfydTA

    Finally a marvelous example of Tangos Gitanos, sung by Chano Lobato. The guitarist is El Poeta. Flamenco artists are very rarely known by their birth names. Almost all assume pseudonyms by which they are known throughout the flamenco community. For instance, Perico el del Lunar viejo was born Pedro del Valle; his nom de guerre means Pete, He of the Large Facial Mole (removed long ago).
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=a59JyJZX53k
    Last edited by Strange Magic; Dec-07-2015 at 05:15.

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    Default Soleares: Cante Jondo, Cante Gitano

    Soleares is the most widely-sung and widely-appreciated of the jondo palos, as it combines both reflective and declamatory opportunities for both singer and guitarist. It can be danced to, with great effectiveness--moreso than its companion in profundity of expression, Siguiriyas. In any case, if one is to be considered a competent, let alone great, flamenco vocalist, one must have mastered Soleares. Audiences will want to hear any singer's interpretation of this key palo. The topics are usually love and anguish: "I used to think love was just a plaything; now I see one goes through the agonies of death." "I am living in the world devoid of hope; it is not necessary to bury me, as I am buried alive." "If I poured all my anguish into the streams, the waters in the sea would rise to the heavens."

    The first Soleares is sung with great effect by Estrella Morente, whom we heard previously singing Siguiriyas. The guitarist is Juan Habichuela, the brother of the Pepe Habichuela of the Siguiriyas previously referenced.
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=U9iw1gMVoO0

    The second example is that of Terremoto ("Earthquake") de Jerez, with Manuel Moreno "Morao" again as tocaor. Terremoto was born Fernando Fernández in the barrio Santiago of the city of Jerez de la Frontera, one of the wellsprings of flamenco. He began as a dancer but decided to try singing, and was an immediate success; he is commonly regarded as one of the greatest of gitano cantaors.
    .https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Oz2gDBEw3Yk


    The third selection is from the landmark 1950s flamenco LP, Danzas Flamencas, with Manolita de Jerez singing and José Greco dancing a shorter and more exclamatory and dramatic Soleares. José Greco, of mixed Spanish and Italian ancestry, was born in Montorio, Italy, but moved with his parents to Brooklyn, New York at age 10. It was in Brooklyn that he learned to dance flamenco, and rapidly became a world-class bailaor working with notable traveling-troupe star dancers such as La Argentinita and Pilar López. Possessed of a healthy egomania--"All women want to be loved by José Greco, and all men want to be José Greco."--he could be, when he chose, a quite remarkable and tasteful dancer, never moreso than on this great LP. Note that there are three selections on the clip-- the first is the Soleares, but the following Bulerias and Fandangos are world-class, and I will reference that Fandangos in the discussion of that palo.
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=YHczTNCzU-M
    Last edited by Strange Magic; Dec-07-2015 at 22:45.

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    Default Fandangos y Fandangos de Huelva: Cante Intermedio, Chico; Cante Andaluz

    Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?

    Herewith we examine both the Fandango and its merrier cousin, the Fandangos de Huelva. The relationship between them resembles that of the Tientos/Tangos pairing, with Fandangos being the slower, darker palo, dealing with love, thwarted love, pain, death--the usual subjects for such utterances: "Your love is like a bunch of grapes; first they refresh, then they intoxicate." "A woman was dying, her children surrounded her and the smallest said to her, 'Mama, look at my face. Don't die yet...'". Along with Tarantas, Fandangos are the most jondo of the Cante Andaluz palos. They have always been among the most favored by singers.

    We begin with Terremoto and Morao. The declamatory nature of Fandangos, with the characteristic descending scale at the end of each copla is well-heard here.
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=aUuMwH2yVBE

    Next are Fandangos sung by Agujetas, who is the last of the great gitano cantaors of an earlier generation still singing (and still alive). His appearance is one of the fiercest in flamenco. His accompanist is David Jones, aka David Serva, an American drawn to Spain to learn flamenco guitar at the feet of Diego del Gastor. Serva is perhaps the most accomplished non-Spaniard to master flamenco accompaniment. He speaks the Andalu dialect fluently.
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=aFSXPmCXikA

    We end with my favorite Fandangos, again from the Danzas Flamencas LP. It is the final palo in the YouTube clip, following the Soleares and the Bulerias, and sung by the incomparable Manolita de Jerez. The guitarist is unknown, but is likely Miguel Garcia or Triguito. Note the explosive ending of each of the four coplas.
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=YHczTNCzU-M

    After the intensity of Fandangos, we turn to the lighthearted Fandangos de Huelva, which present a picture of gaiety and cheer quite unlike the gloomier Fandangos Grandes. Castanets are not part of flamenco, being associated with "Spanish dance" instead, but they are occasionally heard in Fandangos de Huelva (but not in these examples).

