Some scholars say that the name "flamenco" could be associated with the "flame" or "fire" one experiences in the voice and movements of the Gitano (gypsy) singers, dancers and guitar players. But in his 1933 book Orígenes de lo Flamenco y Secreto del Cante Jondo, the historian Blas Infante suggested that the word "flamenco" owes its origin to the Hispano-Arabic term "fellah mengu", (meaning "expelled peasant" ie. the those Moriscos (Islamic Andalusians who were forced to convert to Christianity to avoid religious persecution) who joined the Roma gypsies.
Whatever the truth may be, we now have more than 50 flamenco styles called palos determined by the kind of rhythmic pattern, mode, chord progression, stanzaic form and geographic origin: some are sung with guitar accompaniment and some without; some of them can be danced, and some not; some are for men and others for women and some by both. But there are signs that such traditional distinctions are breaking down eg. the Farruca, once a male dance is now frequently done by women..
There are three kinds of flamenco songs, depending on how serious they are, ranging from the saddest and most serious cante jondo (deep song) to the frivolous cante chico (kid's song) with some falling between the two, called "intermedio" (in between).
The flamenco cante often includes both Spanish and Arabic folk melodies, mixed further with elements from the Persian and Jewish musical traditions. Usually, flamenco songs, whose contents and melodies may be quite different, carry no individual song title but are simply referred by their class names with titles such as
Bulerías( with rhythms like (1 2  4 5  7  9  11  or 1 2  4 5 6   9  11  ) or broken down into 6/8 followed by 3/4 like ( 1  1 2  4 5  7  9  - 1 2  4 5  7  9  11) and Bulerías por soleá (soleá por bulerías),
Caracoles(darn/damn/oh my goodness!)
Fandango (a row) Fandango de Huelva, Fandango Malagueño,
Peteneras (side-stepping into other things),
Rondeñas (going round and round),
Saeta (arrow, dart),
Seguirillas/Seguiriyas (  2  4  6 7  9 10  12 )
Sevillanas ( derived from an old folk dance Castilla called Sequidilla, a dance in 4 parts)
Tangos and Tanguillos (Little Tango)
Tarantos (dazed, bewildered),
Tientos (care, caution)
Many flamenco songs are accompanied by guitar music but with such accomplished performances by Paco Peña, Paco De Lucia, Ramon Montoya, Manitas de Plata, Pepe Romero, Pepe Martinez and The Romeros, flamenco guitar music has gone centre stage, as stand alone music genre.
A typical flamenco recital with voice and guitar accompaniment, comprises a series of pieces (not exactly “songs”) in different palos. Each song of a set of verses called copla (couplet) tercio (third ), or letras (lyrics) are punctuated by falsetas (guitar interludes). Sometimes, the guitarist s provides a short introduction which sets the tonality, compás (beat) and tempo (speed) of the cante before it is sung. .
In certain palos such falsetas are played with typical structures e.g. in the sevillanas with an AAB pattern, where A and B (likr A but with a slight difference in the ending).
Flamenco music is done in the so-called Flamenco mode (which some describes as a modern Phrygian mode (modo frigio), a harmonic version of that scale with a major 3rd degree, in addition to the major and minor scales used in modern Western music. The Phrygian mode occurs in such palos as the soleá, most bulerías, siguiriyas, tangos and tientos. A very typical chord sequence, usually called the "Andalusian cadence" may be viewed as in a modified Phrygian: in E the sequence is Am–G–F–E.. According to Manolo Sanlúcar E is here the tonic, F has the harmonic function of dominant while Am and G assume the functions of subdominant and mediant respectively.
Guitarists tend to use only two basic inversions or "chord shapes" for the tonic chord (music), the open 1st inversion E and the open 3rd inversion A, though they often transpose these by using a capo (a bar across the guitar strings which when suitably placed on the neck of the guitar will enable the guitarist to play with the fingering positions of one chord but produce a chord in a different key and thereby simplify the fingering positions of different when different chords are required).
Modern guitarists such as Ramón Montoya, have introduced other positions: Montoya himself started to use other chords for the tonic in the modern Dorian sections of several palos; F♯ for tarantas, B for granaínas and A♭ for the mineras. Montoya also created a new palo as a solo for guitar, the rondeña in C♯ with scordatura. Later guitarists have further extended the repertoire of tonalities, chord positions and scordatura.
There are also palos in major mode: like most cantiñas and alegrías, guajiras, some bulerías and tonás, and the cabales (a major type of siguiriyas). The minor mode is restricted to the Farruca, the milongas (among cantes de ida y vuelta), and some styles of tangos, bulerías, etc. In general traditional palos in major and minor mode are limited harmonically to two-chord (tonic–dominant) or three-chord (tonic–subdominant–dominant) progressions. However modern guitarists have introduced chord substitution, transition chords, and even modulation.
Fandangos and derivative palos such as malagueñas, tarantas and cartageneras) are bimodal with the guitar introductions in Phrygian mode and the singing part in the major mode but modulating to the Phrygian at the end of the stanza.
