SOLEÁ

  • A flamenco form considered the mother of all flamenco. Its structure, with a 12-count compás, follows a blend of 6/8 and 3/4 time signatures, using an Andalusian cadence - the Phrygian mode unique to flamenco.

    Fruit of this basic model include bulerías, bulerías por soleá, alegrías, all of the cantiñas, jaleos, the caña, the polo... hence its well-deserved status as an essential style of flamenco cante. Academics highlight the abundant richness of the lyrics, its diversity, its fertility, over and above all other flamenco styles.

    As for its origins, Machado Álvarez argues that it evolved from the music used to accompany a dance style called jaleo, which it broke away from in the mid-19th century.

    As for its name, musicologist García Matos postulates that it may have been taken from one of the early lyrics of these songs, referring to 'la soledad' (loneliness). There are several variations of true soleares, including those from Alcalá de Guadaira, Lebrija, Utrera, Triana, Cadiz, Los Puertos and Jerez.

    Legendary figures whose names are associated with the soleá include nineteenth century cantaora La Andonda, from Triana, and in the 20th century cantaora La Serneta from Utrera, of whom Fernanda and Bernarda de Utrera are both devout followers; cantaor Frijones, from Jerez, El Mellizo from Cadiz, Juaniqui from Lebrija, Joaquín el de la Paula from Alcalá de Guadaira... each with their own approach, and each leaving a band of disciples in their wake.

    As for dance, the soleá is also an indispensable style. Initially reserved for female bailaoras, La Cuenca and La Mejorana were known as originators in this form. This genre is largely unchanged today, with greater or lesser emphasis on the footwork of the 'zapateado' depending on the performer. El Güito, Manuela Carrasco and, recently, Eva Yerbabuena are some of the bailaoras who have made this type of dance their trademark.


    Bulerías

    Bulerías is a flamenco style which stems from the soleá. It shares the same rhythmical structure, the difference being, in general terms, a more up-tempo performance. It broke away from the soleá (for which it provided something of a finale) at the end of the 19th century, and in the hands of cantaores like El Gloria and El Loco Mateo, it began to acquire a form of its own.

    Somewhere in between the two styles comes bulería por soleá, or soleá por bulerías, a style of cante from Jerez where the bulería is played to a soleá time signature.

    The bulería has many variations in terms of both melody and meter and is normally accompanied by palmas or handclaps on the off beats and a turn by the bailaor.

    Jerez de la Frontera is the true home of the bulería, although there are also notable contributions from Seville from the likes of La Niña de los Peines and Manuel Vallejo. And let's not forget the forms that evolved in Cadiz or in Utrera/Lebrija, or the cuplés por bulerías (lyrics drawn from Spanish traditional or folk songs adapted to a bulerías rhythm, and performed in a minor key).

    As for the dance, the bulería has made the break away from private family gatherings to make a name for itself on the stage - as a coda to the soleá, as a climatic closing number, or frequently as an encore. This is a palo where the whole company joins in, gathering round to form a 'corrillo' as they egg on not only the bailaores, but also the tentative footwork (or tomfoolery) of the musicians - guitarist Parrilla de Jerez, for example, is well-known for his turn 'por bulerías'.


    Alegrías

    Alegrías is the best-known flamenco style from the cantiñas group.

    This cante originates from Cadiz, its rhythmical structure matching that of the soleá, with verses divided into four lines of eight syllables each. In fact, it is a hybrid of soleá and a traditional dance from Aragón called the jota. This process of "fusion" took place during the resistance to the Napoleonic invasion of 1808, in the Peninsular War for Spanish independence. Actually this style was originally also known as jotas gaditanas, or jotillas gaditanas - the Cadiz jota - and lyrics often make allusions to times of freedom and struggles.

    Among those who earned a reputation for nurturing this style are Enrique Butrón, Rosario la del Colorao, Ignacio Espeleta (who introduced the common repeated opening sequence of "tiri-ti-tran"), Aurelio Sellés, Chaquetón, Chano Lobato... the list goes on.

    More melodic and somewhat more sedate in nature are Alegrías de Córdoba, credited to cantaor Onofre.

    Dance techniques associated with alegrías are among the most rich and vivacious to be seen. Traditionally this is considered a female dance piece, based on undulating movements of the body and of graceful arm movements (above all during the 'silencio', the sequence performed in a minor key) as well as on the intricate footwork during the so-called 'escobilla'. It is also characterized by bright, extroverted clothing such as the traditional long 'bata de cola' dress, or the manila silk shawl, the manipulation of which requires a course all on its own. Alegrías, and in fact the whole cantiñas group, were heavily influenced by the style Pastora Imperio laid down, leaving her mark on all that followed her in the Seville school of dance, such as Matilde Coral, Milagros Menjíbar, Pepa Montes... and even on more recent figures like Belén Maya and Rafael Campallo.

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