    First we will hear the cantaor Roque Montoya, "Jarrito", sing the Fandangos de Huelva, with an unknown accompanist. Jarrito was one of the key singers on the seminal Hispavox/Westminster anthology.
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=aCi_cBSjmho

    We finish with La Paquera de Jerez, and an unknown accompanist. Agujetas said not long ago that he, El Chocolate, and La Paquera were the only three real flamenco singers left. Now he is entirely alone.
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=U9tx6ARySAY
    Last edited by Strange Magic; Dec-08-2015 at 17:13.

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  25. #13
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    Camarón, Camarón!

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    Default Alegrías: Cante Chico; Cante Gitano

    As we began this look at the most often sung palos of cante flamenco, we started with the excitement of Bulerias. We will end with the joyous rhapsody of the beloved Alegrías of Cadiz. Cadiz, or Cai as the gatidanos call it in their dialect, has long had a tradition of great cante and superb singers. It is the home of a family of related palos called Cantiñas, of which Alegrías is the best known. They are sunny and tuneful, and are often danced. As an aside, some of the other towns of Andalusia have distinctive names similar to Cai, for Cadiz. Thus we have Serva for Sevilla, and Grana for Granada. Most of the lyrics, or letras of Alegrías are about love, and the beauty of Cadiz: "I can't think straight when I see you on the street. I can't think straight, and I keep looking at you." "When you come with me, where am I going to take you? For a little walk alongside the great sea-wall." "How my Cadiz shines. See how beautiful! On a little piece of land stolen from the sea."

    We begin with an Alegrías sung by the perfectly named La Perla de Cadiz, for decades the queen of Gatidana cantaoras. She is accompanied by her favorite tocaor, Paco Cepero. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Q4sty2Yht2Y

    And for a complete experience of Alegrías, we conclude with this stirring example of both cante and baile. The singer is Talegon de Córdoba, the two guitarists are the brothers Juan and Pepe Maya, and the bailaor is yet another brother, Manuel Maya, aka "Manolete". ¡Olé!
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=bp7mxTDfytI
    Last edited by Strange Magic; Dec-09-2015 at 05:25.

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    Default Some General Thoughts About Flamenco

    The Primacy of Cante: Most authorities agree that cante was the first element of flamenco to appear, organizing itself out of a welter of gypsy, Arab, ecclesiastical, indigenous Andalusian, whatever roots. Guitar and dance were quickly added as adjuncts to and servants of cante. When a well-known cantaor was coming to town, posters would announce who, when, where, but the name of the accompanying guitarist would usually be missing. And until recently, the centrality of cante to flamenco was asserted by virtually all aficionados--it was absurd to speak of flamenco in its broadest sense as being unaccompanied guitar or guitar and dance, other than as occasional interludes between the singing of the palos. We cannot speak of lieder or of opera without the singer. Similarly, we ought not consider flamenco without its beating heart of cante.

    The Cult of the Guitar: However, once one encounters a wider and non-Andalusian audience, it rapidly becomes clear that the raw voices, exoticism, slurred and indecipherable Andalu dialect, and overt emotionalism of sung flamenco is grating to most ears. Hence the much more accessible charms of the guitar and flamenco dance have become central to the popular notion of flamenco; also most aficionados these days are either guitarists or wannabe guitarists who are most appreciative of the virtuoso guitarists of yesterday and today: Sabicas, Paco de Lucia, etc. Hence the greater dominance today of toque and baile over cante in flamenco. Yet back in the heyday of cante's primacy in Andalusia, the wealthy señoritos would hire the cantaor of their choice for the evening's entertainment, and the cantaor would then select the guitarist as his accompanist--it was understood by all that the role of the guitarist was to interact with and to complement the singer, and the best and most authentic flamenco today remains the singer, the song, and the guitarist.

    Flamenco is not a Folk Art: While flamenco may have arisen, at least in part, from folk song, it has been almost always a paid professional form of entertainment, not unlike the gypsy bands in many European cultures. In The Brothers Karamazov, Dmitri Karamazov is always calling for the gypsy band to enliven his various alcoholic and amorous sessions in the taverns and inns. In Andalusia and beyond, the adventurous wealthy became excellent devotees of flamenco, and would hire the cantaors, who in turn provided the guitarists and maybe some dancers, with the señoritos supplying location, cash, liquor, and perhaps feminine companionship. But certainly flamencos respected and treasured their music and performed for themselves in private juergas.

    I may have other notions about flamenco and post them here from time to time, but for now I hope that some TC members might find what I have set down in this Article of some interest. As far as becoming better informed about flamenco, I again recommended the books referenced above, and I especially recommend repeated listening to the examples of the palos I have provided until one gets familiar with each one's identifying note patterns, rhythms, etc., and also looks for more examples on YouTube. It is astonishing how much superb cante is preserved on YouTube from the 1930s onward.

    And I welcome others' posts on this subject--I Love Cante Flamenco!

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