Sunday, January 26, 2014

Seville, Spain

                                                                 

Italica, a few kilometers North of Seville.



What attracts people to Seville?

 It is their famous Flamenco dance. Though there are many interesting places to see in Seville, it is the flamenco show that is the most fascinating. One cannot visit  Spain , without  having Seville in their itinerary, which  is world famous for its  flamenco show,  for it would be like coming to India and not visiting Taj Mahal.


   Flamenco in general, consists of three artistic elements: the singing ( cante), the dancing (bailla), and the guitar (guitarra). 
 Although mass media has brought Flamenco to the world stage, at its heart it has always been and will always be an intimate form of music. To hear authentic flamenco, I heard you have to be with a small group of friends, at midnight , somewhere in the south of Spain, where there is nothing around but the voice, the guitar and the body of the dancer moving in the moonlight : sounds pretty romantic, well that is the "Romantic Spain" for you.


 The pictures were taken with great difficulty by our daughter who was with us. The movements are very fast, still I think she managed to take them  quite well.



  
Now I would like to mention about the special flamenco shoes. Women have to wear a well- reinforced pump with a strong two inch heel and a strap across the ankle, with small nails driven into the heel and the tip of the toe to make smooth metal surface. For men it is almost the same except , that it has to be in ankle boot form.










 It is interesting to note that , the flamenco dance actually finds its origins right here in India. For it was the gypsies  who arrived from India around 1425, and  they brought with them many songs and dance styles that had strong Indian connections ( especially from the north of India, the Punjab region).

At this time the Andalucia, was still under the Arab rule, and along with the jews, the moors, the gypsies were soon to be persecuted by the Catholic monarchs and the inquisition. Everyone was forced to convert to Christianity, and those who refused, were expelled from Spain. The gypsies were subjected to some of the worst atrocities in an attempt to exterminate them as a race. Many laws were passed by various monarchs, which forbid them to do anything with their identity.

They were to stop wearing their style of dresses, stop speaking their language, and stop their wandering and seek steady employment. These laws forced bands of gypsies, moors and jews to take refuge in the treacherous mountains, which were too desolate for the authorities to pursue them.

These people of different cultures lived in relative harmony for many years, and the fusion of their music and dances is what we know today as flamenco.




 They  look so graceful, and the look on their face is so  intent, despite the fact, that they must be performing it so many times. Every time, it would look as if they are performing not to the the tourist like us, but they are performing somewhere else in their own private world. The way the men sing, play the guitar : it is all so mesmerising, so deep, taking you along with them  into another world. One has to see it to believe it, no amount of words can do justice to this art form.





In the 18th century attitude towards the gypsies changed considerably, which resulted in numerous bands of gypsies descending on the small villages and towns, bringing with them, their exciting seductive music- flamenco. Their mysterious music and stimulating dances were soon to catch the attention of the romantic writers of the 18th and 19th centuries. Stories abound of these strange people performing their wild erotic dances and the harsh unusual tones of their songs.
Soon flamenco  clubs called Cafe Cantantes began to spring up in most of the cities, and the most famous was the Cafe Silverio's in Seville, which was the idea of the flamenco singer, Silverio Franconetti.

The cafe cantante period, 1850- 1910, was known as the "Golden Age", but this was also a period of decline of what was originally known as the flamenco art. Many gypsy singers refused to perform in these establishments, forcing a wave of non -gypsy to take to the stage to perform a lighter and milder form of flamenco, the Fandangos, which were Andalucian folk songs.
 It is said that the gypsies were very independent bent of mind, and flamenco being very spontaneous, the gypsies simply refused to perform at a set time,and even worse be told what styles they were to sing.


There is an area of land known as the "Holy Trinity" or golden triangle of flamenco, which is thought to be the area where all the major styles of cante jondo ( original flamenco)  originated. The points of this triangle are  Cadiz, Jerez de la Frontera, and Triana in Seville, and it is believed that this area of land  is where the flamenco song began. It is in these areas in Seville, that one can find, that they still hold on dearly to their age old flamenco tradition.


 While the fusion boom was going on, there were certain artists like Fosforito and Jose Menes, who refused to commercialise their art, and thankfully cante jondos is even more popular today, and the flamenco festivals that are held all over Andalucia is proof of this. If you have ever listened to a twangy, tinny sounding old guitar, accompanying a gravel, almost out of tune, ancient style of voice, rusty and dry as if straining for its last breath and rhythmed only by the rapping of the knuckles on a table top, then you will have probably witnessed Cante Jondo, which is flamenco in its purest form. 


If again at some stage, while listening to this ancient song you have felt as though death has passed over the top of you, making your skin tingle and your emotions clash, from joy to sheer excitement, to the depths of sorrow and pain, then you could have also experienced duende.

I must also tell you something about the use of castanets by the flamenco dancers. It is said Spanish gypsies, did not originally use castanets, moving with, "easy, undulating filigranos" ( soft movements of the arms and hands), reflecting their eastern ethinic heritage. The early gypsies felt no need for devices, beyond their own innate, rhythmic hand clapping (palmadas), finger snapping (pitos), clicking of the tongue, and often tapping of a stick (b culo). These sounds were further embellished by the shouts ( grittos), and expressions of animation, that conjured the magic ( duende) of the moment ". However, even though gypsies have taken up the use of castanets, many still play in the primitive way, on the middle finger instead of the thumb. So castanets are not part of the true flamenco, they are an element that has been added to enhance finger snapping.

