Seville: A Siren’s Song

The Plaza De Espana is just one example of the architecture.
The rich history of the Plaza De Espana can be seen in the architecture. Photo by Kristen Badali

Flamenco, which originated in Andalusia, epitomizes the complex soul of Seville, with its native Andalusian, Islamic, gypsy and Jewish influences  mingling to produce an extraordinary sound, which, in its most raw, authentic state, is a spontaneous outburst late at night in a backstreet bar.

There are many speculations about the origins of the word “flamenco,” some suggesting that the name derived from Hispano-Arabic “fellahmengu,”  meaning “peasants without land,” and thus referring to gypsies. Other hypotheses associate “flamenco” with meaning “Fleming, native of Flanders”  and also “Flamingo.”

Spain ruled Flanders for many years, and King Carlos I (1500-1558), who actually was born in Ghent, brought a whole Flemish court with him to  Madrid. People have supposedly cried ¡Báilale al flamenco!“ or “Dance to honor the Fleming!” during dance and festivities surrounding Carlos’  coronation date.

 El baile flamenco is a highly-expressive solo dance, a combination of mesmerizing footwork and lovely floreo, or basic flamenco hand movements.  Its toque (flamenco guitar) sound contains ancestral footprints of Indian, Jewish, Arabic, ancient Andalucian and gypsy sounds, blended together in a  bittersweet combination of strings, falsetas and phrygian scales. Its cante (song), the heart of the flamenco, following strict musical and poetic rules, is superb poetry.

Tonight the singer treats his audience to a cante jondo, or “deep song,” the most serious and moving variety of flamenco or Spanish Gypsy song. He sings of abandoned ruins and olive groves, taking us to places where the past and present coexist, where gypsies dance and sing of the sufferings, joys and defiance of their lives.

Lament and laughter flow into the same mold. You realize it is this flickering ambiguity that defines Seville. She is flamenco, harsh and tender, free and confined. Like the fine wine born of the fertile lands around her, she will tempt you with one taste and keep you coming back for more.

If You Go

Sevilla Convention Bureau

Spain Tourism