The rumba is the pop-girl of flamenco, the soleá a cry in the sun and the bulería a mockery
Discover the amazing curiosities hidden in the main flamenco palos.
The flamenco palos are the different styles that exist within flamenco music. Like a great genealogical tree, flamenco branches out in styles that in turn are capillarized in subtypes and localities that make that we can number more than 50 flamenco "palos flamencos". This is without taking into account that some of the experimental fusions that are crystallizing in the 21st century are not yet considered flamenco styles.
As in a family, each palo has acquired its own personality, which hides some very curious stories within flamenco music. If you don't believe us, here are some of the most interesting stories of the main flamenco palos.
Bulería, better known as a party
Bulería is one of the most joyful palos of flamenco and at the same time one of the most complicated to interpret. It is not surprising that the etymological meaning is "the place of mockery", a place to have fun and celebrate with irony.
Its origin dates back to the 19th century in Jerez de la Frontera, where this palo is believed to have originated. The most accepted theory is that bulerías comes from soleá singing, from which it has inherited its twelve beat meter, but with a faster and lighter rhythm. Some flamencologists such as Juan Vergillos point to the singer El Loco Mateo as the "inventor" of the bulería, as he used to finish off the soleá with a lighter beat and redoblado.
Tangos, or ta-ca-ta-tá-ta
Because of its binary meter, tangos may seem to be the simplest palo, although like all of them, they have infinite variations. Perhaps it is not so well known that it is related to Latin American music, but, due to its long history in the Spanish peninsula since the 19th century, it seems intrinsic to flamenco.
Two of its greatest representatives are the Piyayo and the Niña de los Peines, although today it is a palo that is not missing in any flamenco performance because of its catchy rhythm.
The amazing meaning of Seguiriyas
Although the word seguiriya could even find its origin in the archaeological site of Sigiriya in Sri Lanka, it is actually believed to have originated in Spain, partly with the influence of Andalusian Arabic, where seguiriya means "drunkenness". It would be a sentimental inebriation that makes this palo one of the most sober and plaintive. In fact, the quejío (lament) has even more presence than the lyrics.
The dancers are dressed in unadorned black costumes, as if at a wake, and move slowly and seriously.
Alegrías, the self-defined ones
As its name suggests, this is the most joyful palo of flamenco. It is part of the cantiñas (songs from Cádiz). In fact, it is very common that the theme of the alegrías is dedicated to venerate and extol the virtues of the land of Cadiz.
Chano Lobato, cantaor from Cádiz, is one of its best interpreters. With a fresh and broken voice, he always began his alegrías with the famous catchphrase: "tirititran-tran-tran-tran, tririti-tran-tran-tran-tero".
Fandango, the ancestral "palo"
This palo is one of the oldest in flamenco, so it has a longer history and receives more influences than any other. From Portuguese fado through Moorish music, Indian music and even the jota, what is known with certainty is that the fandango began to "cook" in Spain from the eighteenth century, in the region of Huelva.
The greatest interpreter of fandangos is Manolo Caracol, cantaor from Seville, for whom there is a type of fandango called fandango caracolero.
Soleá is crying in flamenco
Soleá is one of the oldest and deepest flamenco palos. Flamencologists agree that its origin dates back to the gypsies of the 18th century.
Soleá can mean "solera", referring to the long days under the sun suffered by the gypsies of the countryside, or "soledad", referring to the feeling evoked by its lyrics. The subject matter of this palo is always deep and desperate, with moans and expressions of lament ("válgame Dios", "madrecita mía"), so that sometimes it may seem that the singer does not sing, but cries on the guitar.
Sevillanas or the emblem of the fair
Some of the most popular festivities in Spain, such as the Feria de Sevilla or the Romería del Rocío, have sevillanas as their soundtrack. And, although it is debated whether they are a flamenco palo or a foreign style but "aflamencao", the sevillanas have become, especially outside Spain, in the standard of flamenco.
They are danced with a couple in front of each other and in turn these couples form "corros". The sevillana is performed in four parts, which are said to represent the four phases of love; the first, getting to know each other; the second, falling in love; the third, getting angry; and the last, reconciliation.
There are many variants of the sevillanas. We tell you about them in depth in this link.
Guajira, Flamenco Guantanamo
The guajira flamenca is rather a Cuban guajira mixed with flamenco. Like the Colombian or the habanera, the guajira is a song that goes back and forth, that is to say, a song that goes to Latin America (specifically to the island of Guantanamo) and returns to Spain.
Related to the Cuban peasantry, the dancers adopt a looser aesthetic, with loose shirts and skirts, in light and cheerful colors. In addition, compared to the naked palos, the guajira usually adopts a fresher and more flirtatious air, so the dancer does not hesitate to arm herself with a shawl or a fan.
Rumba, the pop-girl of flamenco
The flamenco rumba is possibly the most popular palo at present. It is enough to look at social networks or Spanish terraces when the good weather arrives to know that rumba is the most flexible and catchy flamenco palo. Perhaps it is because its scope is very broad: it receives influences from different parts of Africa and America, especially Cuba, where it was really forged, so it is considered a cante back and forth.
But where does it go back to? Here is your curiosity. It does not go back to Andalusia, the region of flamenco par excellence, but to Catalonia. For this reason, the rumba flamenca is often also called rumba catalana.
Actually, rumba could be called popular rumba or urban rumba, as some of Spain's most famous people have made rumba some of their best songs, such as Bambino, Los Chichos, Los Chunguitos, Ketama, Rumba Tres or the greatest representative, Peret, of whom it is said that "with a bit of mambo, a dash of tanguillo and a pinch of rock he created the Catalan rumba".