Flamenco was born out of joy but grew through rage, between loneliness and the conviviality of the fiesta. Son of grace and desperation, of mockery and angst, of the diversity and the mixture among the settled population and the nomads that crossed the South of the Iberian Peninsula for centuries, Flamenco is, above all, music: a legacy of rhythm that travels through cante (flamenco singing), toque (flamenco guitar playing), baile (flamenco dance) and percussion. But it's also an attitude to life, an individual and collective act of resistance.
Flamenco is, in turn, an array of traditions followed and cultivated in many parts of the world, but its origin is found among human groups of the geographical triangle formed by the mining region of La Unión in Murcia, the grasslands and country homes in Extremadura, and the fields, marshes and cities all along Andalucía. Gipsies and non-gipsies, together with echoes from Moorish, Sephardic Jews, Castilian, Indianos and African people - among other cultural resonances-, have contributed to the origin and conservation of Flamenco as a mixed-blood art. For many people, alone or with other people, Flamenco represents their life-rhythm and a main sign of their identity. It is a performance and a culture, but also a family experience, learning and practice.
Images speak louder than words. But sometimes at least a thousand words are required to explain certain images… or even two hundred years of history, as, it seems, Flamenco has been with us. Through this museum proposal, you are invited to get acquainted with some of the documents that made Flamenco known to Humanity: the dossier that led to its inclusion in the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in an intergovernmental session that took place in Nairobi (Kenya) on the 16th of November 2010.
It was a long process that Junta de Andalucía, backed by Junta de Extremadura and Murcia’s Regional Government, undertook and achieved through an active institutional promotion campaign that started one year earlier and ranged from the unanimous endorsement of the Parliament of Andalucía to the Ministry of Culture of the Government of Spain. This campaign’s motto was “Flamenco Soy” and it travelled throughout Andalucía and cities like Shanghai, Paris, Madrid and Barcelona, which served as physical settings for some of the major events of this campaign, that included performances, lectures, publications and media announcements of various kinds.
Come and see, but don’t expect to find an encyclopedic history of this art. Instead, you can access some of the materials – images, audiovisual content and texts – that convinced UNESCO that Flamenco is a living, heritage, as intangible as its spirit, and as human as its protagonists.
If you'd like your visit of the exhibition to be accompanied by guitarist Juan Diego's music, click on the player
WHAT DO WE CALL FLAMENCO?
Flamenco is Music, and as such, it can be written in octaves on paper or in the air. It also responds to a body of customs, a way of being and behaving closely related to the gypsies, but also to a certain Greco-Roman legacy, as well as the legacy of other peoples and social groups that were victims of a long official repression in a country that refused to accept differences. Why didn’t Flamenco emerge in other parts of Europe when the Romans toured the continent in a long exile that started in 1500 in the North of India and Pakistan? Because it is not only the fruit of its own instinct but of other cultures present in the Peninsula, where even after 1492, after the Fall of the Granada Kingdom, Arabic-Andalusian music probably secretly coexisted with the andarríos tribes, with Sephardic songs, with Castilian romances, with the African percussion of slaves and freed men, and also probably with what was christened centuries later as cantos de ida y vuelta in the huge sea-avenue of the Carrera de Indias.
There's more. Flamenco is magic. “All that has black sounds has duende”, snapped Manuel Torre, cantaor, to writer Federico García Lorca. Flamenco is also self confidence and verve. Hunger and success. A personal custom and a public performance. Industry and memory. Its universe ranges from the mourning of la Toná, to the grace of the brushes and the picking of the strings of a guitar. It includes the gestures, the looks and the mere quejío born in the insides of the earth or of a human being.
CANTE (FLAMENCO SINGING)
There is no sound recording that would allow us to fathom whether cante merged from the loneliness of the blacksmith hammering alcayatas gitanas (gypsy spikes) on the anvil or from the collective joy of a despesque. All we know is that it moved through different phases in the XXth century: from the wise elders' rooms to family meetings, and to cafés and theatres. Its different styles moved along over time as a result of the contact with other popular songs. From the classic and original flamenco cantes, those of the siguiriyas, soleares, tangos, bulerías and cantiñas, to those that derived from the rich plurality of fandango, in a geographical arch that goes from Huelva to Málaga and reaching the East of the Peninsula with the world of the cantes of the mining region. Ending, according to José Blas Vega and other researchers, in palos that have a completely different musical origin, such as the proper Andalusian folklore, saetas, campanilleros, bamberas or pregones, the seguidillas from Castilla-La Mancha that forged Seville, or even some ultramarine melodies, such as guajiras, milongas, colombianas and rumbas. Not to mention the songs developed by individual cantaors, such as the canastera, the galera or the ferreña.
