The theme is a fundamental part of flamenco since, as an expression of art from the popular classes, its songs refer precisely to worldly concerns and not so much to the people who composed them. Do you want to know what the lyrics of flamenco songs are about? We’ll tell you in this post.
Common themes of flamenco songs
Like any other artistic expression, flamenco has some recurrent themes and addresses universal topics but from different perspectives; because they are precisely human beings’ concerns and common to all. These are some of the most common themes.
Love and passion
If there is a universal theme, it is precisely love and passion, understood as romantic love, reciprocated or not, of a man towards a woman (let us not forget that it is a type of traditional music), which fills with compliments and demands.
The jealousy and the revenge
Jealousy is the sickly variant of love in songs where the man suffers for the sense of property he has over the leading woman of the cante, whether it be his wife, his girlfriend or simply the woman he is in love with. Revenge is the next step to jealousy and usually includes episodes of violence, either against the “unfaithful” woman or against the man with whom she has been disloyal.
The woman is, in the end, the protagonist and transversal theme in practically all flamenco songs: her beauty, her virtues, her defects, and the problems arising from the relations between men and women are one of the most common themes in almost all flamenco style or “Palos”.
Curses and threats
Closely related to the previous ones is common to hear songs in which love, jealousy or revenge give way to the most concrete threats or even curses that the protagonist’s rhyme gives to his enemies.
Maternal love, as the antithesis of romantic love, appears as a calm, firm, constant love that can always be trusted, although there are some rhymes (not as many) in which one speaks of mistreatment towards one’s mother. A different case is a mother-in-law, who usually does not stand well in the flamenco cantes.
People and society
Distrust in others, fear of being cheated or harmed, is the fundamental approach of this issue, which is based and the intrinsic evil of the human being towards his peers.
Money and poverty
As mentioned, flamenco comes from the lower and popular classes for this reason, when talking about money in his “cantes”, he usually grieves about the lack of it as well as the lack of opportunities for the poorer versus richer’s, and the easier life they are living.
Moral sentences or maxims are small teachings which are part of the cante and whose function is to transmit to viewers the wisdom of the singer regarding certain aspects of life, such as family, love, money or life in general.
Mainly present in the “seguiriyas”, death and mourning for it, especially that of the mother, is one of the main themes of flamenco singing and of one’s life, along with love, time and money.
Understood as something written, a fatal fate from which it is impossible to escape and in which the protagonist can do nothing to change his becoming. Destiny and religion meet imperceptibly in Flamenco’s theme.
The honour and the dishonour
In this case, Honour is the virtue of a woman, especially one of a wife or a daughter. The dishonour, which is the loss of honour, is usually perpetrated by another man, either for infidelity in a wife’s case or, in the case of a daughter or a sister, by loss of their virginity.
With a double focus: On one hand, a moralistic Catholic Christianity, which was more or less spread, was well expressed, especially in the “saetas”, and on the other hand, with superstitions that soak the daily life.
The passing of time
The passing of time and the impossibility of retaining it, as impossible as holding on to possessions or success because everything has an expiration date, has generated countless flamenco songs.
Natural forces such as the sun, moon, stars, wind, sea, birds, and rosemary take an active part in the lyrics of the songs, showing an almost human personality and participating in the acts, decisions and conversations of the narrative voice of the songs.
The metric of lyrics in flamenco
As if they were poems, the lyrics of the flamenco cantes have their metric, formed by verses or thirds, which are usually eight syllables, although there are also six, eleven and seven syllables too. In function of the stanzas that form these verses, we will have:
- Couplet: A first pentasyllabic verse, followed by another decasyllable with assonant rhyme.
- Triotic: Octosyllabic, no defined metric shape.
- Stanza of four verses: A quartet of verses of eight syllables with rhyming consonants, or assonant, on the even verses.
- Quintile: Five octosyllabic verses rhyming, alternately in consonant and assonant.
Types of voices in singing
As important as the theme of songs and the metric, the type of voice of the singer, who interprets the song, is equally relevant and can provide different meanings depending on the intention he puts when singing. In the history of flamenco, have been recorded the following types of voices:
- Afillá: hoarse and loud gravelly voice, like that of Manolo Caracol or María Borrico, is very appropriate for singing Sigiriya, Bulerías, Tonás or Soleás.
- Round: is THE most flamenco voice and is identified with a sweet and virile tone, such as that of Tomás Pavón and La Niña de los Peines.
- Natural: close to the Round, but with a strain that binds it to the Afillá.
- Cantaora: also known as the easy voice, is the most suitable for cantes festeros, like La Paquera and the Pearl of Cadiz.
- Falsete: unsuitable for the basic cantes, it is typical in the cantes of Levante and on the ornaments or arabesques of more common compositions.
Understanding both the themes and the different types of voices in a theoretical way is not simple: the best way to understand and enjoy flamenco is to attend a show, as the one that Gran Gala Flamenco offers at the Palau de la Música Catalana or at the Teatro Poliorama in Barcelona, where you can understand the importance of flamenco singing, as well as the importance of the relationship between the theme, the metric and type of voice best suited to each one. Would you like to try it? Don’t wait any longer and book your tickets now.