The first half
of 2010 is nearing its mark and brings forth the
continuation of a great flamenco year.
Workshops and festivals abound providing opportunities for education
and training closer to home, as well as opportunities to attend
performances by renowned flamenco artists from Spain and the U.
enjoying a busy performance calendar at home base in Houston and
thank all of you who inspire us with your support and comments.
We are excited about upcoming events and productions and remain
committed to presenting you with quality, vibrant, and
La Paloma and Jeremías García El Valiente
Antonio Nuñez Montoya, El Chocolate
What is "Cante
Jondo"or deep song?
"Cante jondo is the
universal offspring of singular characteristics born of the marriage
of the gypsy people and natives of the Andalusian region."
This melancholy song
described as raw, intense in content and delivery, requires
experience, dexterity, honest treatment and
understanding by the singer. The lyrics center
on death, solice, and despair. When delivered in form, and
particularly by a singer possessing "una voz afillá or
rajá" or coarse voice, this cante can bring the attentive
listener to tears. I confess shedding more than a tear when
listening to Naranjito de Triana's Saetas.
"jondo" is said to be the result of a misspelling or
phonetic adaptation by Andalucians of the Spanish word
"hondo" meaning deep. M. J. Khan
(1897-1953), attributed the origin of the term to a
mispronunciation of "jom-tob or yom-tob" or
a Hebrew term for ancient songs of lament.
There are three categories
which are generally referenced in flamenco cante: Cante Grande
or Jondo, Cante Intermedio, and Cante Chico. Each bears
importance in flamenco's evolution and practice. However, it is
the Cante Grande or Cante Jondo, with its anguish and unique vocal
characteristics that stirs the deepest of human emotions and is
considered the soulful essence of flamenco.
Siguiriyas, Deblas, Saetas, Carceleras and Soleares are among
the flamenco rhythms under Cante Jondo, (The Art of Flamenco, D.
E. Pohren.) These cantes were originally performed without
guitar or "a palo seco." The Spanish composer Manuel
de Falla (1876-1946) considered the gypsy siguiriya the purest
among the primitive cantes and perhaps the defining song of Cante
In his book Historia
del Cante Flamenco, flamencologist Angel Alvaro
Caballero states that a true singer of cante jondo must give in
to profound emotion. "The singer who sings siguiriyas
leaves in each line of the copla a piece of his soul; and, if not, he
is deceiving the listener, perhaps even himself."
In summary, "cante
jondo" is not a term to be used
lightly "por respeto al cante" or out
of respect for the song. It is a term reserved
for the most genuine, "unspoiled style of Andalusian folk
song" interpreted by the cabales or more experienced flamenco
few examples of these cantaores are La Paquera de Jerez,
Terremoto, Manolo Caracol, Fernanda de
Utrera, Naranjito de Triana, and contemporaries
like Fosforito, José Menése, Enrique Morente, El
Torta, Camarón, El Indio Gitano and Miguel Poveda to name a
listen to cante jondo in Antonio Nuñez Montoya's, El Chocolate's
Siguiriyas in his last recorded album - Mis 70
Años Con El Cante -for which he was awarded a Grammy in
What does it
mean to improvise? This is an aspect of performance that for
many is mysterious and often misunderstood. As a professor of
music, I am frequently asked this question by the casual listener as
well as the serious music student. The answer to this question
involves four basic concepts integral to improvisation that the
artist must comprehend in order to effectively express him or
1. Knowledge of Structure
2. Development or Practice
the first in a series of four, will deal with structure.
Structure is a
blanket term that encompasses many aspects of performance from the
smallest building blocks to the presentation as a whole.
Flamenco's elements are compás, melody, harmony, rhythm,
phrasing, poetry, technique and ultimately, the organization of all
these elements in time. Therefore, improvisation is not
spontaneous invention from a void. It is a development of ideas
based on a particular set of guidelines. Even the American
Blues musician, who is known to play what he feels, is following a
set of well established conventions. For example, the most
common structure of a blues song is as follows:
1. The rhythmic structure is twelve bars of music,
collectively known as a stanza and chorus, in 4/4 or common time with
accents on the second and fourth beats.
2. The harmonic structure consists of 3 Chords - I7, IV7 and V7 that appear
in a specific pattern.
3. The text appears traditionally in a rhymed
couplet, or aab, where the first line is presented in the first four
measures, the second line in the second four, and the third line in
the final four measures.
4. The "blues scale" (which is a minor
pentatonic scale with an added flat 5th scale degree) is a 6 note
scale that serves as the basis for the melody of the song as well as
the instrumental improvisations.
