Flamenco 1 – Las Alegrías

BACKGROUND
The different Flamenco palos cover a wide range of emotions and feelings: from the most dramatic, sad or romantic to the pure joy and hectic excitement of the fiesta! Las Alegrías are an example of the latter. Alegría means happiness and joy. Las Alegrías are sung, danced in groups or individually and can be performed both by the greatest figures of the flamenco world or by anyone with a smidgeon of arte either on the noblest of stages or the humblest of patios and tablaos at the ferias across Andalusia. Although Las Alegrías are sung throughout Andalusia, when one speaks of this palo, we can only think of Cadiz.

The style has its origins in the emigration from Aragón to the Cadiz area at the beginning of the nineteenth century during the Napoleonic Wars. The Aragoneses brought the Jota, the Gaditanos adopted the style and transformed it into what we now know as Alegrías.

ALEGRÍAS CANTADAS
Here’s an example from Chano Lobato along with a great selection of photos of the city and its charms. Welcome to “La Tacita de Plata” – the city is known as the “Little Silver Cup” because the buildings are white and shine like silver in the Andalusian sun as it reflects off the sea:

THE FORM
Las Alegrías start with the following four (or sometimes more!) line burst:
Tirititrán, tran , tran
Tirititrán, tran , tran
Tirititrán, tran, tran
Tirititrán, tran , tran

followed by verses of five eight syllable lines. The last two lines of each are then repeated as a chorus. They are rounded off with another short burst, known as the juguetillos. Little games (or wordplays) where the singer synthesises or adorns the message of the song.

THE CONTENT
These are songs that describe local customs, local traditions and use metaphor and allusion to express joy and very often they contain piropos – ingenious often flirtatious comments in praise of a place or (more often) a woman.

ALEGRIAS BAILADAS
The dance can be very structured, especially when danced as a group. Here is a master class from Carlos Saura’s film Flamenco:

When two real specialists of the genre get together things can be a little looser and spectacular. Notice that although they follow a strict pattern – singer (cantaor) and dancer (bailaora) together, followed by dancer alone, building up to singer and dancer together again – there is room for both to improvise. The terms cantaor and bailaora refer only to flamenco artists. (Earnestly recommend you watch on full screen and right to the end!)

Las Alegrías are one of the basic palos. We can see them as the trunk of a tree from which, lesser but no less beautiful branches grow. One of the most important branches to sprout from this particular tree are the Caracoles. They are in many ways a lighter version but they are no easier to sing. Here is an example from one of the most important singers of Caracoles, Gracia de Triana (recorded in 1964).

Next week: Soleá and Soleares

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One Response to Flamenco 1 – Las Alegrías

  1. Pingback: The Flamenco Series « Casa Maki

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