Friday Night 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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9 thoughts on “Friday Night Flamenco 15 – Sierra Morena

  1. Mr. & Mrs. Maki – Thanks again for a pleasant excursion down the flamenco byways. Polished off a nice bottle of Calaveras garnacha whilst giving this a listen last night & it was most enjoyable.

  2. Hi Makis!!

    This is just great! I love this series! Have you thought of making a book? It is so interesting!!

    Antonio Gades and Cristina Hoyos dancing was a high spot for me this week – it was just fantastic!!!

    • Hi Sakura

      Thank you for your enthusiasm for the series.

      There are many worthy and detailed books on Flamenco written by real experts. Mrs Maki has consulted many of them when preparing the posts. The good thing about blogs like this is that we can explain a bit of what we have learned from them and illustrate it with real examples, thanks to youtube. We hope we have managed to do this effectively.

  3. Enrique Orozco has a remarkable voice for a man of his age. Loved the song, and his guitarist’s tone and style reminded me very much of Sabicas.

    Paco Parena is another gifted singer, with a definite hint of the blues, but there’s also something almost classical in his delivery. I really enjoyed the video. It took me back to some train journeys I took in the Sierra Morena region. The local Montilla wine was so good we took a couple of bottles home. Later, I bought a bottle in Tesco and, erm, the most polite thing I could say about it is that it hadn’t travelled as well as the ones we bought in Cordoba.

    The sigiriya was amazing. The whole piece was dominated by the dancers, who seemed to be locked into a mating display. This may not a be such a bad metaphor, as so many different cultures’ dancers have taken their cues from nature.

    Pastora Pavon just blew me away. I’ve never heard a voice like that before. Not only technically gifted but an original sound, too!

    Esther Merino nailed that song.

    The words ‘skill, ‘endurance’, and ‘stamina’ came to mind whilst watching Tomas de Madrid. For the second time we see walking sticks used as percussion. Brilliant!

    • Hi Webcore

      Thanks for your comments.

      Enrique Orozco was a real master and as they say over here “Quien tuvo, retuvo y guardó para la vejez” – He that had (talent in this case), held on to it and kept some back for old age. His guitarist, Paco de Antequera, was widely accepted to be one of the best guitarists of the sixties and worked with all the greats.

      We don’t know much about Paco Pereña apart from the fact that he is still active on a low key level in the Ronda area – well respected locally but not a major figure.

      Agree wholeheartedly with your choice of metaphor for the Gades – Hoyos dance.

      Pastora Pavón defies description. She has been imitated, most notably by Manolo Caracol’s daughter who was her sister in law, but never equaled. The Estrella Morente concert Pastora 1922 was inspired by a concert she put on in the Alhambra in Granada with all the great performers of that time, including Federico García Lorca.

      Esther Merino is great. We had been looking for the opportunity to use one of her clips. She narrowly lost out to Estrella in Granada week. Her Granaína is also excellent. We will be seeing more of her.

      Tomás de Madrid was a respected dance teacher as well as a performer. As for the walking sticks as percussion: they are quite common in the Martinete and Jaleos. We’ll be doing a post on Percussion at some stage and we’ll try to see them and other instruments in more detail.

  4. Thank you, Maki and Mrs Maki.

    I love the beat and counterbeat and the sheer exuberence – which seems to be evident even in the sad songs.

    I noticed the walking sticks too!

    Dumb question:
    Listening to the older versus the more modern songs over the last few weeks, I wanted to ask whether there have been changes to the musical nuancing in more recent years as just about everyone is exposed to popular music, or perhaps due to recording equipment technology. Or am I just imagining that there are differences in cadence?

    • Hi SR

      Thanks for commenting.

      Not a dumb question at all!
      There have been changes some of which are clearly the result of new instrumentation – the electric bass guitar and the cajón (box used for percussion), for example. One of the modern singers, Arcángel, makes use of more modern production, instrumentation and recording techniques but is still clearly singing Fandangos, for example. Like any living art form, Flamenco evolves whilst respecting tradition. The male singers years ago (up to and including Camarón) tended to sing a little higher than their modern counterparts. Other singers have definitely been influenced by other music (blues springs to mind) and this does affect the way they sing. That said, the palos do have their specific metre, rhythm and rules (for want of a better word) and anyone who strayed too far away from that would not be singing any recognisable flamenco palo. New palos (e.g. Colombianas) have been invented in the not so distant past but it takes a long time for them to be accepted into the official canon.

      • Thanks for explaining that for me. I didn’t see how one musical form could NOT be influenced by others, particularly when so dominant and over-reaching. I didn’t even think of modern instruments. D’oh!

        Many, many thanks. :-)

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