According to Dionisio Preciado, the flamenco singing is characterized by:
(1) Microtonality: presence of intervals smaller than the semitone.
(2) Portamento: frequently, the change from one note to another is done in a smooth transition, rather than using discrete intervals.
(3) Short tessitura or range: most traditional flamenco songs are limited to a range of a sixth (four tones and a half). The impression of vocal effort is the result of using different timbres, and variety is accomplished by the use of microtones.
(4) Use of enharmonic scale. While in equal temperament scales, enharmonics are notes with identical pitch but different spellings (e.g. A♭ and G♯); in flamenco, as in unequal temperament scales, there is a microtonal intervalic difference between enharmonic notes.
(5) Insistence on a note and its contiguous chromatic notes (also frequent in the guitar), producing a sense of urgency.
(6) Baroque ornamentation, with an expressive, rather than merely aesthetic function.
(7) Apparent lack of regular rhythm, especially in the siguiriyas: the melodic rhythm of the sung line is different from the metric rhythm of the accompaniment.
(8) Most styles express sad and bitter feelings.
(9) Melodic improvisation: flamenco singing is not, strictly speaking, improvised, but based on a relatively small number of traditional songs, singers add variations on the spur of the moment.
According to musicologist Hipólito Rossy
(10) Flamenco melodies are characterized by a descending tendency, as opposed to e.g. a typical opera aria, they usually go from the higher pitches to the lower ones, and from forte to piano, as was usual in ancient Greek scales
(11) In many styles, such as soleá or siguiriya, the melody tends to proceed in contiguous degrees of the scale. Skips of a third or a fourth are rarer. However, in fandangos and fandango-derived styles, fourths and sixths can often be found, especially at the beginning of each line of verse. According to Rossy, this is proof of the more recent creation of this type of songs, influenced by Castilian jota.
The compás (meter or time signature) is the soul (duende) of flamenco: the rhythmic cycle, or layout, of a palo. Without a guitarist,the compás is done by hand clapping (palmas) or drum beats from a cajon or simply by hitting the table with one's knuckles. The guitarist will use such techniques as strumming (rasgueado) or tapping the soundboard (golpé) and would sometimes mark the important downbeats with a chord change..
Flamenco music is performed with three basic kinds of beats: Binary, Ternary and a form of a twelve-beat cycle that is unique to flamenco. There are also free-form styles including, among others, the tonás, saetas, malagueñas, tarantos, and some types of fandangos . Whilst the
tangos, tientos, gypsy rumba, zambra and tanguillos are done with rhythms in 2/ 4 or 4/4, the
fandangos and sevillanas are done with rhythms in 3/4/4 thus suggesting their non-Roma origins since the 3/ 4 and 4/4 measures are not common in ethnic Roma music.
The 12-beat rhythms are usually done in various amalgams of 6/ 8 + 3/ 4 and sometimes in 12/ 8. The 12-beat cycle is the most common in flamenco but different palos may use different kinds of beat accentuation which doesn't correspond to the downbeat of classical music. Alternating of groups of 2 and 3 beats is also common in Spanish folk dances of the 16th Century such as the zarabanda, jácara and canarios.
There are three types of 12-beat rhythms, which vary in their layouts, or use of accentuations:
(1) soleá, seguiriya and bulería.
(2) peteneras and guajiras: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12. Both palos start with the strong accent on
12. Hence the meter is 12 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11.12.....
(3) The seguiriya, liviana , serrana, toná liviana, cabales: 121 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12.
soleá, within the cantiñas group of palos which includes the alegrías, cantiñas, mirabras,
romera, caracoles and soleá por bulería (also " bulería por soleá"): 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12. For practical reasons, when transferring flamenco guitar music to sheet music, this
rhythm is written as a regular 3/4 .
Some performers prefer to stick to the "flamenco puro", considered to be closest to its gitano origins. In this style, the dance is always performed solo, with improvised rather than choreographed steps Some purists even frown on the use of castanets (even though they can be seen in many early 20th century photos of flamenco dancers). But most Spanish flamenco dance companies adopt the "classical flamenco" style derived from the Seguidilla, a traditional Castillan folk dance: the men holding their body upright with head held high whilst the women's back is often held with a marked back bend. Unlike the more gitano influenced styles, there is little movement of the hips, the body being tightly held and the arms extended away from the body, as in a ballet In fact many of the dancers in these companies have also been trained in the ballet, not just the flamenco dance
There is now also the so-called "modern flamenco", a highly technical dance style requiring years of study. Here, the emphasis for both male and female performers is on lightning-fast footwork performed with absolute precision. In addition, the dancer may have to dance while using props such as castanets, shawls and fans.
In addition, a style called "Flamenco nuevo" has emerged recently, characterized by pared-down costumes (the men often dance bare-chested, and the women in plain jersey dresses). Props such as castanets, fans and shawls are rarely used. Dances are choreographed and include influences from other dance styles.
