Flamenco 12 – Cantes de Ida y Vuelta (3)

Over the last couple of weeks we have been looking at the forms known as Cantes de Ida y Vuelta in this installment we are heading south to Argentina. A land famous, of course, for its Tango. But Argentina has much more to offer than the Tango and we are going to concentrate on other forms that influenced twentieth century flamenco equally profoundly.

A Map Of The River Plate Area

The word Milonga comes from the Bunda language of the tribes from The River Plate area and means excuse, muddle or beating about the bush. There is a saying which is “No me cuentes milongas”, which means “Don’t try to pull the wool over my eyes”. The Milonga evolved along with the Tango in the poor quarters of Buenos Aires. Its catchy melodies attracted the Flamenco Cantaores, who added new twists and musical embellishments that gave it a strong Flamenco feel, distinguishing it from the traditional Milonga sung in Argentina. The form became popular in Spain at the beginning of the twentieth century. The modern Flamenco Milonga is in many ways closer to the Farruca or Petenera than the traditional Argentinean form.

Here is a traditional Argentinean Milonga sung by Atahualpa Yupanqui.

These are two Flamenco versions. The first a beautiful melancholy interpretation by Encarna Anillo from Cadiz. Juan Diego, the guitarist, gives a masterclass in understated accompaniment – notice how Encarna Anillo recognises this on a couple of occasions. “Ole” she says – stress on the first syllable – and not the more familiar “Olé”, which is mainly said at bullfights and rarely in a Flamenco context.

And this slightly more modern version is by Rocío Márquez from Huelva who won the Festival in La Unión in 2008 at the age of 22.

The origin of the word Vidalita lies in a fusion of the Spanish word vida meaning life and the Quechua vocative suffix -la which together mean “Oh, life!” (¡oh vida, vidalita!). As this is a country song from the Argentinean Pampa and is part of the Gaucho Heritage, it caught the imagination of the Flamenco Cantaores who created the Flamenco Vidalita with melodic features that respect and reflect the original qualities of the form.
The Flamenco Vidalita is accompanied only on the guitar, which, after a strong introduction, takes a back seat allowing the singer to play with and explore the melodies. A slow form with sad subject matter, dealing more often than not with love, deception and betrayal.

Here is an original Argentinean Vidalita, sung by Nora Abrego. The Vidalita, she tells us, sings when people are together and cries when they are apart.

This melancholy Flamenco version is by Mayte Martín from Barcelona, who won the Festival in La Unión in 1987, also at the age of 22.

And here is Estrella Morente in a version that has much stronger Gitano influences.

According to some sources, the term Farruca derives from the nickname Farruco used in Andalusia and Cuba to refer to settlers that had recently arrived from Galicia and Asturias. The most likely etymology is from the Arabic Faruq, meaning “brave”.
The Farruca is likely to have been inspired by mass emigration in the nineteenth century from Galicia to America (especially Argentina) and the homesickness felt by these emigrants.
As a guitar style it was developed by great guitarists such as Ramón Montoya, Sabicas, Niño Ricardo, Luis Maravillas, Serranito, Niño Miguel, Enrique Melchor, José Antonio Rodríguez, Manolo Sanlúcar and Paco de Lucia, becoming one of the palos preferred by Flamenco guitarists.
It is danced exclusively by men. (Some women such as Carmen Amaya have danced it, but always dressed as men). The taconeo (heel stamping) is particularly important and defines it from other styles. The first danced versions were created by the Bailaor El Gato in 1908, accompanied by Ramón Montoya on the guitar. In the sixties Antonio Gades made this dance his own as his mastery of taconeo allowed him to immerse himself in this style in a way that has not been matched since.

Here is brief clip of Antonio Gades in his prime.

And here is a wonderful guitar piece from Carlos Montoya, nephew of the great Ramón, one of the creators of the palo. Here you can see very clearly how the guitarist imitates the taconeo of a dancer beating out the rhythm with his fingers on the guitar. This is one of the defining elements of this palo.

Next week: Flamenco in Cadiz

One Response to Flamenco 12 – Cantes de Ida y Vuelta (3)

  1. Pingback: The Flamenco Series « Casa Maki

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