TOQUE (GUITAR PLAYING)
The Flamenco guitar has its origins in the guitar played in Castilla and the one played by the Moors. Both came from the Mediterranean zither, the Arabian plectrum and the vihuela. The flamenco guitar inherited the use of the classical bridge but its wood is different and percussive: cypress, persimmon or Brasilian rosewood, producing a sound of a different sound. As for the origin of flamenco plucking style, it could come from the Moorish way of playing, string by string. Let’s add to it the strumming from Castilla, tremolos and falsetas, all of them inherited from other sources or developed by Flamenco itself. A modal instrument, with its cadence A, G, F, E that characterizes the Frigian Mode – something that made it irresistible to classical composers - Flamenco guitar is, according to Manolo Sanlucar and other contemporary masters, the piano of the poors. In Flamenco, the guitar dropped by barber shops, and cantaores, such as El Planeta or Camarón, brandished them. Despite having formidable teachers such as Javier Molina, Ramón Montoya or Sabicas, guitar players were considered only as squires of cante for a long time until Paco de Lucía turned it into the vehicle of the greatest innovations this art saw in the second half of XX century. Flamenco guitar players were the ones who started with more glory than worth the approach to other musical cultures such as jazz, classical music, rock and ethnic music.
BAILE (FLAMENCO DANCE)
Andalucía not only exported emperors to Rome, it also exported dancers: those puellae gaditanum quoted by Martial. Their original small metallic discs attached and stuck with their fingers might be at the origin of castanets but, in any case, Flamenco dancing grew in Andalucía intermingled with fiesta and mixing itself freely with those coming from different lands, such as bolero and zarabanda. During the XVIIIth century, the so-called Escuela Bolera was crucial in the setting of Flamenco forms, in a partly academic reinterpretation of old popular dances: panaderos, zapateados, oles, boleros, seguidillas, fandangos, jaleos de Jerez, malagueñas, el vito or la cachucha. Cafés and music halls also played an important role in the birth of dances initially based on zapateado, and later on, on festive styles such as tangos and bulerías. Others were added to those, as many as the rich geographical variety of their place of birth: soleares, seguiriyas or alegrías, united by their common ancestral origin in Aragonese jota. Individual contributions or new choreographies of Flamenco companies made possible the addition of various unrelated styles such as farruca (of Galician origin), or new choreographies born from the coexistence with ballet and contemporary dance, jazz, pop or music hall. Ballet made flamenco international since the late XIXth century, with La Macarrona and La Argentina, producing spectacular results such as La Argentinita and Antonio Gades, among many others. Flamenco academies multiplied from France to Japan. Several treaties tried to define it. To no avail. Flamenco dancing has no fences.
El tema que acompaña la exposición se titula “Dieguito”, compuesto por Juan Diego Mateos e interpretado a la guitarra por Juan Diego; Drums: Guillermo McGill; Palmas: Macano, Keko Baldomero y Juan Diego; Percusión: Juan Peña “Chispa”; Flauta: Jorge Pardo; Coros: Marcelino Fernández. Si quiere conocer más de este artista, visite www.juandiegoguitarra.es Autoría de fotografías: Santiago Rodríguez Casado es autor de las imágenes en las que aparecen Celia Romero, el Festival Porrina de Badajoz, la Torre del Espantaperros y la Romería de los Remedios de Badajoz. Las fotografías del homenaje a Mario Maya en Granada pertenecen a Pepe Villoslada. La imagen de Paco de Lucía aparece por gentileza de Curro Sánchez y Juan José Téllez. Las fotos de Camarón de la Isla, Enrique Morente y Manolo Sanlúcar son de Carlos Arbelos —