Flamenco 15 – Sierra Morena

To round off our trip through the different Palos, today we are stopping off in The Sierra Morena to take a look at a number of important styles that form part of the very origins of Flamenco. This is not the end of the series but is the last stop in our journey through the different Palos and regions that are part of the origin, development and current reality of Flamenco culture.

A map showing the Sierras crossing Andalusia.


SERRANAS

The Serrana is a cante with a rural character, speaking of the mountain ranges and the people who lived and worked there and their customs. Shepherds, bandits, smugglers, mule train drivers and so on, as well as the wolves, sheep, mules and horses etc that were part of this lifestyle.

Serrana refers to the Sierras (Mountain Ranges) of Andalusia that run from the Province of Huelva in the west down across Seville, Cordoba, Ronda in Malaga and up to Jaén. Many of the Serranas are explicitly about the Serranía de Ronda because this was an area of great Flamenco activity in the first half of the nineteenth century and also one of the key battlegrounds against the Napoleonic troops at more or less the same time.

Ricardo Molina, the poet from Cordoba, wrote that the Serrana is “a view from the window of an Andalusian stagecoach”. A beautiful description.

The Serrana is probably derived from popular Andalusian folk songs that became “aflamencadas” in the mid nineteenth century. There are few real variations, although there is a line between the Liviana and the more serious Serrana. Liviana means light – this version of the Serrana is often used by the Cantaores to warm up before launching into the more demanding Serrana or even other styles such as Soleá.

In this clip Enrique Orozco starts with a Liviana and then moves on to a Serrana and ends up singing a Soleá.


And here is a more serious, full blown Serrana sung by Paco Pereña accompanied by Miguel Laín on the guitar. The video has a lot of images of the Sierra Morena and the conditions reflected in the lyrics.

SIGUIRIYA

The Siguiriya or Seguiriya is one of the three basic forms – along with the Toná and the Soleá – of Cante flamenco, or, more explicitly of the Gitano-Andalusian Cantes.

Although the name Siguiriya is evidently a phonetic corruption of Seguidilla (mentioned in the first of the two Sevillanas posts) the only real link between the two is in the verse forms used. The form first appeared in the last quarter of the eighteenth century and seems to have derived from the Tonás and was like all Flamenco styles of the time performed without any musical accompaniment.

The Siguiriya is often referred to as Siguiriya Gitana which is a clear allusion to the race that developed its most dramatic and authentic voice. The lyrics are often sad, reflecting human tragedy, suffering and pain with the Cantaor singing at the very limit of their emotional register.

Here is a fine Sigiriya with dancing from Antonio Gades and Cristina Hoyos (who plays the castanets superbly as she dances).

TANGOS AND JALEOS EXTREMEÑOS

Extremadura (the region immediately to the north of Huelva on the Portuguese border) has a lot in common with both Andalusia and the lower reaches of Castile. There is a rich repertoire of both Cantes and dances. Along with the province of Murcia (see the post on the Cantes de Las Minas), it shares a passion for Flamenco with Andalusia.

Extremadura is well known for Palos such as Jaleos Extremeños and Tangos Extremeños, which the majority of experts agree travelled to Extremadura with the Gitanos who moved there from the area around Jerez in Cadiz.

Here is a Tango Gitano from Pastora Pavón “Niña de los Peines”, who absolutely everyone agrees was the very best of all the Cantaoras.

And now for a more modern Tango Extremeño from Esther Merino

And, finally, a spectacular Jaleo Extremeño danced by Tomás de Madrid. Jaleo refers to that part of the Fiesta when everyone lets their hair down, really lets rip and puts, as they say over here, all the meat in the oven – it’s the end of fiesta and no one is going to let the opportunity to have a good time and to show off their very best pass them by.

Next week: A celebration with a few surprises.

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One Response to Flamenco 15 – Sierra Morena

  1. Pingback: The Flamenco Series « Casa Maki

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