Excerpts from 1492 and all that!
This stunning folk art from the Iberian Peninsula originated from the styles of dancing made popular by Andalusians and Romanies. It was first mentioned formally in 1774.
Flama means flame and so flamenco literally means ’like flame’.
Its exponents express themselves in four different forms:
- toque – guitar playing
- palmas – hand clapping
- cante – singing
- baile – dance
The standard costume used is more gypsy than Andalusian and features a comb (peineta) and scarf (mantilla); the latter considered to be derived from the Moorish veil.
However the caricature of the solo flamenco dancer using castanets is somewhat frowned upon by purists though castanets were featured in many historic illustrations – and thankfully persist for tourists.
This folk music genre is usually dated back to the 1820s though it probably had roots much earlier, perhaps as early as the Middle Ages.
The word comes from the Latin fatum or fate though the Portuguese meaning is not quite the same as the English. It is also often linked with the Portuguese word saudade meaning the feeling of loss.
It typically consists of a somewhat mournful tune and lyrics accompanied by guitar; though today this might be backed by an orchestra or string quartet. The songs tend to dwell on the fate of the poor, though the sea also features regularly as a theme.
There are two distinct strands of Fado – one from Lisbon and the other Coimbra. The Lisbon strand is the more popularised, Coimbra more traditional.
It is a people’s genre, distinctly not for the upper classes and intelligentsia, as it rails against the establishment responsible for the fate and the loss.