roksaneh-2 - ©Roksaneh E.Fotovat

Flamenco 2.0, the small revolutions of a new generation ?

Neo fla­men­co, mil­len­nial fla­men­co, ex fla­men­co or fla­men­co 2.0 are just some of the names for the music of a new gene­ra­tion of Spa­nish musi­cians (like Rosalía and Niño del Elche) who blend tra­di­tio­nal fla­men­co with the sounds of elec­tro, R&B or rock…  In com­mu­ni­ties of afi­cio­na­dos, the media and on social net­works, this new trend both appeals and chal­lenges, invi­ting us to rethink whe­ther expe­ri­men­ta­tion has a place in the deve­lop­ment of fla­men­co in Spain and on the inter­na­tio­nal stage.

 

Fla­men­co, a music of cross­roads and small revolutions 

Fla­men­co has never been a fixed genre : it was born at the cross­roads of Arab, Anda­lu­sian, Jewish, Chris­tian and pri­ma­ri­ly Gyp­sy cultures, main­ly in fami­ly, wor­king-class and pea­sant envi­ron­ments. In fact, the musi­cal mel­ting pot is a foun­ding prin­ciple of this music, as demons­tra­ted by the ini­tial encoun­ter bet­ween sin­ging with Eas­tern influences – full of melis­mas and micro­to­nal inter­vals – and the gui­tar, a Wes­tern ins­tru­ment cali­bra­ted in semi­tones. Based on few writ­ten refe­rences, the lear­ning and trans­mis­sion of the reper­toire is essen­tial­ly oral, which makes it a rela­ti­ve­ly confi­den­tial art that is hard to access beyond Spa­nish borders.

Since the 1960s, seve­ral small revo­lu­tions have fuel­led the evo­lu­tion of the genre. After the first steps of Smash’s fla­men­co rock, Paco de Lucía and Camarón de la Isla attemp­ted new encoun­ters with Latin music and jazz, while inte­gra­ting ampli­fied ins­tru­ments into the tra­di­tio­nal sin­ging-gui­tar-pal­mas-dance for­ma­tion. The emer­gence of the fusion group Keta­ma – foun­ded by El Cam­bo­rio Car­mo­na from Gra­na­da and José Sor­de­ri­ta Soto from Jerez, both mem­bers of Gyp­sy and fla­men­co fami­lies – mar­ked the 1980s. After inte­gra­ting Ibe­ro-Ame­ri­can influences, they brought toge­ther fla­men­co and Tou­ma­ni Diabaté’s kora with the album Son­ghai, relea­sed in 1985. Final­ly, these mul­tiple inter­nal revo­lu­tions and musi­cal encoun­ters bear wit­ness to the constant mobi­li­ty of fla­men­co, which, coming out of the domes­tic sphere fol­lo­wed by that of peñas,[1] has consis­tent­ly become increa­sin­gly international.

 

Keta­ma, Tou­ma­ni Dia­bate, Dan­ny Thomp­son – Songhai

 

 

 

Niño de Elche, room for experimentation 

More recent­ly, artists such as Raül Refree and Fran­cis­co Contre­ras Moli­na – alias Niño de Elche, a tes­ta­ment to his roots in Elche – have nur­tu­red this evo­lu­tion of fla­men­co. A true vir­tuo­so of fla­men­co sin­ging, Niño de Elche lays claim to his expe­ri­men­tal approach as consti­tu­tive of the ori­gins of fla­men­co itself.[2] Ins­pi­red by the rock move­ment as well as by poli­ti­cal­ly-com­mit­ted Spa­nish poe­try, he relea­sed his latest album Anto­logía Del Cante Fla­men­co Hete­ro­doxo in 2018.

Niño de Elche is pur­suing this radi­cal rein­ven­tion through clas­si­cal forms of fla­men­co (far­ru­ca, mala­gueña, fan­da­gos) and lyrics by foun­ding artists, accom­pa­nied by elec­tric gui­tars, synths and elec­tro-acous­tic sounds against a back­drop of Gothic choirs. The lyrics, whe­ther taken from the tra­di­tio­nal reper­toire or his own com­po­si­tion, reso­nate today as dee­ply social­ly com­mit­ted. One thinks in par­ti­cu­lar of the title “Informe para Cos­ta Rica”, ins­pi­red by words writ­ten by the poet Anti­dio Cabal Gonzá­lez that depict the cli­mate of ter­ror and down­ward spi­rals of autho­ri­ty in Latin America.

 

Informe para Cos­ta Rica, Informe para Cos­ta Rica

 

The Rosalía phenomenon

Ins­pi­red by the romance Fla­men­ca writ­ten in the 13th cen­tu­ry, the album El mal que­rer (relea­sed in Novem­ber 2018 and pro­du­ced by El Guin­cho) des­cribes the life sto­ry of an unlo­ved woman who is locked away from socie­ty but gra­dual­ly becomes eman­ci­pa­ted. Construc­ted through a num­ber of tableaux, which Rosalía draws both visual­ly and musi­cal­ly, this unclas­si­fiable album is dis­con­cer­tin­gly modern.

