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Flamenco glossary

 

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Cabeza
Head. The head of the guitar.

Cajon
Flamenco rhythm box. This is a wooden box that looks something like a small tea chest with a round sound hole cut out of the rear face. A performer sits on this and reaches down to beat on the front face.

Cales
Gypsy word for Gypsies

Calo
Spanish Gypsy language

Cambio
Change.

Campanas
Bells. A musical section in Zapateado, which imitates the sound of bells.

Campanilleros
Bell ringers. Traditional these are songs sung during religious processions that begin at dawn. They are accompanied by the ringing of small bells. The tradition of bell ringing is also connected with religious activities in monasteries. Campanilleros are not really flamenco but are nonetheless still sung and played by some artists as part of their repertoire. The words Campanillero (singular) and Campanilleros (plural) are commonly interchangable and mean exactly the same thing.

Cantaor
Singer

Cante
Singing

Cante chico
Means 'little song'. This is the third of the three general classifications of flamenco songs. Lighthearted, festive or folkloric style songs and dances.

Cante flamenco
Flamenco song

Cante grande
Means 'important song'. This is the first of the three general classifications of flamenco songs. These are the so-called basic songs, considered the earliest forms of flamenco. By nature, they are also Cante Jondo.

Cante intermedio
Means 'middle song'. This is the second of the three general classifications of flamenco songs. It is an arbitrary 'middle' classification between Grande and Chico. Some would argue that this somewhat grey area is an academic fabrication and has no real meaning in the true scheme of things. This may be so, but it does make flamenco forms a little easier to understand.

Cante jondo
Deep song. A style of singing. To the untrained ear, the sounds of Cante Jondo seem harsh and primitive and are not everybody's cup of tea to be sure. The powerful emotion expressed by a singer at close range is frightening. I, for one, have never gotten used to it, despite it's important role in flamenco, and prefer the more lyrical and melodic song forms. Jondo style songs are passionate and profound and can be found in both 'Grande' and 'Intermedio' classifications.

Cantiñas
A family of song forms from Cádiz which include Alegrías , Romeras , Mirabrás , Rosas and Caracoles. According to Donn Pohren, "the word was originally used to describe medieval songs from Galicia, in Northern Spain. Today, it's meaning is extended to signify popular song.....The cantes listed above therefore, are no longer referred to as Cantiñas (but by their specific names). The notable exception is Alegrías, which many cantaores and aficionados name Alegrías or Cantiñas interchangeably." We'll have take his word for it on this last point. The way I see it, it can be a little confusing when you consider that Cantiñas is also the name of a specific form of Alegrías played in the key of C, whereas Alegrías is played in the key of A and can sound quite different. Furthermore, Alegrías is the only one from this lot that has a silencio section. Structurally, Cantiñas (the family of songs) are the same as Soleá, except for subdued accent on the count of 12. Depending on who you speak to, some consider this classification of these Alegrías style songs outdated and meaningless. A post on the flamenco list sums it up: "...I recalled a conversation where people were debating whether Alegrías was a generic name for a family of cantes which include Cantiñas -- or vice versa. With el cante, I often find that the 'answers' to questions like this are more confusing than I bargained for. So I think the real answer is just to keep listening and enjoying."

Capo
Abbreviation of Capotasto. Italian word. (Capo = at the beginning, Tasto = guitar finger board). A transposing device fixed across the strings to raise the pitch. Traditionally, its purpose is to pitch the guitar to a singers voice.

Caracoles
(Song and dance form) One of the group of songs known as Cantiñas. Caracoles means snails, which gives an indication of its lighthearted nature. It was developed in Madrid in the 19th century. It is rhythmically identical to Alegrías, the only difference being the key (C Major), different chord sequences and nonsense verses.

Carceleras
One of the oldest flamenco song forms originating in the prisons of Andalucia. The cante describe the singer's loss and freedom and jail life. See also TONAS

Carlos Montoya
Carlos Montoya (1903-1993) was a gypsy born in Madrid. Around 1940 he became an American citizen and went on to record a multitude of records, gaining himself a huge following the world over. He began playing when he was 8 years old. His famous uncle Ramon refused to teach him so he took lessons from the local barber for 3 years. At the age of 14 he started playing in the local Café Cantantes.Throughout his career he was highly criticized for the roughness of his playing and the apparent liberty he took with compás and speed variations. He was well aware that aficionados rarely appreciated his music. The usual complaints were that he used excessive left hand legato, his playing was choppy and he used too much tremolo. But as he quite rightly pointed out in his own defense, (in conversation with Brook Zern after a concert) I have filled the Houston Astrodome. No other flamenco artist will ever do that. He said proudly that he owed absolutely nothing to his uncle and simply refused to assimilate any of Ramon's immeasurable contributions to flamenco. It is easy to criticize the man, but the fact remains that Carlos Montoya played a significant role in raising international awareness of flamenco.

