Andalusia: on the pulse of Flamenco

All Ways Spain – flamenco Andalusia

Fla­men­co, described by the play­wright-poet, Gar­cia Lor­ca, as “one of the most gigan­tic inven­tions of the Span­ish peo­ple”, is the art form most read­i­ly asso­ci­at­ed with Spain and in par­tic­u­lar the south. Its spe­cif­ic ori­gins, although shroud­ed in much myth, undoubt­ed­ly lie in Andalu­sia, nur­tured by its size­able Gitano (Gyp­sy) com­mu­ni­ty.

The Gyp­sies’ pres­ence in Spain dates back to the 15th cen­tu­ry, when they large­ly set­tled in the Nas­rid King­dom of Grana­da, lat­er occu­py­ing the areas vacat­ed by the Moors upon their expul­sion from Spain by decree of Philip III in the ear­ly 17th cen­tu­ry. Although it is unlike­ly that they brought fla­men­co with them to Spain, the gyp­sies quite pos­si­bly syn­the­sized their own musi­cal forms with those of the Moors dur­ing the near two cen­turies of their cohab­i­ta­tion in Andalu­sia.

Nowa­days, with flamenco’s fame at an all-time high among a grow­ing inter­na­tion­al audi­ence, many come to seek out its roots and soul in the cities and towns of the south. Some of the great fig­ures of fla­men­co dance, gui­tar and song, past and present, hail from the region. Seville, Jerez and Cádiz are per­haps best known as its most vibrant cen­tres, but Grana­da and Cór­do­ba also have sub­stan­tial fol­low­ings. In Grana­da, for instance, the Sacromonte dis­tict, a semi-rur­al neigh­bour­hood on the city’s east­ern flank, is renowned for its cave dwellings and a gitano com­mu­ni­ty that although dimin­ished in num­bers from its peak in the mid-20th cen­tu­ry, is still thriv­ing. See­ing a zam­bra (series of local dances, gen­er­al­ly up-tem­po and which often fea­ture in wed­dings) is a unique expe­ri­ence giv­en that it is per­formed in the set­ting of a cave house, with the per­form­ers with­in ear-jud­der­ing and toe-tread­ing prox­im­i­ty to the audi­ence. Seville and Cór­do­ba offer the more for­mal ver­sion of a tablao – where the stage offers space and there­fore scope for more par­tic­i­pants and vari­ety – and through­out all the region­al cap­i­tals fes­ti­vals such as “Fla­men­co Viene del Sur” fill local the­atres and venues espe­cial­ly dur­ing the win­ter months.