While many readers may not be musicians or fully
understand the explanation of the blues, my intention is to
illustrate how structured that music actually is. The first
analysis of the blues did not come from the blues musicians
themselves - they did what came naturally and achieved an
identifiable genre and quality. It was the music theorist who
identified and applied the analytical terminology; however, every
blues musician, even without formal training, knows how to speak the
language. This common language enables two or more previously
unacquainted musicians to collaborate. The same can be said for flamenco.
In the most
highly improvised type of classical music, known as Chance Music, a
structure exists. Let's take a look at John Cage's 4'33"
for piano, one of the most famous examples of chance music.
John Cage "wrote" this piece of music to illustrate the
fact that music is all around us. The pianist enters the stage
and sits at the instrument with his printed copy of 4'33" which
is actually completely blank. The pianist surprisingly sits
quietly while the ambient noise of the recital hall is revealed
to be the actual music. The result is a piece of music that can
never be repeated. At first glance, it appears to be completely
improvised, or in this case, to happen by chance. However, upon
closer inspection, the title of the piece itself indicates structure
- 4'33" means 4 minutes and 33 seconds - the duration of time
the pianist "performs" this work.
Music, flamenco is an art form that is improvised based on
specific elemental structures. Every melody has its harmony, every
compás its rhythm, and every element has its place in time.
Each member of the "cuadro" or group of performers should
understand his or her role in presenting these characteristics
faithfully. This requires both the knowledge and experience
resulting from years of study, practice, collaboration, and finally,
intuition. The performer must be able to communicate in a
seemingly unspoken language in a manner that is contributing to the
art as well as to his/her own artistic integrity and interpretation.
The desired result is "quality." As in other forms of
art, beauty in flamenco is derived by the artist's adherence to a
structure while infusing his soul into his work. When this is
achieved, each performance is a living work of art.
The understanding of flamenco's vast and complex
structure is essential to improvisation. While this knowledge
may be innate to some, for most, its comprehension requires time and
in-depth study. With dedication, humility, and respect for the
art, this can be achieved. It is important to understand that
there is not one comprehensive didactic resource concerning
flamenco. For those who wish to learn more about the structure
of flamenco, I recommend the following books:
Sobre la Guitarra Flamenca - Teoría y Sistema para
la Guitarra Flamenca by
Teoría Musical del Flamenco by Lola Fernández
El Compás Flamenco de Todos los Estilos by José Mª Parra Expósito
One of the
most common misconceptions involving improvisation is - can you
practice it? The answer is yes. In order to develop
improvisational skills to a level that is clean and precise, it
absolutely must be practiced. The next article will begin with
a discussion of practicing the art of improvisation.
Flamenco returns to Dallas as invited artists of the 2010 Dallas
Flamenco Festival! This 11 day festival brings together the South
West Flamenco Community while exposing Dallas to this wonderful
include "El Maestro de la Bulería" Timo Lozano,
Genoveva, and featured artitsts, with Jeremías García al
toque, Chayito Champion and Irma La Paloma al cante.
SMU Greer Carson Theater
Flamenco As a
Visiting Guest Artists:
Irma La Paloma
De Tapas Restaurant Theatre
Texas All Star Tablao
Jeremías García El
The festival encompasses a
myriad of workshops and performances by renowned artists
from Spain and the U.S.
information and online ticket purchase visit
9 - 13th
Flamenco International de Albuquerque
a year of absence, the festival returns at full
speed offering workshops in cante, guitarra, baile, and
Carrasco y Compañía
y Compañía Andrés Peña
Pilar Ogalla y Compañía
Juan Antonio Suarez
details visit www.nationalinstituteofflamenco.org
26th and 27th
Jo Long Theater
Carver Community Center
with Timo Lozano, Teo
Orozco "El Yiyi"
José Perello and Tamara Saj
information visit Generaciones
thanks to all who joined Solero's first Houston
celebration of La Feria de Sevilla on April 7th at Mi
Luna! It was dancing room only por Sevillanas, laughter,
and enjoyment. Many of you have asked if we plan to continue
this tradition... !Ole que sí! or !Yes indeed! With enthusiasm
and your participation, we look forward to next year's
!Dance and celebration!
Edith, Alex, Lali, Irma, Jeremías, and Chris
by Lorie Garcia
Ole! To Erin Parker's review of Solero Flamenco which you
can read by visiting Erin's Guide to Living
to Ana and Fernán, proud
parents of Matías who arrived on April 14th in
Mexico. Happy Baby to you!
!Ole to Paco de Lucía! or Francisco Sánchez
Gómez, guitarist and composer born in Algeciras, 1947, who will
be the first Spanish author to be awarded an honorary doctorate,
"Honoris Causa," by the Berklee College of Music in
Our thanks to the Spanish teachers and students of
Clear Lake High School who invited us for a day of flamenco fun in
their company. It was a pleasure to meet such talented and
La Paloma and El Valiente
Let us seek the flamenco moment within our reach that
we may feel its impact on our