Stringing my Life Together: Purishpa takini, takishpa purini.

Cultural Outsiders – Some Misconceptions of Flamenco and Spaniards
2007/04/15, 03:41
Filed under: Global Music Ed

Some cultural outsiders, especially those in Spain who are aware of the social issues of gypsies and Spaniards, view this as music of “bad” people, or criminals. They see it as a poor art form of a lower social class.
One night while I was in Madrid, before I was able to see a flamenco show, my señora was watching a children’s talent show from the south/Andalucía. Two little girls (they called themselves something along the lines of “azucar” or sugar…brown sugar and something? I forget…) were singing and clapping a flamenco song (I think they may have written it themselves). My señora turned to me and told me, “that is the music of bad people from the south. Only bad people sing that.” At that time I did not know much about the context of flamenco at all, so I was confused, but as I learned more about the oppression of the Roma culture, it made more sense to me!

Others view flamenco as something as 100% Spaniard…like they might with Bull Fights, Paella, and Sangría (like I had thought before living in Spain). The image of the dancer in the colorful dresses accompanied by guitarists and castanets is often tied to people’s schemas of Spain. This stereotype of Spanish culture is to the dislike of Spaniards in other regions who do not feel Flamenco is a representation of their own culture. It’s like going to Louisiana, or Texas, and expecting the same as you would in New York!!

Spain is very fragmented, as far as cultural identity goes, and there are many traditions throughout the peninsula, including dialects (not everyone speaks Spanish there as their first language!!) This fascinated and surprised me, since coming from Spanish classes just in the United States, you always seem to just learn that some people speak with the “th”, “lisp” sound, “theta” for “zeta” and they use the vosotros form.
Some examples: People from the Extramdura region may have blue eyes and possibly blonde hair, fair skin, etc. because the Visigoths had settled that part of the peninsula (my friend Carlos Moreno, a violin/viol luthier in Madrid was from Extremadura and had blue eyes, and he was telling me about his family tree).
People of the Basque country, were actually their own state for along time…and part of the Basque lands is in France also. These people were heavily oppressed, especially by the likes of the dictator, Franco. Their language is so old it’s not linguistically related to anything (Euskera). There is a saying there that jokes about how old the culture is. They sell pinxos instead of tapas, and they’re not free with drinks. Picasso’s painting “Guernica” (in Reina Sofia in Madrid, I had class there a few times) is about a horrible and tragic event dealing with Franco and Hitler.
Valenciano, Gallego, Catalán, Castellano (“Spanish”), Romaní/Calé, and Euskera are just SOME of the other languages spoken in Spain! If you have cable television there, you can channel surf and see the differences in languages of stations from different regions.
Here is a place where you can read some basic information about the regions, although it’s not too involved with historical information.


As far as cultural outsiders, there are also those who have made deep, symbolic connections between the dancers and flamingos, the guitarists and spiders weaving webs, and who analyze the music with analogies and symbols, like astrological and astronomical and mystical systems, that the Flamenco artists themselves do not discuss or feel they are connected to, a lot of which I found in the liner notes to flamenco records from the 1950s. In hindsight from over a half a century later, it seems quite ridiculous to me that “experts” on flamenco would come up with these “analyzations.” It’s one thing to have one’s own reaction to music, but it’s crazy to see how people try to speak for others without having a clear understanding of the “other” people.

Although I’ll discuss key concepts of flamenco at a later time, I can say definitively that…
a) Flamenco dancing is not trying to capture the image of a flamingo.
b) The guitarists are not the symbol of a spider weaving a web.
c) In all the analytical literature I have found from flamenco artists themselves, they NEVER mention anything about a pitch and rhythmic system devised around the zodiac.
d) Not all gypsy people are bad, like my señora had tried to tell me, and certainly not all flamenco artists are “bad.”


1 Comment so far
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very interesting.
i’m adding in RSS Reader

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