Inscribed in 2010 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, Flamenco is one of the great musical forms of our world. It is much more than just a type of folk music. The tradition it embodies is both cultural and musical. Although it is worldwide regarded as part of Spanish culture, flamenco is actually a product from one of its regions, Andalusia, and it has to be considered as an inseparable part of it. There are many unanswered questions about the roots of flamenco, but most would agree flamenco was born out of the interplay of Spanish, Moorish, Jewish and Gypsy people, living together in Andalusia before and after the Reconquest. It is generally acknowledged that flamenco grew out of the unique interplay of native Spanish, Islamic, Sephardic, and Gypsy cultures that existed in Andalusia prior to and after the Reconquest. It became kind of a subculture, incorporating, as it grew, and also changing other local music forms. First centered in Cadiz and Seville it spread not only to the other parts of Andalusia but even to Murcia and Extremadura. Originally, flamenco consisted of unaccompanied singing (cante). Later, the songs were accompanied by flamenco guitar (toque), rhythmic hand clapping (palmas), rhythmic feet stomping (zapateado) and dance (baile). Toque and baile are also often found without the cante, although song remains at the heart of the flamenco tradition. More recently, other instruments have been introduced, such as the cajón (a wooden box used as a percussion instrument) and castanets (castañuelas). Recent research has shown that there was also a strong Sub-Saharan African influence, for example the African-derived zerembeque guards a tango compas. During the late-eighteenth to mid-nineteenth centuries, flamenco took on a number of unique characteristics which not only separated it from local folk music, but turned flamenco into a way of life centered around the music.
Nuevo Flamenco", or New Flamenco, is a recent variant of flamenco which has been influenced by modern musical genres, like rumba, salsa, pop, rock and jazz.It is widely accepted that Nuevo Flamenco started in 1975 with the Lole y Manuel first album Nuevo Día. Although the most important early pioneers of modern flamenco are widely accepted to be the guitarist Paco de Lucía, and singer Camarón de la Isla, other musical genres have also played a key role in influencing nuevo flamenco. There remain questions not only about the origins of the music and dances of flamenco, but also about the origins of the very word flamenco. But whatever the origins of the word, in the early nineteenth century it began to be used to describe a way of life centered around this music.
The music and culture of flamenco began to be associated with particular performers, mainly gypsies from particular families (castas) who authored and preserved certain songs and dances. Although to the uninitiated, flamenco seems totally extemporaneous, these cantes (songs) and bailes (dances) follow strict musical and poetic rules. During this period of development, the “flamenco fiesta” developed. More than just a party where flamenco is performed, the fiesta either unpaid (reunion) or paid, sometimes lasting for days, has an internal etiquette with a complex set of musical and social rules. In fact, some might argue that the cultural phenomenon of the flamenco fiesta is the basic cultural “unit” of flamenco. During the nineteenth century, both flamenco and its association with Gypsies became popular throughout Europe, even into Russia. Composers wrote music and opera on what they thought were Gypsy-flamenco themes. Any traveler through Spain “had” to see the Gypsies perform flamenco. Spain - often to the chagrin of non-Andalucian Spaniards - became associated with flamenco and Gypsies. It was during this period that a new venue was created: commercial stage flamenco with ticketed public performances.
Foreigners often think that the essence of flamenco is the dance. However, the heart of flamenco is the song (cante). The verses (coplas) of these songs often are beautiful and concise poems, and the style of the flamenco copla was often imitated by Spanish poets. Garcia Lorca is perhaps the best known of these poets. In the 1920's he, along with the composer Manuel de Falla and other intellectuals, crusaded to raise the status of flamenco as an art form and preserve its purity. But the future of flamenco is uncertain. Flamenco is tied to the conditions and culture of Andalusia in the past, and as Spain modernizes and integrates into the European community, it is questionable whether flamenco can survive the social and economic changes.