We had a great night on 26th July 2018 as part of the Spanish Summer School at the Loughshore Hotel. It was a great week, despite the intervention of the committee of the East Antrim University of Third Age trying to get it cancelled. The Hispanic Society of Carrickfergus battled on and we had a fantastic tour as well on the Wednesday, thanks to a few members.
John Flanigan of the Belfast troupe has this to say about flamenco:
“FLAMENCOAs Columbus sailed out from the south of Spain in to discover the Americas in 1492, around 3000 Romani travellers were entering the north of the country. They had travelled from as far as India and lots of interesting music and dance had been encountered en-route (See film – Latcho Drom).The immigrants were initially accepted but as time passed, discrimination steered the journey towards Andalucia. There they worked on the fringes of society as basket-weavers, blacksmiths and street sellers. 300 years had elapsed and by now they had also absorbed the indigenous music and dance of Spain including its Arabic influences. Known as gitanos (gypsies) and renowned for living life in groups where get-togethers encouraged lots of singing, dancing and clapping, they sang of the joys and traumas of life. By now, a cheap instrument called the guitar provided ideal accompaniment and soon the best performers were being hired by high-society. The singing cafes (cafes cantantes) in the 1850s were soon to be banned! However, the artform we now know as flamenco was by now well established and the gitanos settled in Seville, Cordoba, Cadiz, Malaga and Granada.Flamenco is described often as a way if life rather than just the music, dance and it’s accompaniment. The song (Cante) – which is most important – expresses life’s highs and lows. It may not be accompanied at all, particularly when singing about tragedy. These sad songs are known as cante jondo whereas cante chico is lighter and sometimes frivolous. The best known gypsy singer of flamenco is still Camaron de la Isla (Cadiz) who died in 1992 at the age of 42. 1 million aficionados attended his funeral.The flamenco guitar was initially an instrument used for accompaniment. Its style is unique having been developed developed by many generations of maestros and brought to entirely new levels as a solo instrument by Paco de Lucia (Algeciras). Paco died in 2014 aged 67. This style of guitar continues to develop as a solo artform via proponents like Vicente Amigo (Cordoba) and the Habichuelas (Granada) and others.The dance (Baile) has also developed and become structured while leaving room for improvisation. Each gitano dynasty has developed their own versions of song, dance and accompaniment. Famous dancers today include Farruquito from the Farruco dynasty and Sara Baras.Another crucial element in the artform is Jaleo – the intricate clapping and vocal encouragement (Ole…etc). On many occasions this is more important than any musical instrument!Flamenco was revolutionised in the 60s and 70s as Camaron and Paco lifted the bar both in terms of mastery and instrumentation. This encouraged a massive export boom as dancers, singers and guitarists throughout the world began to study the artform. However, few can muster the passion of the gitanos!The most accessible form of a flamenco show in Spain is in a Tablao Flamenco. A Google search will identify many throughout the world. Although they may contain elements to please the tourists, the wiill usually host accomplished performers.A Peña Flamenca (Club) is more likely to host authentic flamenco for its members, some may allow non-members.Festivals can offer annual alternatives with competitions in all of the disciplines. However many will comprise mainly private casetas. Well worth a visit though!Whatever you do, try to see sone and appreciate the sincerity of the artists even if at first you cannot fully appreciate the cries of anguish in cante jondo.”