By Eva Boots - 7 December 2022
It is thought that flamenco originated as a protest since it sparked up at the end of the 15th century, when Spanish citizens were forced to convert to Catholicism or suffer hard punishments, sometimes even death sentences. At the time, a lot of Spaniards were either Jewish, Muslim or Gypsy and had no interest in converting. Therefore, they united in protest (El Palacio Andaluz, February 2020). Many lyrics of flamenco songs therefore include love, death, sadness or joy (El Palacio Andaluz, December 2019), and express radical feelings and intuitions (Flamenco singing n.d.). Most flamenco songs are sung with a specific accent, an Andalusian accent, which makes it more difficult to understand. Therefore, the listener is not always aware of the message of the song, and the artists clarify their message with the use of rhythm (El Palacio Andaluz, December 2019).
Next to rhythm, the dance of flamenco helps the artists to deliver the message of the song with their nonverbal language as well, making the interpretation of the message more accessible to the public (El Palacio Andaluz, February 2019). The dance is thus closely related to the rhythm of the song and often enhances it with the use of hand clapping or castanets, a clicking instrument the dancer holds in their hands (Bedinghaus, April 2018). Men also use intricate toe and heel-clicking steps, called zapateado (Whyte & Kudave, October 2022). Since flamenco is about showing a message, emotions play a high role in the dance. Therefore, it is common to see a flamenco dancer stay completely still at the beginning of a song and let the music slowly capture them before they start their actual dance (Bedinghaus, April 2018).
The guitar of flamenco is relatively young, only dating back to approximately 170 years ago. As flamenco has its origins in the gypsy culture, it was long viewed as a music style for the poor and oppressed. Therefore, many artists could not afford a guitar to guide them in their music (Koller-Alonso, February 2016). The main differences between a classical guitar and a flamenco guitar are that the flamenco guitar has an increased volume so it would be heard over the sounds the dancers made with the zapateado and castanets. Furthermore, the notes have a shorter decay to make sure the quick notes that are used in flamenco don’t step on each other. This was made possible by the usage of Indian rosewood or cocobolo instead of cedar wood, and by changing the shape. The body of the flamenco guitar is shallower, and its top is thinner and lighter than that of a classical guitar. Additionally, the strings of a flamenco guitar are placed closer to the fingerboard and are higher tensed (History of the flamenco guitar, n.d.).
Hopefully, I was able to teach you a little bit about the art of flamenco, which was declared one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO (Wikimedia Foundation, November 2022) by the way, so if you ever visit Spain: make sure to visit a flamenco bar as well!
Bedinghaus, T. (2018, April 28). What is flamenco dance? LiveAbout. Retrieved November 30, 2022, from https://www.liveabout.com/what-is-flamenco-dance-1007433
El Palacio Andaluz. (2019, December 30). The lyrics in flamenco singing: Types. El Palacio Andaluz. Retrieved November 30, 2022, from https://elflamencoensevilla.com/en/lyrics-of-flamenco-singing/
El Palacio Andaluz. (2019, February 27). History of flamenco dance: Tablao El Palacio Andaluz. El Palacio Andaluz. Retrieved November 30, 2022, from https://elflamencoensevilla.com/en/history-of-flamenco-dance/
El Palacio Andaluz. (2020, February 27). Flamenco singing: History and evolution. El Palacio Andaluz. Retrieved November 30, 2022, from https://elflamencoensevilla.com/en/flamenco-singing-history/
Flamenco singing. All about flamenco. (n.d.) Retrieved November 30, 2022, from https://flamenco.one/en/introduction-to-flamenco/singing/
History of the flamenco guitar. Guitar from Spain - Finest Spanish Guitars. (n.d.). Retrieved November 30, 2022, from https://www.guitarfromspain.com/en/content/11-the-flamenco-guitar
Koller-Alonso, P. (2016, February 14). The history of Flamenco Dance. Culture Trip. Retrieved November 30, 2022, from https://theculturetrip.com/europe/spain/articles/the-history-of-flamenco-dance/
Whyte, T., & Kudave, H. (2022, October 27). Flamenco dance: Discover the history of flamenco dancing. Spanish Fiestas. Retrieved November 30, 2022, from https://www.spanish-fiestas.com/culture/flamenco-dance/
Wikimedia Foundation. (2022, November 30). UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists. Wikipedia. Retrieved November 30, 2022, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UNESCO_Intangible_Cultural_Heritage_Lists
Intermate is the study association of the bachelor Technical Innovation Sciences, the majors Sustainable Innovation and Psychology & Technology and the masters Human Technology Interaction and Innovation Sciences.