Flamenco History, Part I


author: © Flamenco.ru
translation: M. Kobiakov
updated: 12.06.2010

Flamenco originated in Andalusia under the influence of the cultures of peoples who over centuries have coexisted in that territory – Arabs, Jews, Christians and Gypsies. Also, echoes of African culture had reached the southern shores of the Iberian Peninsula, combining the African rhythms with those of Andalusia.

Most of “non-Spaniards” associate the classical image of Spain with Andalusia. The wide-brimmed sombreros, coloureful dresses adorned with flounces, bright flower in the hair and passion-filled dances. But listening to the songs we realize that the music is sombre and dramatic and the folkloric image of an Andalusian dancer is simply its festive presentation. The place where flamenco originated is far away from the joyous Andalusia as depicted in the postcards sold in the souvenir shops.

In Andalusian songs nostalgia merges with the lyrical protest against injustices and oppression. Arabs were banished from Spain in 1492; in order to avoid persecution the Jews, of whom there were some 100,000 in the V century, were obliged to adopt Christian faith; gypsies, the victimized eternal nomads, together with their simple possessions carried with them traditions of song and dance. At certain moments in history each of these people have lost their empires and were forced to accommodate new living conditions, adopt alien faith, forget favored traditions, merge with alien culture. Their music became a concealed protest against injustices, lament about the fate; their songs depict the dreary reality of life. Flamenco is more than just music. It is world-view, a “Weltanschauung”, an attitude toward life. It is not required to be a flamenco artist in order to belong to this world. Flamenco is primarily everything that is imbued with strong passions and emotional experiences.