Few things are as associated with Spain as Flamenco. Passionate and sensual, it entices those from all walks of life. However, so many people don’t truly know what Flamenco is or know much about its history. The word “Flamenco” is more than just the dance itself, but also refers to the musical aspect as well. The traditional Flamenco is composed of two types of songs, the “cante chico”, which is more energetic and upbeat, and the “cante jondo”, a more deep and pained lament which came earlier in Flamenco’s development. No visit to Spain is complete without taking in a live traditional Flamenco show.
History of Flamenco
Like many forms of music, Flamenco in Spain was shaped over time by various cultures mixing together. Though its exact origins go back further than is recorded, the music is most commonly associated with the Gypsy culture in Andalusia. Early songs were very heartfelt, and the lyrics spoke of oppression and lost love. In the period from 1765 and 1860, it became a ballroom dance and Flamenco schools actually began to appear. Originally, the music was performed with only vocals accompanied by hand claps, but composers soon began featuring the guitar. During the “Golden Age” of Flamenco (1869-1910), it began to be performed in music cafés all over the region, becoming the genre we know today. In the mid 20th century, Flamenco guitar performers began to play solo performances and become widely recognized, instead of merely backing dancers. This exposed a whole new audience to Flamenco. Top Flamenco musicians and dancers stepped out of the small tablaos they were performing in to play at world class venues. The art became truly appreciated as a classical performing art and to this day, one cannot think of Spain without conjuring images of a Flamenco performance.
Development of Flamenco
In addition to having a rich history, Flamenco is vibrant and alive today. While like many traditional genres, Flamenco continues to evolve by merging with other styles of music, more traditional performances of the style have not waned in popularity. Early performances were fairly spontaneous and unscripted, unlike the carefully staged shows we see today. However, when you see a truly passionate performance you will see that none of the vibrancy has been lost over time.
Where to watch Flamenco in Spain
If you’re looking to see Flamenco in Spain, be sure to see it in Seville. Seville is the capitol of Andalusia, and the perfect place to see the art of Flamenco first hand considering this is the heart of where it originated. Granada is also a top tourist destination, and the perfect place to catch a performance. While not part of Andalusia, Madrid is a cultural center of Spain and you will find no lack of places to see this classical art form. From performances from world renowned Flamenco artists in larger venues, to more subdued and intimate shows at historic venues where you can get up close and personal, you’ll be sure to find exactly what you’re looking for on your next trip to Spain.