Flamenco History

Expressive power of Gitano singing, Moorish sonority and musicality of the various southern Spanish folk songs.

Flamenco originFlamenco roots - Flamenco art - The name Flamenco - Flamenco palos

The gypsies haven’t brought flamenco music to southern Spain. Before the arrival of the 'Egypcianos' or Gypsies in southern Spain, the Arabs had occupied Andalusia for almost 800 years. The Moorish influence extended far beyond Madrid and the southern Spanish cities like The Moorish red fortress Alhambra in Granada SpainGranada, Seville, Cadiz, ...., all being important Moorish political and cultural centers. As a result, the typical Moorish music was already in southern Spain before the arrival of the gypsies. When the Moors were expelled from Spain in 1492, large groups of Moriscos, Arabs converted to Christianity, remained behind, keeping a strong influence on the southern Spanish cultural identity. In this way a unique repertoire of all kinds of dances and folk songs in Spanish, Jewish and Moorish originated in Andalusia, long before the arrival of the Gitanos in Andalucia. These Moorish influences are clearly identified in flamenco music by the so called "melismas', the singing of a single syllable of text while between several different notes in succession, or the chord progressions of certain flamenco types like the malagueñas. However when large groups of gypsies established themselves permanently along the axis of Cadiz, Jerez de la Frontera and Triana, near Seville, these gypsies, blessed with a strong and exuberant sense of rhythm and expression, mixed the existing Spanish music witGitanosh their own singing and unsurpassed enthusiasm, eventually leading to the rise of flamenco music. In the first two centuries of their establishment in southern Spain, the Gitanos lived isolated in rural areas and mountains. This isolation was an essential safeguard for the purity of their music and dance within family groups. From this period are dated some of their most typical vocal styles closely related to their lifestyle. Their troubled past as pilgrims wandering through many civilizations and their deep sense of life without any luxurious needs, created gypsies songs of deep, pure and profound nature. Without instruments, only accompanied by golpe (beat by hand on a table) and palmas (rhythmic hand clapping), their songs describe their history and their everyday lives based on oral inherited lyrics from generation to generation. Sometimes happy, sometimes heartbreaking tragic, and always with a remarkable intensity. That pure and untouched intensity, deepness and excitement is a vital contribution of the gypsies to flamenco music as we know it today.

In 1782, the Spanish king Charles III granted civil rights to the Gitanos in exchange for the surrender of their vagabond existence. As a consequence, the gitanos began to settle in the cities, mostly in gitanerias or gypsy ghettos. Since the gypsies were skilled craftsmen, many blacksmiths, their trade contacts with the local population also enabled cultural exchange, allowing a blend between the gypsy singing and the local Spanish music, resulting in a period of great exploration and evolution within flamenco music as an art form.