Origins of flamenco

Sunday, November 14, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:39 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Flamenco was born in Andalusia, Spain, a region within a triangle formed by the southern cities of Cordoba, Seville and Cadiz. Nomadic Gypsies from Northern Africa, Southern Europe, India and Arabic countries settled in this area, and over time, they borrowed from each other’s cultures, music and dance.

Long-ago travelers

The tradition is a highly expressive form of music and dance that tells stories of love, death, suffering, poverty and persecution — all experiences Gypsies endured during the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries.

Over time, the Gypsies spread out to different areas of Spain, and the elements of flamenco took on regional flavors. In Seville, flamencos spawned Sevillanas, a

guitar-heavy musical genre in which the singer tells a story in four parts. In Barcelona, flamenco fused with traditional Spanish classical music.

Gypsies and kings

By the 18th century, flamenco was no longer considered the folkloric expression of outcasts but was respected as a sophisticated art form. After King Carlos III acknowledged they had the same rights as other Spaniards, the Gypsies’ social and financial situation improved, and the music likewise took a progressive turn. Alegrias, bulerias and fandangos, all songs of joy and auspicious occasions, began to emerge.

Modern fusion

In the past few decades, flamenco has undergone a transformation, as artists have begun to infuse it with other types of music and dance. Some artists have experimented with jazz, pop and contemporary Arabic music. Ottmar Liebert, the Gipsy Kings, Jesse Cook and Luna Negra, among others, are successful and popular fusion flamenco artists.

— Marissa Rodriguez

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