An Introduction to Flamenco in Southern Spain

30 April 2015 0 Comments Category: Cat Gaa, Living in Spain

Southern Spain’s undoubtedly seductive spirit comes from its cultural history that stretches across dynasties, distinctive fragrance of orange trees mixed with jasmine and incense and the melancholy flamenco chords that spill onto the cobblestone streets on balmy nights.

As intrinsic as tapas and siestas, the flamenco music genre is a common thread throughout Andalusian culture, and one that blends people, religions and languages.


The History of Flamenco

There is much debate about who brought flamenco music and dance to Spain, and when. Theorists point to roots as varied as the Romani, Islamic or even Hindus, though one thing is certain – flamenco is a moving form of oral and artistic expression. The most common etymological explanation is that the word flamenco is meant to mean flamboyant, or like a flame. It is often associated with Romani populations as a way to express marginalization, and its various forms require an advanced understanding of music theory.

In 2010, the UNESCO named flamenco a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of History, cementing it as one of Andalusia’s more important cultural exports.


The Components of Flamenco

Even casual flamenco fans will be able to easily identify the three main parts of flamenco: the guitar (el toque), song (el cante) and the dance (el baile). They can be performed together or separately, and many of the lyrics reflect life events, both melancholical and euphoric. Variations of the toque can be hand clapping or a cajón, which is a hollow wooden box.Flamenco Guitars Made in Spain


Many believe that the most heartfelt flamenco is that which is spontaneous, requiring that the performer feel the music and let it move them. This is called duende, and it has no English translation. To see a well-done flamenco show is to feel emotionally affected by the marriage of its history, its feeling and its message.


Seeing Flamenco in Andalucía

Visiting any of Andalucía’s major cities will likely involve taking in a flamenco show, as flamenco in pure, spontaneous form – called jaleo – is difficult to find and view. From extravagant festivals to intimate cave performances, every region of the southernmost province boast some sort of show during the week. Tablaos are larger, organized shows that usually included a drink or meal, and peñas are more intimate shows, often with amateurs performing.

Begin by looking at local entertainment guides or ask at tourism offices. If your Spanish is up to par, you can also check for shows in El Giraldillo or even try taking an introductory class at a studio.



Seville, Cádiz and towns in those provinces are especially known for their flamenco scenes, with tablaos and organized spectacles filling stages across the city. Large cities and towns also host festivals, like those listed below:The Three Parts of Flamenco

Bienal de Flamenco (Seville, early Autumn in odd years)

Bienal de Flamenco (Málaga, early Autumn in even years)

Flamenco en el Generalife (Granada, August)

Festival del Cante Jondo (Mairena del Alcor, Sevilla, June – home of one of el cante’s biggest stars, An
tonio de Mairena)

Flamenco Dance of Andalusia

Festival de la Guitarra (Córdoba, June/July)

Festival de Flamenco Juan Telega (Dos Hermanas, Sevilla, June)

Festival de Cante el Torre (Alhaurín la Grande, Málaga, June)

Wherever you see it, flamenco is an indispensable part of your experience in Southern Spain, and it intrigue and ability to move your soul will stay with you long after your trip ends.

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