Flamenco is the sizzling synthesis of music and dance, and is often regarded as the essence of Spain. Its origin is unknown, but the flamenco came into being in the middle of the 18th century, in the gypsy communities in southern Andalucia. Speculations about its ancestry generally focus on the Middle Ages, when gypsy tribes emigrated from Rajahstan in India, through the Middle East, Egypt and North Africa to Spain.


The typical flamenco rhythm is determined by the guitar. Just as important to the music are the hand-clapping and the stamping of the dancers' feet in their high-heeled shoes.

The bailaoras sometimes tap a rhythm with castanets. Lucera Tena is famous for her castanets solos. Graceful movements of the hands express the feelings of the dancer: pain, sorrow, happiness.

Singer Martirio gave flamenco a touch of surrealism

The flamenco certainly has some characteristics in common with Indian and Arab songs. The word flamenco could be a derivative of the Arabic felag mengu, which means a peon on the run. But the flamenco also contains local elements of the gypsies' new habitat, like traces of Jewish and Byzantine-Christian religious music and regional Spanish folk music.

The word flamenco is both an adjective and a noun and refers to a lifestyle as well as to a person who is dissolute, emotional, unpredictable, maybe even criminal but above all unconventional.

The different flamenco styles are often divided into the categories cante grande, cante intermedio and cante chico - grand, intermediate and small songs respectively. The cantes chicos are more cheerful and lighter and are often combined with dance. Examples are the bulerías, alegrías and tangos.

Many are named after their place of origin, like the malagueñas, rondeñas and sevillanas. Some, the canciones de ida y vuelta or return songs, are new adaptations of the complex rhythms that developed in the Spanish-American colonies. These styles, like the guajira, the rumba and the colombiana, play an important part in the contemporary flamenco.

Ultimately, the real art of flamenco singing is in the repertoire of the grand songs, often referred to as cante jondo, the soleares and seguiriyas, which express the deepest and most intense emotions, usually of a tragic nature. Sung with duende, a trance-like ecstasy, they receive many appreciative olés from the audience.