Among all kinds of flamenco, the soleá stands out. Even though it doesn´t date back a long way, the soleá is considered one of the most important styles. Lying at the heart of this art, it combines, like no other, the melodies, rhythm, and harmony of the flamenco´s aesthetic. Keep on reading to learn about the importance and the magic of the soleá.
What’s the Origin of the Soléa of Flamenco?
The soleá emerged from the jaleo, a fusion of the fandango and the seguiriya that came to life during the 19th century while music was going through a process of adopting the Romany style. As its name implies, the term soleá arises from how native flamenco dancers and singers pronounce the Spanish word soledad, which means loneliness.
Soleá´s structure, tempo and tone
The soleá has a compás, its rhythmic unit, of 12 beats, like the alegrías and bulerías. However, the soleá´s rhythm is slower, a noteworthy characteristic of this solemn dance. As regards tone, it is played with the Phrygian mode, using the dominant b2 scale and root I.
The Soleá Dance
The soleá is the perfect style for an artful bailaora, the female dancer, to show off on stage, owing to the expressiveness of this dance —characterised by its desplantes, a defiant stance; its zapateos, flamenco´s tapping; and escobillas, an extended tapping moment—. The bailaora performs these movements showing the complete solemnity and art required by this style, which is marked by its ability to cause strong emotions and to move an audience to tears.
How Many Types of Soleares Can We Distinguish?
As it happens in every kind of pop art, such as flamenco, there are many types of soleares, whose differences tend to be hard to notice for the untrained eye. Below there is a list of some of the most important ones.
Soleá from Triana
It is considered the most important version of this style. Even though it is believed that the soleá traces its roots back to Cádiz, it actually originated in Sevilla, in the area of Triana, where it peaked thanks to La Andonda. Taking into account all the soleares from Triana, scholars divide them into two categories: the strictly Romany, which dates back to the origins of this dance, and the apolás, whose style resembles more the Andalusian´s than the Romany´s. At first, the apolás was used as remate, the grand finale, to the polo style, which is the origin of its name.
Soleá from Cadiz
The soleá (or soleares) from Cadiz is considered the origin of this genre and, as regards listed styles, it is positioned just below the Triana, with a grand total of 17 (Sevilla has 36). Three of these styles are attributed to Enrique el Mellizo, the most famous Cadiz singer, while four of them are ascribed to Paquirri el Guanté. Both of them are crowned as the two most important personalities of this genre in the city of Cadiz.
Soleá from Jerez
Despite not being the most ancient or important one, experts consider that the soleá from Jerez portrays in short what this style is all about, because it holds within all the characteristics of these songs, blending them all together to become one and giving the utmost importance to the music instead of the lyrics.
Soleá from Alcala
It is a slower and much more solemn version of this style. It was created by Joaquín el de la Paula, a Sevillian from Alcala de Guadaira and a former soldier in the American-Spanish War. Coming back from the war, he began to sing. It is believed that he came back with certain physical characteristics that provided his soleares, which he could never record, with its typical peacefulness. Juan Talega, the nephew of the former, is another great figure of this style. He became famous at the peak of his life.
Soleá from Utrera
This is another version of the soleá from Jerez, which came to life in that city. Moreover, thanks to this style, Fernanda Jiménez Peña, also known as “Fernanda de Utrera”, earned her reputation as a famous singer.
Soleá from Córdoba
To identify the soleá from Córdoba, it is necessary to take a look at the features that make it unique. Paying attention to its lyrics is a must, since people consider them exemplary and even philosophical, filled with the wisdom of Cordoba´s people. Besides, its tunes are also of all shades, making up a composition full of melismas, longer than most and with no slur technique.
As it has already been mentioned, the soleá apolá has its roots in the soleá from Triana —mostly coming from the Andalusian branch— and its name refers to the remate of the polo, one of the most archaic styles of flamenco and popularised by the singer Tóbalo de Ronda.
Soleá from Lebrija
The soléa from Lebrija, whose top upholder was the singer “El Lebrijano”, also arose from the soleá from Triana. Juaniquin de Lebrija is another famous male singer, renowned for taking this flamenco style to the next level.
Main Singers of the Soleá
Throughout history, lots of performers have been known for elevating this style to its highest form. Many of them have already been mentioned in this article. Aurelio Sellés, El Morcilla, Pericón, El Flecha, La Perla or Manolo Vargas are considered the successors to the most renowned ones, Paquirri el Guanté y Enrique el Mellizo.
As to the female singers, history has provided us with many amazing soleares sung by female voices, such as Niña de los Peines, La Niña de Linares, Isabelita de Jerez, la Niña de la Puebla, La Paquera de Jerez o Fernanda de Utrera. The soleá of Utrera is named after this last singer.
Examples of Soleá Lyrics
Below you will find some sample lyrics of the soleares we have been referring to throughout this article, so you can get a better understanding of the deep emotions this style brings about.
Soleares from Córdoba
That who never cried
or ever experienced sorrow
lives happily, yet ignores
whether this life is bad or good.
Soleá from Triana
Of all the world´s most hidden things
time has the key
sooner or later
with time, everything is found
go around saying
those who are tired go to bed
I won´t wake anyone up
candlelights from the sky
from the sky fall candlelights
fall on top of your sea
for having a salty tongue.
Soleá from Cádiz
To my soul´s sea
the wiles I´ve used
are always present
stuck in my heart.