Castanets are actually a percurssion instrument that are several centuries old and which, as time passed, has become typical of Spanish folk-lore. and in Andalucia it is known as "palillos". The best matrial for making  them is wood, the harder the better. However, other materials such as pressed canvas and fiberglass have become more common in the last few years due to good results that they have provided. To play them, the castanet's string must be wrapped around the thumb, and they must be played using the remaining fingers.


                                  You can see them having Castenet in one of their palms



These Flamenco shows are of 2 hours duration, and usually starts at 9pm and the next show starts at 11 pm. A free drink of your choice comes with the ticket to the show.


Planning a trip to Spain, then do not miss to visit Seville.

Seville has other attractions also, would soon write about those too.

34 comments:

  1. what lovely info..I have always thought of visiting Spain sometime.dont know why but Istanbul and spain sound very attractive to me.

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    1. Spain is absolutely beautiful, you would definitely love it. Even I want to see Istanbul. Thanks Renu.

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  2. More than the Flamenco dance,I admire your passion for learning so much about the dance,its origin and intricacies.Hats of to you.Why are the pictures in black and white?Come up with more of Seville.

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    1. You know I just knew that Flamenco was a dance of Spain, but when I saw it in person and the intricacies involved in this dance drew me to read about it in the net. The Indian connection(of Punjab), made me feel so proud, in fact they are very similar to our own Kourathies, although these people are more cultured. In Portugal, I have seen Gypsies who are also said to be having their origins in the kouarthies.
      The pictures are B and W , because i suppose she had taken them under poor lighting and must have enhanced them to look better in B and W through photoshop.

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  3. Though familiar to Flamenco, did'nt know about it in so much details. Beautiful desciption and lovely photos to match. We call it the tap dance here, right?

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    1. Yes, when you see it in person, their styles and the effort they have to put in learning this dance form really pushes you to know more the details about this dance.
      Thanks for liking it Asha.

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  4. Thanks for sharing, I really enjoyed this post. It is on my bucket list :-))

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    1. You would love Spain, and you would love their famous art museums.

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  5. Very beautifully written. I felt I was there with you! Such vivid illustration.

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  6. beautifully written
    pics are also beautiful to go with it

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  7. It takes some effort. doesn't it? I mean to learn while you travel , while you sight see.
    There is some unique culture in these Mediterranean land !
    Loved your b&w pics and the write.

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  8. Yes it does takes some effort, and one cannot remember each and everything while visiting places. I always make a point to come back and start looking up at things that really captured my attention, and write it immediately, before I forget. This trip was made about 7/8 years ago, and I had blogged about it in another site which was later taken over by WP. I decided to shift to blogspot as it is more user friendly.
    Thanks for liking the pictures and the write up.

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  9. I love the frills of the flamenco costume, and the huge polka dots that go with it. It's one of the interesting dance forms that will grab the attention of viewers....with their boot sound, hand claps, and guitars that go in sync! Lovely pictures.

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  10. Yes, even I love them, and I also like the way they would quickly lift their skirts, and swirling of their skirts at strategic points all adding up to the drama. The men too are so handsome, the way they bring romance right into their eyes, oh, it was terrific watching them.
    Anu it was your post on Portugal that pushed me to dig out this blog. It feels so good to share something, that we feel others too might enjoy reading. I always love travel blogs, for even if we are not able to visit those places, at least we can get a feeling of having seen them through the traveller's eyes. Though years have gone by, in my mind everything is so fresh.
    Thanks Anu.

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  11. Music transcends all boundaries of time, geography and age. I had only seen bits of flamenco in old english musicals, never knew so much about it. Thanks Rama for such a lovely photo tour of this energetic and so full of life dance form :) The B/W pics add an special charm although I love the twirls of flamenco dresses in the right colors.

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  12. You are so right Reshma, music sure has no boundaries, and so too dance.The colors look good when you see in person, not in photographs when taken inside in dark settings.
    The same kind of skirts are very popular in India. Thanks Reshma.

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  13. Wow. This seems very nice. The combination of the three is what makes the Flamenco performance more effective I believe. Nice to know of the Indian connection. Thank you for providing so much of background information Rama, it was really nice to read and know new things. Spain.hmm..some day :-)

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    1. I am sure you would visit Spain, and really enjoy it. Thanks Ashwini.

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  14. Wide info.about the wild fast dance flamenco.I had just heard only and wouldn't have collected this much info.had this post not been there.I adore your love for travelling and do share your curious experiences.Nice,nice and nice.

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  15. That was so informative. Thanks for sharing so many details about Seville and the famous Flamenco dance. And love the way you explore, discover, learn and enjoy new things when you travel! Awe-inspiring!

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  16. You have an absolutely fantastic blog. You are amazing blogger.
    I ♥ your blog!

    Feel free to my blog dear:
    http://maryannfashionn.blogspot.com/

    Kisses ♥

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    1. Thanks ania. Welcome to my blogs. I have visited your blog it is beautiful too, I like the way you model in lovely dresses.

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  17. Thanks for the beautiful and detailed post. And, thanks for sharing these photos.

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  18. That was one beautiful write -up about Seville. It was almost like i was there . Beautiful clicks tooo :)

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  19. Absolute delight to read this write up on the Flamenco dance! A pity I could not see one when I was in Spain :(

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  20. Wonderful info (especially about the castanet)
    Had been to Spain but was in a village (La Adrada) and got to see the village life there.
    Soon there is bound to be a repeat visit and that is when we are going to see this in detail :-)

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  21. Good to learn more about it. Someday I'll go there :-)

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  22. Love the photographs. And yes... Spain is there - in my list of places to visit before I die :) :)

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