Flamenco originated in Andalucia under the influence of different cultures – Arabic, Jewish, Christian, Gypsy and even African – all of which had existed in that area for centuries.
Listening to flamenco song, it is easy to realise that the core music is dark and dramatic. It is more than music, it’s an attitude to life, everything is coloured by strong emotions and spiritual experiences.
The first reference to flamenco was made in 1780. Traditional Spanish apartments were built around a common courtyard. This layout created close communication between neighbours who were often members of the same family.
The courtyard in the centre of the house was an area where special events took place and singing secrets were passed on. Therefore, many of the most significant names in flamenco are family dynasties.
Music was perceived as a dialogue, communication, and has an improvisational character.
Gradually, courtyard life was transferred outside the house. In some Roma settlements, these “flamenco fiestas” acquired their own identity.
They were held out of the city at temporary Roma settlements and were open to the public. “Cantaores de flamenco” gained popularity, demonstrating their individual performance manner.
Going beyond the family circle, flamenco spread into other areas of society. Famous “cantaores” and “bailaores” were taking part in home fiestas. By the end of the 18th century, flamenco was being performed in the taverns and road inns of Andalusia.
Any city celebration in Seville and Jerez would include fiesta flamenco. In “colmao” taverns. it was possible to listen to “cantaores” or to perform yourself. Singing for people was as natural as talking and the vast majority of “cantaores” and “bailaores: were gipsies.
Flamenco became available to a wider public with the appearance of artistic cafes – Cantante – where flamenco artists performed.
The audience appreciated the passion with which they were singing; the music found a place in the hearts of people.
The era of café Cantante is considered to be the golden age of flamenco. The greatest performing artists of that time set the standard for what flamenco is today.
Cafe Cantante spread throughout Spain, flamenco was becoming popular among the rich youth. In the early years of the 20th century, it found a new form of expression on the stages of theatres and bull fighting arenas, known as opera flamenco.
In addition, opera flamenco became the basis for the emergence of a new genre – Ballet Flamenco.
The flamenco revival began in 1922 when a festival was held in Granada, professionals were not allowed to participate. Its main goal was to find examples of true folk art, flamenco spirit, and not a polished execution.
After this event, flamenco gradually became recognised as a kind of folk art, similar festivals started in other cities – Seville, Cordoba, Malaga, Jaen, Almeria, Murcia, and Madrid.
In the 50s, following the style of café Cantante, Tablao appeared in cafes or small theatres with a stage for performances.