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Flamenco Glossary

If you are new to the wonderful world of Flamenco music and dancing then you may need a little help getting to grips with the language and terminology of the art. Hopefully we can help you with the El Mundo Flamenco glossary. We have tried to include everything that you need to know but if you think there is something that we have missed then please do let us know.

A

  • Afillá is a form of hoarse, raspy flamenco voice.
  • A Golpe is a piece performed to the rhythm of a stick striking the floor or knuckles knocking on a table.
  • Alante means stage front. This is an Andalucian version of the term por delante which means to be in front. P'alante refers to a cantaor (singer) whose skills are such that they can lead the performance.
  • Alboreá is a gypsy wedding song.
  • Alegrias is a joyful dance from Cadiz. The dance is characterised by rich guitar accompaniment, intricate dancing, lively sounds and difficult rhythms.
  • Alzapúa is a guitar technique where the back of the thumb nail is used.
  • Andalucia is a region of southern Spain and the birthplace of Flamenco. Andalucia has eight provinces - Almeria, Cádiz, Cordoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaén, Málaga and Sevilla.
  • A palo seco means to perform without accompaniment.
  • A seco refers to playing the guitar with the fingers of the left hand damping the strings.
  • Arranque is a spontaneous outburst of emotion from a performer.
  • Arpegio is a type of chord where the notes are played successively, not simultaneously
  • Atrás means stage rear and is derived from "por atras" meaning behind.
  • Ay is a Spanish term expressing sorrow or happiness depending on the context of the song.

B

  • Baile is the dance element of a Flamenco performance.
  • Bailaor is a male Flamenco dancer and bailaora a female Flamenco dancer.
  • Baile de mantón is a dance with a shawl.
  • Balanceo y vaivén is the swaying of the hips with balanceo being gentle movement and vaivén being more violent.
  • Bata de cola literally means a dress with a tail and refers to a Flamenco dress with a train. Here's our main Bata de Cola.
  • Bout refers to the body of a guitar.
  • Braceo is the movement of the arms in Flamenco dancing.
  • Bulerias is a spirited song & dance from Jerez with a fast and lively rhythm. In fact Bulerias has the fastest rhythm in Flamenco and a wild nature. It features improvisation from dancers, singers and musicians.

C

  • Cabales are Flamenco experts. This is an Andalucian term for a person who commands respect.
  • Café cantante refers to a coffee house which presents Flamenco shows.
  • Cajon is a simple wooden percussive instrument like a drum.
  • Calo is the language of the gypsies.
  • Cambio is a change of key and lighter tone to end a song.
  • Caña is one of the oldest forms of flamenco and possibly one of the most beautiful.
  • Cantaor is a male Flamenco singer whilst a Cantaora is a female Flamenco singer.
  • Cante is the song.
  • Cante chico literally means "light song" and refers to a piece with a lighter, less serious theme.
  • Cante jondo means "deep song" and refers to pieces with serious or sombre themes.
  • Cante grande means "big song" and is an expression which describes pieces that have deep meaning and sombre themes like death, anguish and despair.
  • Carcelera is a type of tonás (basic song) traditionally sung by imprisoned gypsies.
  • Caracoles is a type of song which first appeared in Cadiz in the mid-19th century. It became associated with Madrid but it is essentially from Andalucia, like all Flamenco music.
  • Cartageneras is a song form derived from the taranta which has a florid vocal line and which is more artistic and decorative than powerful.
  • Castanuelas means castanets
  • Cejilla is a capo on a guitar.
  • Chufla refers to a festive and frivolous song.
  • Cierre is the end of a series of dance steps or of a song.
  • Coletilla is a short form of estribillo.
  • Colombianas refers to a Flamenco style which is influenced by South American rhythms.
  • Compás is the beat, rhythm or measure of the song.
  • Copla is the verse of a song.
  • Coraje is a way of performing that shows daring.
  • Corrido is a romantic song or ballad.
  • Cuadro means a group of Flamenco performers, including the dancers, singers and guitarists.

D

  • Danza refers to a style of Flamenco which is influenced by the Moors of North Africa. With Danza the guitar's 6th string is tuned to D.
  • Debla is a basic song (toná) with religious content.
  • Dejes describes the way a singer ends a phrase.
  • Desgarro means heartbreak.
  • Desplante means a section of a dance.
  • Diapasón is the neck or fingerboard of the guitar.
  • Duende is the inner force or soul that inspires the art of Flamenco.

E

  • Entrada is the entrance of the dancer.
  • Escobilla means broom and is the section of a dance in which the bailaora does an extended zapateados.
  • Estampa is the look of the performer and encompasses their outfit, stance and style.
  • Estribillo is a short refrain or phrase at the end of the song.

F

  • Falda means skirt.
  • Falseta is a melodic variation played by a guitarist.
  • Falsete is a high pitched voice.
  • Fandango is a high spirited dance for couples that has a triple metre.
  • Farruca is a spectacular male dance with aggressive footwork and dramatic shifts in tempo. It was created by guitarist Ramón Montoya and Flamenco dancer Faíco.
  • Figura is a star performer.
  • Floreo describes the distinctive, flowering movements of the hands in Flamenco dancing.

