What is Flamenco?

Flamenco is widely recognized as a typical Spanish artform. But do you know what Flamenco is? Travel with us to the exciting melting pot that the South of Spain once was.

Flamenco dance

The Origins of Flamenco

Flamenco is the expression of the melting pot the South of Spain once was.

Flamenco has been strongly associated with the Roma (“gypsy”) community throughout History, and it continues to be in the present day. But the differences between Flamenco and other Roma artforms of Eastern Europe are substantial. Some people even describe Flamenco as having an Arab vibe!

And, in fact, they may be right. Flamenco is the product of all the cultures that converged in the provinces of Andalusia, Extremadura and Murcia: Roma, Morisco (Arab), Christian settlers and Jews. Each of them made a contribution to the art of Flamenco.

The origin of the word itself is unknown, with some historians tracing it back to Arabic and Mozarabic. Others think it comes from “flama” (flame). (Curious about the origin of Spanish words? Check out this post.)

Several Arts to Make One Art

Flamenco is a complete art that unites several other art forms. One of its main components is guitar playing, also known as “toque” [literally: touch]. Guitars used for this type of playing are “Flamenco Guitars”. One of the most popular Flamenco guitarists was Paco de Lucia, renowned for his incredible, fast-paced technique.

While Flamenco music can be just instrumental, it is often sung. The vocals of Flamenco can either consist of “cante” (singing) or “jaleo” (vocalizations, literally means uproar). These can either be in Spanish or in Caló, the language of many Spanish gypsies. Well-known singers include the Flores family (Lola, Rosario, Lolita and Antonio).

The musical part of Flamenco is then combined with “baile” (dancing). The dance should follow the intensity and rhythm of the music through the movement of the arms and the stamping of the feet (similar to tap dance). A man will often dance more using his feet, while a woman dancing Flamenco is expected to be more expressive and seductive. Flamenco dancers are recognized around the world for their traditional outfits.

Finally, Flamenco also uses “plamas” (handclapping) and “pitos” (finger snapping) as a distinctive component.

Flamenco throughout the World

Art is universal. Flamenco brings intense emotions to people from very different backgrounds. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Flamenco is now a popular artform across the world. The popularity of Flamenco is also growing in the United States, especially in the South of country. And some sources actually cite that there are more Flamenco schools in Japan than in Spain!

So what is Flamenco?

Only one way to find out! Watch a video of the amazing and seducing Flamenco art, as performed by Cecilia Zambon: