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1922 Woodstock of Spain’s influence on Flamenco

By: Evan Yang

Flamenco, an art form based on the folkloric music traditions of southern Spain, was starting to lose its spirit. This Andalucian style of music dates back as far as 1774 and has since become a staple of Spanish culture.

Since the end of the 1800s, Flamenco had been shunned by intellectuals and tainted by modern interpretations. Spanish intellectuals saw Flamenco as an antiquated byproduct of a fractured Spain. They did not see it as a proper form of entertainment, much less an art form. At the same time, modern popular flamenco had transformed into a public spectacle hosted in establishments known as cafes cantantes.

However, not all accepted this change. Manuel de Falla, a classical composer, wanted to prove the nobility and expressiveness of traditional Flamenco. In 1922, during the Corpus Christi festival, Falla got his chance to prove that cante jondo, the type of Flamenco practiced by Roma people, was worthy of acknowledgement as an art form.

Before the concert, word about Falla’s intent spread worldwide, and influential artists and intellectuals were invited. Falla split the concert into two parts over two nights. Famous guitarists and dancers were invited to display their talents as part of the cause. Despite the number of influential artists present, the concert also focused on bringing in rare talents. Two notable examples were Diego “El Tenazas” Bermudez and Manolo Ortega, who blew the audience away with their previously undiscovered skill.

Ultimately, the concert was a success, inspiring many other concursos across Spain. However, not only did cante jondo, the style revered by Falla, gain popularity; the popular flamenco did as well. Contrary to what Falla believed, popular flamenco was neither objectively worse than cante jondo, nor definitively better. Art is always influenced over time, and Flamenco is no different. Even today, the music is not finished evolving.

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