The imprint of fla­men­co is clear. The young musi­cian begins the song “Que no Sal­ga la luna” with a compás[3] de bulería (tra­di­tio­nal fla­men­co rhythm) and a sample of the great clas­sic, “Mi can­to por bulerías”, by the Gyp­sy sin­ger La Paque­ra de Jerez. The songs “Mala­mente” and “Di mon nombre” are both built on a tan­go com­pas mar­ked by tra­di­tio­nal pal­mas. While “Mala­mente” (cur­rent­ly approa­ching 110 mil­lion views on You­Tube) is clear­ly tin­ged by the world of trap, “Di mi nombre” blends fla­men­co har­mo­nies and pop pia­no against a back­ground of voco­ded jaleos.[4] Final­ly, other titles, such as “Bag­dad”, pull towards a pro­found­ly R&B sound, to the extent of resem­bling Jus­tin Timberlake’s “Cry me a River”…

What is unu­sual about Rosalía is her abi­li­ty to create a baroque and poe­tic ima­gi­na­tion by dra­wing on refe­rences to fla­men­co, bull­figh­ting, motor­bikes and dolls, as well as the visual world of rap or Ame­ri­can R&B music videos. The suc­cess of the young artist has, howe­ver, very rapid­ly trig­ge­red a num­ber of debates in more tra­di­tio­nal fla­men­co circles. Artists[5] have open­ly cri­ti­ci­sed her music, while hos­tile cam­pai­gns cir­cu­late on social media (“Di no à Rosalía, Si à la Paque­ra de Jerez”).

 

Rosa­lia, Di mi nombre

 

Neo fla­men­co : part mil­len­nial expres­sion, part cultu­ral appropriation ? 

While fla­men­co has always been a cultu­ral mel­ting pot prone to evo­lu­tions, it has also been a bat­tle­ground. The first bone of conten­tion is long-stan­ding and refers to the dis­tinc­tion made bet­ween pure­ly “Gyp­sy” fla­men­co and “Anda­lu­sian” fla­men­co : two move­ments, two matrices that have never­the­less constant­ly influen­ced one ano­ther. Nowa­days, neo fla­men­co ask ques­tions of those who sup­port tra­di­tio­nal fla­men­co and want to pre­serve the musi­cal trai­ning and tra­di­tio­nal per­for­mance of this art, lest the stan­dar­di­sa­tion of music and Wes­tern influence swal­low up fla­men­co entirely.

On the other hand, there is a gro­wing call in the Gyp­sy com­mu­ni­ty[6] to mount a chal­lenge to these new musi­cal aes­the­tics and reclaim the community’s place at the ori­gin of fla­men­co. It seems worth poin­ting out that fla­men­co occu­pies a cen­tral place in the Gyp­sy domes­tic sphere, ope­ra­ting as a pri­vi­le­ged means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, a vec­tor for trans­mit­ting and pre­ser­ving Gyp­sy iden­ti­ty. While this mino­ri­ty has long been per­se­cu­ted and remains pro­found­ly stig­ma­ti­sed in Spa­nish socie­ty still today, some see the restruc­tu­ring of fla­men­co rhythms or the bor­ro­wing of words from the Calò lan­guage as part of a craze for folk­lore, or even culture appropriation.

Final­ly, this new fla­men­co move­ment can be found at a point of ten­sion that is as uncom­for­table as it is crea­tive. At the same time, it is both the heir to an ancient form of music with an extre­me­ly rich patri­mo­ny, trans­mit­ted oral­ly and tra­di­tio­nal­ly per­for­med in res­tric­ted fami­ly set­tings, while also the expres­sion of a gene­ra­tion evol­ving in a glo­ba­li­sed, inter­cul­tu­ral and pro­found­ly digi­tal world.

 

[1] Asso­cia­tions of friends who come toge­ther to share an acti­vi­ty, often infor­mal­ly. Tra­di­tio­nal fla­men­co per­for­mance venues.

[2] “Niño De Elche, extré­miste poé­tique fla­men­co” [Niño De Elche, poli­ti­cal­ly extre­mist fla­men­co], by Ben­ja­min Mini­mum, publi­shed on 12 July 2017 by Média­part https://​blogs​.media​part​.fr/​e​d​i​t​i​o​n​/​p​l​e​i​n​-​s​u​d​s​/​a​r​t​i​c​l​e​/​1​2​0​7​1​7​/​n​i​n​o​-​d​e​-​e​l​c​h​e​-​e​x​t​r​e​m​i​s​t​e​-​p​o​e​t​i​q​u​e​-​f​l​a​m​e​nco

[3] A rhyth­mic pat­tern that cor­res­ponds to eve­ry musi­cal form of flamenco.

[4] Words and vocal inter­jec­tions cal­led out to encou­rage fla­men­co dancers.

[5] See https://​cor​do​ba​fla​men​ca​.com/​e​n​t​r​e​v​i​s​t​a​s​/​8​2​-​f​l​a​m​e​n​c​o​s​/​f​a​r​r​u​q​u​i​t​o​-​r​o​s​a​l​i​a​-​n​o​-​h​a​c​e​-​f​l​a​m​e​n​c​o​-​n​i​-​l​o​-​h​a​ra/

[6] See the El Païs report, “Lo que le gita­nos pien­sen de Rosa­lia, Ofen­sa, bur­la o reno­va­ción” https://​www​.you​tube​.com/​w​a​t​c​h​?​v​=​p​n​a​m​o​v​z​q​1UE

Sarah Melloul

 

 

Online media manager for OnOrient, Sarah Melloul works at the crossroads of the world of media and culture in France and the Arab world. Passionate about writing and radio, she is particularly interested in music, issues of memory, heritage and interculturality in North Africa.

 

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