In traditional flamenco, young people are not often thought to have the emotional maturity to adequately convey the duende (soul) of the genre. Therefore, unlike other dance forms, where dancers turn professional early to take advantage of youth and strength, many flamenco dancers do not hit their peak until their thirties and will continue to perform into their fifties and beyond.
El baile flamenco is justly famous for the way it shows up dramatically the pride, the grace of the human carriage and the swiftness, decisiveness and the grace of its motion, the way it can switch postures in a split second and the way the rhythmic stamping of the feet on the wooden floor board to create very complex rhythm with lightning speed . movement. As with any dance form, many different styles of flamenco have developed. The Roma form of flamenco is considered the most "authentic" but the gypsies of Spain have adapted some of its movement so that they become more sensuous: curving around the head and body rather than extending, often with a bent elbow.
The dancer wears the kinds of dress Spanish gypsies ladies wear at the annual Feria de Sevilla. I love the way she makes her dress fly
first in front and then behind her
The swiftness of decisive motion
What grace in her arm movement
now above her head
now on her hips
and with her dress above her head again. In classical flamenco, the male dancer appears upright proud and the woman's back is held in a marked back bend, with very little hip movement, her body held tightly, her arms extended very far away from her body and seldom above her head.
Now it's the turn of another pair of dancers
his arms like that of a torreador tempting a bull
Fans helps to enhance the grace and speed of of delicate fingers
complementing each other
one male bird setting in motion 4 females
Five dancers each with her moment of glory
waving and tapping each in her own way
Three pairs in action
Two with what looks like a torreador's flag
The men and women together
The men are taut, the ladies supple
All hands in the air
Plenty of swishing of fans and hemline
She has the stage all to herself
Her feet tapping only
hand around her body
raising her hemline to show her legwork
How proudly she holds up her head
Concentrating on her legwork
change of dress
It's the turn of another man now
It's truly amazing how many different types of rhythm he can create with his feet alone
hand crossed below his belly
The woman dancer responds to the invitation of his steps
The man encourages her
Another solo dancer
showing what he's got
arms stretched out
A woman can't resist the temptation
the two dancing in synchrony
Three ladies doing their thing
Two against two, each trying to outdo the other pair
Three soldiers come in
The boss gives her orders
One of them takes his pick
They're on their own again
each with her own fan
The men flaunts their capes
Flying to and fro
The lead women takes up the challenge
and engages in a duet
very close together
Her girls goads her on
She steps on to the stage with a walking stick
She is joined by three others and together they did some Broadway type tap dancing, obvious for commercial reasons.
The best male dancer does some very fast and difficult footwork on a table
with some really fast foot stamping
creating the sound which varies in rhythms, demonstrating absolute mastery and the stage is lit purple, the color of kings.
More solo footwork
little movement of the hands
focusing on the footwork
he crosses the stage without ever breaking the rhythm
True to tradition, he is encouraged by the rest of the dance troupe
He is joined by another dancer
The two of them stamping away
Moving away still dancing
The guitarists acknowledging the applause after some pure flamenco guitar work
Time for another duet
a perfect match
Time for another group performance again
All the men slim, all the women gorgeous
whirling away to the sound of their rhythmic foot stamping
Some in the traditional spotted dress
Moving in the same direction
hands held together
a pair now doing a duet, with another pair trying to do the same
Two pairs showing their skill in front of the group
each engaged in different stages of the dance
man bowing whilst the woman taps away
dancers doing the palmas
a pair acknowledging the aplauses
all tapping away
Two women at the side and the men in the centre
The lady with the hat coming forward
doing a solo, encouraged by the men
aknowledging the aplauses again
Another dance starts
One of the men shows what he's got
followed by a woman
The turn of this man now
and that of another
All dancing together
Three pairs on the left, two on the right
Time for a solo again
The final act
Two ladies in a friendly competition
The man is tempted
Everybody steps in
for the last curtain call
But not without some virtuoso display
Everyone joins in
for the grand finale
Everyone looks happy
They put in some collective footwork
with some body work
It was a really exciting show
The audience was crazy with aplauses
They did not forgot to let the audience have a retro of their performance
still dancing when the curtains are closing
So riveting was the performance that I barely had time to have my dinner. So I had to content myself with little more than the dessert
This theatre hall in Sevilla is much bigger than the smallish tablao where I first saw flamenco dancing years ago.There I could sit just three feet from the guitar player and not more than 10 feet from the flamenco dancers and the jondo singers.If I remember correctly, it was performed by members of the Ballet nacional de España. I still remember how shortly after seeing that first flamenco guitar and dance performance, I bought my first Spanish guitar, a tape for learning the different types of flamenco rhythms done by Paco Pena and some flamenco guitar scores and exercises written by Manolo Sanlucar. This time I was sitting so far away and the atmosphere is much much more commercial: some of the numbers performed was more Broadway than flamenco. The "in the face" feeling I had in my previous contact with flamenco was much much more powerful and long lasting
You have to gasp for air
Waiting for our coach
The sun hasn't gone down even after the dinner performance
clouds which form the lines of a simple puzzle
finally the sun got down