If you follow our blog, you’ll know that we’ve dedicated other posts to analyzing different flamenco styles or “palos,” such as “seguiriyas,” “sevillanas,” or “bulerías,” among others. This time, it’s the turn of the “fandango.” Keep reading to discover the origins of this special flamenco style.
Origin and Evolution of the Fandango
With an uncertain origin, experts claim that it’s the oldest “palo” in flamenco, even preceding the art itself: it could stem from Arab and Portuguese songs (in fact, its tone resembles Mozarabic “jarchas” and “fado”), but it’s undoubtedly the result of a blend of cultures, from which it has absorbed various aspects.
In fact, the fandango isn’t exclusive to flamenco but appears in other songs and dances from various Spanish regions, as well as in the culture of other countries: in Spain, the primitive fandango evolved into “jotas,” “alboradas,” or “muñeiras,” depending on the region of the country.
But within flamenco, the fandango has also been the origin of other more contemporary “palos,” such as “malagueñas,” “tarantos,” or “granaínas,” among others.
What is the rhythm and beat of the fandango?
The fandango consists of a stanza of four, five, or six verses of eight syllables, structured over a 3/4 beat in the case of popular fandangos. Notable variations include those from Huelva, Almería, Lucena, Málaga, the granaíno style, and the “verdiales,” which become more rhythmically free when we talk about flamenco fandangos.
Common themes of the fandangos
As in almost all flamenco styles, love (and heartbreak) is the most common theme in fandangos. Additionally, the songs often revolve around themes of the land, the celebration of women, religion, and fatalism.
Characteristics of Flamenco Fandango
As we’ve seen, flamenco isn’t the only type of fandango out there; this rhythm is present in many regional Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin American songs.
In fact, it was initially believed to have originated in Latin America, and the Dictionary of Authorities of the Royal Academy defined it in 1732 as “a dance introduced by those who have been in the realms of the Indies, which is done to the sound of a very joyful and festive rhythm.”
However, it was particularly popularized in Andalusia, coinciding with the heyday of the “cafés cantantes” (flamenco cafes), evolving from those original music and dance forms that spread around 1870.
Flamenco fandango can be distinguished from other styles or branches of the “palo” by its rhythm (as mentioned, a 3/4 beat), its wide tonal variety, the alternation between lyrics and instrumental variations, and its accompaniment of handclaps and guitar.
Variants of Fandangos
In addition to flamenco and Andalusian fandangos, there are other types of fandangos worth knowing:
- Conquense Fandango or Fandanguillo Manchego: Originating from the Manchego town of Mota del Cuervo, this is a piece similar to the “seguidilla,” albeit with a simpler structure. In the dance, a slow crossing and a final leg kick are added, with a stop and cross.
- Portuguese Fandango: Danced as a duo, the dancers alternate, while the one not dancing keeps the rhythm in a subdued manner.
Fandango and Cultural Mixture
If all of flamenco is a blend of cultures, the fandango, as an original primitive dance, is even more so. Some of the cultures it crosses paths with to the point of becoming indistinguishable include:
- Portuguese: The very name of the dance, “fandango,” recalls that of Portuguese “fados.” As we’ve seen, the neighboring country has its own version of the fandango.
- Arabic: It seems to be proven that the origin of the fandango is, indeed, Arabic, as it closely resembles Arabic-Andalusian dances and “jarchas” (Mozarabic songs).
- American: The fandango is a very common dance in the southern state of Veracruz, Mexico, demonstrating its influence on cultures across the Atlantic.
Want to Experience Fandango Live?
Although we can tell you about it, nothing compares to seeing and hearing an authentic flamenco company performing live, pouring their art into fandangos, “alegrías,” or “jaleos.” If you want to attend one of the best flamenco shows in Spain, don’t hesitate to reserve your tickets now for any of the shows that Gran Gala Flamenco offers at the Palau de la Música Catalana or the Teatro Poliorama. We look forward to seeing you!