We’re staying in Cadiz this week, but this time we’re going to take a look at the more Gitano influenced side of things. A look at styles that have evolved from their traditions and beliefs as well as the lifestyle that was more often than not forced upon them.
Of all the flamenco forms that are known today, the Toná has the deepest Gitano – Andalusian roots. The origin can be traced to latter part of the eighteenth century although it is probable they had been sung for many years before this. These days there are four variants of the Toná: the Martinete, the Carcelera, the Debla and the Toná itself. They are all sung without musical accompaniment and are considered to be the first true palos of flamenco. Often referred to as “palos secos” precisely because of the lack of accompaniment.
They deal with the dark and tormented world of the Gitano, persecuted, imprisoned and humiliated by society, and are often sung in their dialect, Caló (Spanish Romani), which was outlawed for nearly three centuries.
Debla means Goddess in Caló. The Debla is a song dedicated to the supernatural, an invocation for fertility in the fields, for instance. The cante is based exclusively on the voice. Here is an example in which the Cantaor Matías de Paula speaks of having made a pact with death in return for certain favours.
In the Martinete there is no instrumentation either. The rhythm of the Martinete originated in the forges in Cadiz, Jerez and Triana in Seville where the Gitanos worked. It is claimed that this style developed as they were hammering away on the anvils. This seems unlikely given the incompatibility of the enormous physical effort required to do this work and sing at the same time! It is far more likely that these songs were sung as the blacksmiths were waiting for the iron to heat up in the forges before they could work with it. In the mid-twentieth century the Bailaor Antonio Ruíz “Antonio El Bailarín” visited the forges and upon seeing the Gitanos at work and singing decided to perform dances based on these rhythms so that they would reach a wider audience.
Sara Baras has also incorporated this dance into her more recent work.
The flamenco Tango, sometimes called Tango Gitano or simply Tango is of unclear origin. It seems to derive from an old Cadiz dance that was transformed by the Gitanos of the region and acquired an extraordinary flamenco character.
In the second half of the nineteenth century it was the most widespread and popular cantes when it came to dancing in the fiestas and its influence on other Flamenco styles that arose at this time is unquestionable.
The best known Tango variants are those from Cadiz, Jerez, Triana in Seville and Sacromonte in Granada (these last were seen in the post on Granada), although since that time they have developed and been sung and danced all over Andalusia.
Along with the Seguiriyas, Tonás and Soleares; Tangos are, for both their expressiveness and rhythm, one of the fundamental flamenco forms.
Here is a sung Tango from one of the best known Cantaoras of the last century, La Paquera de Jerez:
And here is another Tango Gitano, this time with dancing from La Chana with Juan Habichuela’s brother Luis on guitar:
The Tanguillo is a lighthearted variant of the Tango that is typical in Cadiz. The lyrics are often ironic or even sarcastic and make reference to current affairs, local gossip, politics or other issues the singer feels like bringing up. They are very popular in the Cadiz Carnival fiestas where they are sung by groups called Chirigotas. We haven’t included an example because outside of this context they don’t make a lot of sense, but here is the great Paco de Lucía playing one for your delectation.
Next week: Sierra Morena