G

  • Gachó is a Romany term for a non-gypsy.
  • Gitano refers to a Spanish gypsy.
  • Guajiras is a Flamenco style influenced by Cuban rhythms.
  • Gesto is the tapping of the face of the guitar with the second or third finger whilst playing.
  • Granaína is a type of Fandango in free rhythm that is from Granada.

H

  • Hondo means deep or profound.

I

  • Ir con tiento means to move slowly.

J

  • Jaberas is a form of fandago from Malaga.
  • Jaleo are expressions of approval or encouragement.
  • Jalear is to encourage a performer with words and/or palmas.
  • Jarana is a spree where a group enjoy themselves performing Flamenco.
  • Jipio is a cry used by a singer to find their pitch or simply a cry delivered during the song.
  • Jondo is a variation of "hondo" often used in Flamenco.
  • Juerga is a Flamenco party or jamming session.

L

  • Letra is the verse of a song.
  • Llamada means "call" and signals the start of a dance or a change of section.

M

  • Macho is a three lined verse used to end a song.
  • Malagueñas is a free form Flamenco style with a sad tone which is from Malaga.
  • Manton is an embroidered silk shawl with long fringes.
  • Marcando are movements of the dancer during the letra.
  • Martinete describes a toná sung by the gypsies in a forge. The term refers to a hammer.
  • Mutis is the bailaor's or bailaora's exit from the stage.
  • Marcar means to mark time.
  • Melisma describes a series of notes sung on a single syllable which can sound like wailing to the unititiated.

N

  • Nunas are lullabies.

O

  • Opposición refers to the asymmetry exhibited in Flamenco dance, for example, when the arms are extended in one direction whilst the face is turned in the opposite direction.

P

  • Palillos are castanets.
  • Palmas refers to the rhythmic hand clapping used to accompany Flamenco song and dance.
  • Palmas altas is a percussive technique which involves tapping the fingers of the right hand on the palm of the left hand. This is also known as palmas claras and palmas agudas.
  • Palmas sordas is a percussive technique where a muted sound is made by clapping with cupped hands. This can also be referred to as palmas graves.
  • Palmeros are men that clap when the musicians are playing.
  • Palo is a form of song. Literally translated palo means a suit of cards. Palos fall into two main categories, those done in free rhythm (sin compas) and those done in rhythm (con compas).
  • Peña is a Flamenco club.
  • Petenera is a cante that is not mainstream and which is derived from Andalucian folklore.
  • Picados are Flamenco scales on the guitar.
  • Picar means to pluck on a guitar.
  • Pitos is a finger snapping used to accompany Flamenco song and dance.
  • Planta is the sole of the foot.
  • Polo is a Flamenco song derived from the Soleares family.
  • Punta is the toe of the foot.
  • Punteado is a plucking technique.
  • Punteando are steps and movements that are not part of the zapateado.

Q

  • Quejío is a lament.

R

  • Rasgueado is a guitar strumming technique that creates a sound like a drum roll.
  • Redonda is a Flamenco voice.
  • Remate is a way of ending a song by raising the pitch, changing to the major, or simply speeding up.
  • Rondenas is a free-form style which uses an alternative tuning for the 3rd and 6th strings of the guitar.
  • Rumbas is another flamenco style influenced by Cuban rhythms which features strumming characterized by damping the strings with the whole hand.

S

  • Salida is the exit of the dancer.
  • Serranas have same compas as siguiriyas, but are played in E instead of A to produce a different mood and texture.
  • Siquiriyas or seguidillas are songs which express anguish or despair.
  • Soleá or soleares are a form of cante jondo which are considered to be the mother of Flamenco song. They consist of 12 beats with accents on the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 10th, and 12th.

T

  • Tablao is a club with a stage for Flamenco shows.
  • Tacaor or tocaor refers to a Flamenco guitarist.
  • Tacon is the heel of the foot.
  • Taconeo means footwork.
  • Tango is probably the oldest Flamenco song form and has a simple rhythm of 2/4 time.
  • Tanguillo is a Flamenco song and dance derived from the tango.
  • Tapa is the face of the guitar.
  • Tarantas is another free-form style of Flamenco song which is hard to sing and which demands great intensity and control..
  • Tarantos is a dance related to the tarantas.
  • Temporeas are harvest and threshing songs.
  • Tientos is a cante jondo, derived from tango.
  • Tocaor or tacaor is a Flamenco guitarist.
  • Tonás is the earliest known simple Flamenco song.
  • Toque means guitar playing.
  • Toque compás refers to guitar playing with fixed patterns of rhythmic beats.
  • Toque libre is guitar playing with free form rhythm.
  • Torsión y convlusión are stages, usually in the solea, when the dancer reaches an ecstatic state.
  • Tremolo is a rapid fluttering of a guitar tone or alternating tones.

V

  • Vito is an Andalucian folk song and dance in fast 3/8 time.
  • Volantes are the tiered ruffles that are often a feature of Flamenco skirts.
  • Voz affilá is a hoarse voice reminiscent of the 19th century singer El Fillo.

Z

  • Zambra is a noisy fiesta which originated with the Moors.
  • Zapato means shoes.
  • Zapeteo or Zapeteado is a form of tap dancing unique to Flamenco.