Playing on loud soles – the world of flamenco

playing on loud soles - the world of flamenco

Lights out, spotlights on: the small stage in madrid’s popular flamenco temple casa patas slowly brightens up. The audience sits expectantly in darkness.

Guitarists begin their virtuoso playing, accompanied by the clapping of the surrounding musicians and the rhythmic beating of a "cajon," a traditional percussion instrument. Then a dancer struts onto the parquet floor: red and black rusche costume, female fringed scarf, flower in her hair, her shoulders straight, her gaze proud.

One arm stretched upwards, the spanish woman begins her very own game – with castanets and the soles and heels of her dancing shoes, which hit the floor nimbly and loudly. Their eyes reflect love and sensuality, but also anger, sadness and passion. The spectators are silent as mice, watching reverently the spectacle in which music, dance and song of bravouro blend into a unity.

"Grief, joy, tragedy, rejoicing and fear" is how the united nations describe the emotional world presented with instruments, facial expressions, gestures, movements and often plaintive, desperate and at the same time rough voices. In 2010, unesco included flamenco in the list of intangible world cultural heritage – since then, the 16th century has been celebrated all over the world. November celebrated as international day of this art form, which is mainly cultivated in spain.

Flamenco probably has its origins in the fusion of andalusian folk music with that of the gitanos (the spanish roma), who developed in the 15th century. The eighteenth century in sudspania. For a long time they were oppressed and ostracized there. The situation improved only slowly in the 19th century. Century, when the king issued letters of protection to some gitanos who had served in the flamian army. It is believed that this is how the name of the music and dance style originated: "flamish" or "flame" means "flamenco" in spanish. However, moorish, african and northern spanish influences have probably also crept in.

It is certain that flamenco still enjoys great popularity, since its name is as much associated with the spanish way of life as the bull races of pamplona, rioja wine or gazpacho. Countless tourists also flock every year to the hub’s "tablaos flamencos" with their charming ambience. In madrid, for example, flamenco venues with brilliant shows and famous names are to be found on many corners.

Flamenco has also found its way into the teatro real, madrid’s opera house: since last fall, the salon de baile (dance salon) has been hosting special performances with such famous flamenco stars as amador rojas or antonio canales. During the shows the audience is served with spanish delicacies.

"Without a doubt, the art of flamenco is one of the most recognizable identifiers of spanish culture," says the opera’s program director, miguel jimenez. This is comparable to the importance of the tango for the argentines and the fado for the portuguese. Hardly any important theater in the world can escape this – even the royal albert hall in london, the opera in sidney and the carnegie hall in new york have had flamenco spectacles in their programs.

"Flamenco is popular music. He has such a simple, but at the same time so direct and deep way of talking about life, feelings and people," is how the famous flamenco singer miguel poveda described his art a few years ago in an interview with the magazine hoyesarte. "In just a few sentences, great stories are told here, an entire world."

Today, this world also likes to mix with other musical styles, such as jazz, bolero and tango, or with caribbean rhythms, with which it merges into something completely new. One who has perfected these musical symbioses is diego el cigala, one of the most famous flamenco voices of the present day. Legendary is his album "lagrimas negras" (black tears), which he recorded in 2003 with the cuban star pianist bebo valdes, who was already 85 years old at the time. The spanish homage to the cuban bolero earned the duo a grammy, among other awards.

The world-famous guitarist paco de lucia, who died in 2014, is also unforgotten. Even the then crown prince felipe came to his wake. "With his music he has made it possible for us to imagine a better world," he said a few months before his accession to the throne, praising the superstar who has taken spanish flamenco out into the world and enriched it with elements of jazz and blues.

Flamenco performers have also made it into the guinness book. For example, israel vivancos, who in 2012 brought the fastest fube in the world on the parquet and hit the floor with his flamenco shoes 1317 times in one minute. But the women are hardly inferior to the men in this discipline: in 2009, dancer rosario varela managed an impressive 1274 "taps" in one minute.

Speaking of flamenco shoes. How does the loud sound actually come about, with which they hammer on the stage?? The secret is special wooden heels and soles that are shod with nails. This is how the unmistakable dance rhythm is created, with which flamenco seduces people all over the world.