Today we will touch upon the world of what is known as Flamenco. My hope is that this issue will spark your curiosity and you will be inspired to dive deeper on your own to find out more about the rich, soulful history of Flamenco.
Flamenco refers to a form of dance, song, and instrumental music – mainly the guitar. Flamenco has its roots in Gypsie culture from southern Spain, more specifically, the Andalusian Roma Gypsies, who migrated from Rajasthan in north west India to Spain between the 9th and 14th century, and brought with them castanets, bells, and tambourines. Upon arrival in Spain, these Gypsies mingled with the Moors and the Separdic Jews who were already present in Andalusia. After a few generations of this “mingling,” you have what we now know as flamenco.
Flamenco songs fall into categories; there is cante jondo, or “profound” or “deep” song, thought to be the oldest form of flamenco. Cante jondo usually embodyies themes of death or despair and is based on a twelve-beat rhythm. The cante intermedio is a mix, with mainly additions of Spanish fandango music. Then there is the cante chico, much more simplistic in rhythm, less emotional drama than the jondo, and usually, one can find a bit of humor with themes of love and happiness. Each cante is distinguishable by chord structure and rhythm. All have a complexity that is flamenco. The Gypsies were by and large blacksmiths, the striking of their hammers kept rhythm as they worked and sang.
Towards the end of the 1800’s, the cante was accompanied by the guitar and what is called a palo seco, a stick beaten on the floor to keep time, which replaced the strike of the blacksmith’s hammer. The dancer would perform his or her choreographed dance to this. The singer would relay legend and or stories reflecting the outcast Gypsy culture living in a predominantly Christian Spain. The reason for so much passion in the dance? The essence of the story sung is incarnated in the step, the arm movement, down to the hand and finger movements, and famous heelwork, or taconeo. The dancer is said to fall into an almost trance-like state, focused, exuding the emotions from the song.
In modern times, almost a lost art, Flamenco had a revival during the 1950s, when Jose Greco, one of the most famous of all Flamenco dancers, performed on the Ed Sullivan Show. We give thanks to Senor Greco; Flamenco is a gift and what a shame if it had been lost.
At Bodega Olé, we hold music dear to our hearts as music is an integral part of the soul. Nightly performers of many genres, including Flamenco, can be found here.
So grab a table and a glass of sangria, and enjoy. Olé!
Guitarist El Gato Soleá
at Bodega Olé every Wednesday night
El Gato has been called Gato for as long as he can remember. El Gato grew up in Manhattan, and is of Spanish and Dominican descent.
“Music is life itself, there is nothing else” says El Gato. His biggest influence for playing music has been guitarist Paco de Lucia, de Lucia’s song “Entre Dos Aguas” being El Gato’s favorite. You will feel his love for music when you watch him play; an El Gato performance exudes passion and creativity, and the instrument and El Gato seem to become one. El Gato even took the name Soleá as a homage to Flamenco and the deep emotion he feels while playing. Soleá is the most emblematic style of Flamenco, and means “loneliness.” We suggest you come experience a performance for yourself.