Spanish Folk Music and Instruments

The origins of Spanish folk music lie in Iberian culture. The first knowledge about Spanish dances and musical instruments is found in Roman written sources from the year of 2 BC. Single and double longitudinal flutes, harps, trumpets, and various drums have survived from the Roman period. Still, the most famous kind of Spanish folk music from ancient times to the present day is flamenco.

Spanish Folk Music and Instruments
Spanish Folk Music and Instruments

The Origins

In the 4th century, with the great power of Christianity, the Ambrasian chant spread across the country. During the 5th–6th centuries, the Visigoths, who ruled Spain in the eastern and southern parts of the peninsula, established the final chorale. The Mozarabic chant and Gregorian chant flourished in the provinces of Toledo, Aragon, Castilla y León during the period of 5th and 11th centuries. In the 8th and 11th centuries, most of Spain (excluding the provinces of Galicia, Asturias, and the Basque Country) was influenced by Arabic music. Gypsies who settled in Spain in the early 15th century gave Andalusian music more oriental color. The musical folklore of the regions is very different.

Regional Differences

Basque folk music – archaic dermis (specific diatonic), metro rhythmic structures (typical 5-part meter). Galician folk music is based on the music of the Celtic tribes and the influence of Castilla is also striking in it. The music of this region is characterized by a melodic and harmonious major. Songs and dances are often accompanied by a bagpipe procession.

The folk music of Catalonia and the Balearic Islands is similar to the music of the South of France. The dermal base consists of a major-minor. 2- and 6-part subway songs predominate. Castilian folk music is especially rich in songs and dances. Romances and seguidilla predominate. Their melody is narrow-range, diatonic, melodies, mostly 3 parts of the subway. Accompanied mostly by guitar. Common singing dances are seguidilla, bolero, fandango, rueda.

Andalusian folk music is dominated by cante jondo (a later variety of flamenco) and a specific Andalusian style. The Andalusian style has a specific oriental color, it is characterized by changing tones and harmonies, abundant chromatists, strict rhythmic pulsation. There are plenty of songs and dances like fandango (malaguena, granadina), seguidilla or derived from ancient forms common to all of Spain. The most popular instruments are guitar and castanets.

Flamenco Music

It is necessary to understand that flamenco is not a national Spanish dance or musical style. In northwestern Spain people are not particularly interested in flamenco culture. Of course, there are people here who love this style of music, but flamenco is very typical to southern Spain.

Flamenco Music
Flamenco Music

Traditional flamenco is voice, guitar, taconeo, palms. The percussion used in traditional music was rhythmic clapping of the palms or castanets (las castañuelas), clapping of the feet (taconeo), and tapping on the table with hands. But in modern flamenco music, the cachon is an essential instrument. Cachon unites the palms (las palmas) and the taconeo, in other words, the hands and the tree. Cachon is an instrument of subtle nuances. All of this is ideal in acoustic music, such as flamenco, when intensity reaches its culmination, everything is crowned with pure fire.

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