Jaleo Flamenco

The origins of flamenco can be traced back several centuries although the exact point in time at which it began to evolve is unknown. History shows however a diverse background of cultural roots including Indian, Jewish, Byzantine, Moorish and South American.

Throughout the history of the Iberian peninsula,  people from these various cultures have passed through and settled in Andalusia and in so doing forged their own particular characteristic mark upon the development of this southern region of Spain.

At the fall of their last stronghold in Granada in 1492 after the occupation of southern Spain for seven hundred years, the Moors left behind a cultural heritage so strong and of such magnitude that five centuries later, the impact of their influence is still very much apparent. Living in Andalusia today, one is constantly reminded of this influence through a legacy of the many arabic-derived words still in use today in the Spanish language, through street names and architecture, through the use of basic agricultural irrigation systems and indeed through certain aspects of the diet. This Moorish influence of course also played a vital role in the development of the music.

Through this diverse cultural melting pot, the seeds of flamenco were sown and there emerged a new form of musical expression.

Prevalent in the more rural areas and influenced by the itinerant poets and musicians  of the early 19th century, flamenco existed solely in its role as a vehicle of expression for the gypsies and peasants, the poor people and outcasts of the southern region of Spain and was relatively unknown outside this section of society.

During the second half of the 19th century flamenco gained popularity and special tablaos  (theatre bars) known as cafes cantantes  emerged where flamenco was performed for popular entertainment. It was during the 20th century however that flamenco continued to evolve into the art-form that we know today, its ever increasing popularity spreading worldwide.

The popularisation during the last century of many flamenco songs has sometimes lead to the misconception that flamenco forms part of Spanish folklore tradition. Flamenco as a form of expression however is more akin to blues or jazz and for the performer requires complete command and control over the rigorous techniques and complex rhythms coupled with an extensive knowledge of the many forms of flamenco with all their subtle variations. The apparent ease with which today´s exponents dominate their art-form belies many years of study and practise.

Flamenco with its power to transmit a whole range of human feelings and emotions has awakened universal interest and thus ensured its own survival. Since its semi-clandestine beginnings during the early 19th century as the native music of a minority in the south-west corner of southern Spain, it now emerges at the start of the new millenium as a highly reputed and internationally accepted art-form with a growing number students from many countries.

Flamenco continues to evolve and today the three principal elements, the singing, the dancing and the guitar playing, have reached a peak of unsurpassed technical virtuosity and musical sophistication. To understand and retain the purity of style and spontaneity of this art-form however,
we must look to the way of life of the flamenco people whose roots were buried centuries ago deep in the soil of Andalusia. It is from this way of life that the very essence of flamenco is to be found.