In Search of Flamenco

19 November 2015 0 Comments Category: Ali Meehan, Living in Spain

Every October in Fuengirola we go “in search of Flamenco”; the end of the summer in Fuengirola is heralded by our Town’s traditional Feria. One million people enter through the gates to play in the funfare and then migrate in pursuit of the music, food and flamenco to the permanent structures of casetas.

In Search of Flamenco

Fuengirola Feria 2015


In pursuit of flamenco, I discovered that I needed to go back much further in history to find the first mention of Flamenco in Spain, in the book Cartas Marruecas by José Cadalso in 1774.   Flamenco has its roots in Southern Spain, particularly Andalucia, Murcia and Extremadura. In 2010, Flamenco was included by Unesco in the representative list of ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity’ section.


Flamenco is recognised as a fusion of songs, typically using the voice (cantes, or palos), clapping (jaleo) and, of course, dance (baile). Some dances enjoyed at our local Feria included romances, zarabandas, chaconas, jacaras and fandangos. The dance can unravel the words of the song, portraying the story of life’s tragedies, with the faces of both the singers and the dancers communicating the emotion and pain (duende). Traditionally, the music would have been accompanied by the symphony of the blacksmiths (quejios) hammering.


“Deep song,” said the poet Federico García Lorca, “is a stammer, a wavering emission of the voice, a marvellous undulation that smashes the resonant cells of our tempered scale, [and] eludes the cold, rigid staves of modern music.”


Local from Triana, Eva of IShowUSeville is keen stress that Flamenco is not only from gypsy origins. In fact the music is thought to have been created by the mix of Medieval Andalusien native and gypsy music, as well as Islamic and Sephardic rhythms; a joining of cultures with the arrival of the “original” foreigners to Spain. The word “gitana” comes from “egipcio”, a Spanish term for “Egyptian”. And the word flamenco may have come from the bright colours which the Flamencas wore, likening them to flamingos.

The following historical document “laissez passer” or “salvoconducto”, mentions the arrival of the nomad gypsies from Egypt to Zaragoza being authorized by King Alfons V in 1425. The document allowed them to wander around Spain. Read more here.

In Search of Flamenco

Since the 1929 Seville Fair, the traje de flamenca has had a status as the official outfit for Women at the local ferias in Southern Spain. The style of the dress is likened to the body of a guitar.

In Search of Flamenco

Designs by Diseñadora de Flamenca, Mayka Santos


My own “traje de flamenco” (dress) was made by local Diseñadora de Flamenca, Mayka Santos who has been creating trajes for many years in the basement of her house in Fuengirola; a cave filled with bales of material in bright colours, flowers, accessories (including long earrings – zarcillos) and mantillas (lace or silk veil, or shawl) worn over the head and shoulders, often over a high comb called a peineta.

Mayka and her daughter, Noelia, shared tips for wearing my first traje including crossing your feet before you pull on your dress, making it easier to pull up your dress (you never go in head first!)

Today, the trajes are very heavy and still in flamingo colours, with polka dot patterns (traje de lunares) still being predominately featured. Every year new fashions appear, even with these “traditional” outfits; the 1960s saw trajes shortened to match the arrival of the fashion in day-to-day wear.  Headdress also gets a make over, wearing your flowers on the side, on the top and even the arrival this year of the hat.

This is only scratching the surface in my cultural dive into flamenco; there is so much more to learn about being a #TNS Flamenca!

For more reading about Flamenco grab
Duende by Jason Webster
The Barefoot Queen by Ildefonso Falcones

And Meet Eva in Seville and enjoy a real Sevillano activity or take a tour more.