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Discovering The Roots of Spanish Flamenco in It's Birthplace, Seville

Aug 17, 2007
Despite its popularity with tourists, Seville has maintained its old world Mediterranean charm, and has a solid reputation among travellers for lively festivals, fascinating historical treasures, and some of the best tapas you could hope to experience in Spain.

But Seville's influence on Spanish culture as it is known today extends far beyond the architecture and the chorizo. This ancient city bore witness to the evolution of one of the most important and iconic Spanish arts known to the world: flamenco, and whilst today it can be enjoyed practically anywhere in Spain, it is in Seville that you have the best chance to experience this art form at its purist.

Stirring, soulful and expressive, flamenco is not a style of dance, or song, or instrumentation, but a fusion of all three together. It is an art form more than 200 years old, that is still popular today, telling the stories of Spanish history through dance, song and the guitar.

Historians argue about the exact point in history when the music that was to evolve into flamenco appeared, but what remains a certainty is that it happened in southern Spain, in the Andalucian region of which Seville remains at the centre today.

In its early days, it began through song. It was the voice of the persecuted gypsy community in southern Spain, who arrived roughly during the late 1400s from India and Africa. From their arrival, and especially at the establishment of the Spanish inquisition soon after, the gypsies as a race suffered greatly. Accused of witchcraft and dishonesty they were distrusted, and consequently discriminated against by the greater community. They were unable to find work, own land or integrate into society.

They lived a secular existence, and would gather socially amongst themselves. Late at night, members of the gathering would perform songs of lament and sorrow, expressing the difficulties in life they faced and the despair they felt.

Each song was passed down orally through generations, without written music and interpreted individually by each performer. Over time, the singer would later be accompanied by the sound of a guitar, the movements of a dancer, or both. The subject of the songs gradually broadened to include themes like love, death and celebration, even politics and humour, developing the different styles of flamenco that exist today.

Musical influences from Arabic, Jewish and even local Andalucian culture gradually became a part of the sound. What began as a voice, was later thickened by the sound of the guitar, the movements of an accompanying dancer, and later, the clapping of the audience, accentuating the rhythm of the music.

Truly, flamenco is an experience not to be missed, and if your itinerary includes a trip to Seville, you're likely to find a range of options that can introduce you to the magic and emotion of the experience.

A visit to the Museum of Flamenco Dance (Museo de Baile Flamenco) is a good place to start to learn about the history of the dance. Open from 9am - 7pm, visitors have the chance to browse a collection of audio and visual displays, permanent exhibitions, and teaching studios, spread over the three floors of this multi million dollar project which opened in 2006. They have seasonal performances in the evenings during summer, or you can participate in lessons and workshops which run throughout the year.

Those interested in a dinner and drink with flamenco performance could check out El tablao Flamenco Los Gallos in plaza Santa Cruz, for 20 euros, drink included. Or El Tablao Flamenco el Arenal, near the bullring in a restored 17th Century building. They offer shows with or without dinner from 30 euros.

There are plenty of bars that offer flamenco nights, sometimes even for free. These are a great way to experience flamenco without having to pay for more than what you drink. You can elect to attend a show with music only or dance only. There are plenty of bars in the old part of town like El Tamboril or La Carboneria in Santa Cruz.

Every 2 years, the Bienal de Flamenco festival is held in Seville, attracting performers from all over Spain and tourists from all over the world. The next show is set for 2008, usually around September.

Those who are lucky enough to witness a live, impromptu performance, late at night in a smokey bar on the outskirts of town are likely to find it a moving experience, about as close to traditional flamenco that you can get. The idea that flamenco is nothing beyond a flamboyant theatrical performance of colour and dance couldn't be further from the truth.

Real flamenco is not just heard, but experienced by the audience. Some say that flamenco can't be seen, but rather it must be felt. A communication experience between the performers and the audience. A conversation through music.
About the Author
Gaizka Pujana is the co-owner of Barcelona Homes, S.L. which is a company
specialized in providing short term tenancy solutions in Seville and Barcelona through its
web pages apartments Seville
Seville apartments
Accommodation Seville
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