Carmen Amaya
Carmen Amaya was one of the best known flamenco dancers. In the '40s and '50s, this exotic Gypsy woman won international acclaim performing for such notable people as Roosevelt and Churchill. From the age of four she performed alongside her father in the taverns and music halls of Barcelona. By the time she reached her teens, she was already well known to audiences in Madrid and Paris. During the 1930's, she traveled the world and performed to enthusiastic audiences everywhere she went. The people of North and South America fell in love with Carmen Amaya-the embodiment of Spanish pride and passion. She went on to make films in Hollywood and appeared on Broadway, often accompanied by the great guitar virtuoso, Sabicas. And though she triumphed on stages all around the world, she always remained true to her Gypsy heritage. Throughout most of her performing life, her huge company was made up almost entirely of her extended family, and they traveled together in the traditional Gypsy way, sharing their luck as well as their hardships. And hardship indeed fell on Carmen Amaya. In 1963 at the age of 50, she died in her native Barcelona of kidney failure.

Adapted from the essay by Robert Withers and Meira Goldberg

Cartageneras
(SONG FORM. TOQUE LIBRE) A Fandangos based song taking its name from the area of origin, Cartagena. One of the songs known as Cante de Levante. It is believed to have evolved from the Tarantas.

Castanets
A pair of wooden plates held together in one hand, which provide rhythmic accompaniment during a dance. Also called Castanuelas

Caña
(SONG AND DANCE FORM. CANTE JONDO) A song form with exactly the same compás and accompaniment as Soleá. The only difference is it's distinct Ay Ay Aye's and the melodic line. It's significance lies in the widely accepted theory that this early song form helped give birth to Soleá. True to the tradition of inconsistency in flamenco, there are those who believe that the Caña came after Soleá.

Cejilla
The Spanish word for Capo. Ceja means little eyebrow. The traditional cejilla has a curved top, resembling an eyebrow, to accommodate the wooden tightening peg.

Chuflas
(Song and dance form) A carefree style of Tanguillos with the emphasis on spontaneity and humor.

Cifra
Tablature notation

Clavijas
Traditional wooden tuning pegs on the guitar. Clavija means bolt.

Clavijeros
Modern geared machine heads for tuning the guitar.

Colombianas
(Song and dance form) A delightful song form based on the melodies and rhythms of Colombian folk music. This form was brought to prominence by Carmen Amaya and Sabicas. For those who like a good argument, it has been suggested that Colombianas, like Rumba and Guajiras, is a variation on the Argentinean Tango.

Compás
Rhythm, beat, meter. The basic element of flamenco rhythm. Specifically, Compás is a recurring pattern of accented beats analogous to a bar of music. This dictates the unique rhythmic structure of any given song form.

Concert pitch
The international tuning pitch - For the guitar this is A = 440 oscillations a second. It's amazing how many guitarists refuse to acknowledge that there is such a standard. There is nothing more annoying than rocking up to a rehearsal or performance venue to find that the other guitarist(s) are out of tune for whatever reason. All you can really do sometimes is grit your teeth and whistle, 'Don't worry, be happy'. Attempting to tune your instrument to the non standard pitch while dancers and palmeros are making lots of noise is no fun, especially when you take on the aura of the villain, because you are holding up proceedings while you tune. Life is so unfair.

Contra tiempo
Syncopated rhythm. Counter rhythms.

Copla
A verse from a song. The word colpa is also used to describe the various sections of Sevillanas and Fandangos.

Cuadro
Group.

Cuerda
String.

Danza Mora
(TOQUE LIBRE) Literally means 'Moorish dance'. This form is heavily influenced by the Arabic style of music and dance. See also ZAMBRA

De
Of or from. Many artists have stage names which mean something like 'Jack from London'. Paco de Lucía explains that when he was young there were so many Pacos in the neighborhood, that the convenient way to tell them apart was to call then after their mother's names. His mother's name was Lucia.

Desplante
Dance steps which indicate an approaching break in the dance. A climactic point in the dance which is usually introduced by a llamada.

Diapson
Fingerboard of the guitar. Possibly from the Greek 'Dia Pason Chordon' (through all the strings.

Duende
The trance like fixation, or haunting feeling one may experience while enjoying a flamenco performance. Duende is an inner spirit, which is released as a result of a performer's intense emotional involvement with the music, song and dance. Read the complete esssay.

 

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