Flamenco 2 – Soleá, Soleares y Bulerías

This week we’re leaving Cadiz and heading initially for Seville. To the barrio of Triana on the banks of the River Guadalquivir. The form known as Soleá first appeared in this part of Seville and the invention and popularisation of the sung variant of this palo is generally attributed to La Andonda a gypsy Cantaora from Jerez in the province of Cadiz, who moved to Seville sometime in the first third of the nineteenth century. Despite having some rhythmic similarities with Las Alegrías , the Soleá is far slower and more somber. It is a palo that has much deeper gypsy roots than many others. Although it originated in Seville the Soleá is performed across the length and breadth of Andalusia and is often known as Soleares.

The following is an example of Soleá in its sung form. Notice how the Cantaor (Camarón de la Isla – a veritable master and one of the best Flamenco cantaores of the twentieth century) warms up and tunes his voice repeating Lerelerele before launching into the lyrics. The guitarist is Tomatito, who managed an almost perfect understanding and symbiosis with Camarón. More of Tomatito later.

In this palo there is a far greater difference between the sung form and the form that accompanies the dancing. It is widely thought that the palo started life as the accompaniment to dances in the “jaleos” or spontaneous sessions in places such as Jerez, Utrera and Lebrija. The beat can be truly frenetic (as high as 240 b.p.m.) and the time signatures, as with the Alegrías, are either 3/4 or 6/8 working around a basic 12 beat cycle. The rasgueado or rhythmic strumming that accompanies the palo is normally a combination of two chords – usually A and B-flat as follows A A [Bb] – – [Bb] A [A] A [A] – [A]. The term bulerías, which inevitably crops up when discussing this palo, has its roots in bulla or bullería meaning racket or bustle. It is generally accepted that the current pronunciation with a single L is a corruption of the original name. There is a theory that the term originates from the word “burla” or mocking but that one doesn’t wash with us!

Hopefully the following clip will go some way to demonstrating what we mean. It starts off sung and here the palmas (or hand claps) come into play, introducing the rhythm and providing a percussive element that is not so prominent in Las Alegrías. As the Bailaora (Eva la Yerbabuena – truly spectacular we hope you will agree) comes in the accompaniment grows steadily faster. She dances slowly at the start – notice the importance of the silhouette and the imagery drawn from the world of bullfighting – but eventually dances with such strength and passion that the taconeo becomes impossible to keep up with. (Highly recommend full screen viewing – apologies for the rather abrupt cut off at the end: it’s the most complete version of this that we’ve been able to find).

Here’s a curious clip. One of the most popular Bailaores these days is Farruquito. Here he is as a strip of a lad being taught to dance Soleá by his granddad the legendary Farruco, the patriarch of the Farruco clan. Farruco calls his son-in-law (Farruquito’s dad) in to sing the Soleá. The three generations together. That’s how flamenco is passed on and stays alive.

Is a much freer form. The bulerías associated with the Soleá are known as Bulerías al Golpe. The form is one of the few that allows the guitarist certain freedom as they don’t always have to accompany the singer. Here is a very young Tomatito playing with form and having fun. The palmas are pretty damn good too!

Of course singing and dancing also play their part here. To round off this week’s post here is a splendid sample that also illustrates a couple of points we nearly forgot to make. Firstly that this form is the only one where the male dancer (Bailaor) is allowed to jump and secondly that this really is one of the most dynamic forms of all and attracts the youngsters even today! (Full screen recommended)

Obviously, when dealing with palos that are defined by time signatures and octosyllabic metre when it comes to lyrics, it’s often difficult to know to what extent the artists are able to improvise. Here’s a clip where things get really loose. The Bailaora is clearly just doing what el duende is telling her to do and the singers are improvising, lyrically at least. There’s also some pretty free form percussion on the cajón or box. “What’s duende?” we hear you ask. Stay tuned, we’ll try to explain.

Next week: We’re off to Huelva: Fandangos and Fandanguillos.

One Response to Flamenco 2 – Soleá, Soleares y Bulerías

  1. Pingback: The Flamenco Series « Casa Maki

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