A Little About Flamenco

Flamenco is the traditional music of Andalucia, in Southern Spain. Its roots lie in Asia, one of them buried somewhere in India, the rest scattered throughout much of the Islamic Middle East. Flamenco’s Indian flavor came to Spain along with various migrations of Gypsies from India to Europe. Gypsies don’t assimilate easily. Today there are thousands of them, living together in parts of Andalucian cities, mostly in the poorer parts in southern Spain. You can hear Indian influence in Flamenco’s quavering singing, in its complex tabla-like rhythms, and in the importance of compass, which is probably flamenco’s defining ingredient. The majority of flamenco pieces are rhythms locked into rigorous compass. Similar, even more complex rhythmic patterns also govern Indian ragas. Compass is what binds flamenco singers, dancers and guitar players together. Spain is unique in Europe in that it was held by the Islamic Moors for nine-hundred years. Islam is what gives Spain its special flavor.

(Note: See “Zerky’s Waltz” for the first track.)

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02 Tarantas
Different people have different ideas as to Tarantas. Rather than weigh in on this, I am simply going to say it is reminiscent of Granadinas, but a little more dissonant and without any distinct rhythm or compass.

03 Recuerdos de l’Alhambra
Recuerdos de l’Alhambra isn’t flamenco at all, but rather a classical guitar tremelo study written by Spanish composer Francisco Tárrega.

04 Zapateado
A Zapateado is a traditional male dance most spectacularly done on top of a table. Do not try this at home after you’ve had a few drinks. The guitar accompaniment is usually played in the Key of C Major, a key not commonly used for flamenco.

05 Granadinas
Granadinas is a cante libre, non-rhythmic form of flamenco, dear to the hearts of rhythmically-challenged former flamenco guitar players like Bill Raney. This is perhaps the most florid and beautiful form of solo flamenco guitar playing.

06 Maleguena
Malegueña is a flamenco form said to have originated in the south coastal Andalucian city of Malaga. Unlike most flamenco ritmos, Malegueñas are usually not locked into a compass, and are often played cante libre style (free form) with lots of ornamental melodic and harmonic flourishes.

07 Alegrias in A Major

Alegrias is a lively and popular flamenco form speaking of joy and of life. Like Soleares, it is built on a twelve beat compass consisting of a ten beat rhythmic pattern resolving into the tonic, dominant or subdominant chord on the tenth beat, and then with two additional beats at the end, thereby completing the basic twelve beat pattern. In keeping with its happy nature, Alegrias is sung and played in a major key, most often in A Major or in E Major, the keys that tend to work best on the guitar.

08 Fandangos
Fandangos are both songs and a dance rhythm most often danced by women. If you have ever wondered what a “Spanish Fandango” is, listen- up.

09 Sabicas Tremelo Study
Tremelo Study in E Major. This study could almost be used as an extended falsetta (variation) for an Alegrias por las Rosas in E Major. I took it off an old Sabicas record and improved it by adding three intervening sections in-between the melody repeats.

10 Castillo de Xauan
Castillo de Xauen is non-typical flamenco in that it is a specific composition composed by Argentinean guitarist Esteban de San Lucar. True flamenco has no composer—it is an evolution. Castillo de Xauen is a variation on Danza Mora (Moorish Dance), a non-cante jondo form of flamenco most often performed solo on the guitar.

11 Alegrias por la Rosa
Alegrias por las Rosas (for the roses) is light and happy, and similar to the more common Alegrias in A Major, except it is played in E Major, giving it a slightly more florid and harmonious flavor.

12 Rondeña
Rondeña derives from the spectacular Andalucian mountain village of Ronda, seated on the edge of a perpendicular escarpment overlooking the far-off Mediterranean Sea. Here is the romantic setting of Prosper Merimee’s classic novel, Carmen, and of George’s Bizet’s opera of the same name. Rondeña is related to the Fandangos and Malegueñas, and is most often played with a lowered re-tuning of the bottom E string.

13 Soleares
Soleares is derived from the word “solo,” and is associated with the word solea, “alone.” Soleares is probably the truest form of flamenco, its various songs, dances and falsettas being sung, danced and played by everyone who fancies themselves a true aficionado of the art. Second only to Sigurias, Soleares is perhaps the finest example of cante jondo (deep song).

14 Bills Sevillanas
Bill’s Sevillanas. Sevillanas is a traditional Andalucian folk dance, often performed by couples. It is a courtship dance from Seville. These particular coplas (songs, variations) were made up by me, in non-traditional keys.

15 Just guys having fun
Just Guys Having Fun. Here is a late night, too-early-to-go-to-bed cave man concert guy sort of thing. Back in the good old days, anthropologists discovered that many a fermented grape caused many a Neanderthal to sing, dance and make merry. Here are four such Neanderthals, late one night as the sun was getting ready to rise over Telegraph Hill: Beatnik Bill From Telegraph Hill, Joe Vloemans The Flying Dutchman, and Peter the Greek The Magnificent. Specially recorded for your listening pleasure. late one night in my North Beach pad after the bars had closed.