12 Oct MUSIC of the OPPRESSED: FLAMENCO in its HISTORICAL CONTEXT
From our sustained curiosity about “THE ART of FLAMENCO,” we have developed this course. In this series we will offer historical and food-for-thought information to enhance your discovery of the uniqueness of flamenco music, whose genesis can be significantly sourced from the laudable values – fraternity, equality and liberty – that emanated from the French revolution.
Following the Medieval era (476-1453 a.d.) where the concept of the world was God-centric, the liberating ideas of the Enlightenment in the early 1700’s influenced the inhabitants of Europe. Eventually, this was to lead to emancipation of colonial yokes throughout the world.
The predominance of the “Románico influence” (not to be confused with the Romantic era) had its seeds in the authority of the Pope, its flowering in the monasteries that housed the literate, and its political branching with the power-over reality of feudalism. These circumstances produced swift changes in Europe – a social big-bang if you will – distributing romantic ideals via revolution and with significant levels of challenge to the status quo.
It is propitious that a totally new musical art form was born at that time in the region of southern Europe – Spain in particular. Its popularity was disseminated by travelers during what became known as the Romantic Era, creating what we now experience as flamenco. To understand the gestation of flamenco music, it is necessary to situate its place in the historical and social conditions found in Spain, in particular Andalusia, in the early 1800’s.
Its practitioners and adherents were those in the lowest societal classes: the enslaved and oppressed Romas, or gypsies, as that culture is known. Peasants and day laborers, and other disenfranchised social groups literally sang to illuminate the pains that daily life inflicts. Their sorrows are real and poignant. The parallels to the emergence of American jazz and blues, along with similar social factors of calling-out slavery and oppression, are not to be overlooked. By the late 1800’s, the centuries-long disenfranchisement of the Africans, the Muslims, and the Sephardim, along with the long shadow still cast by the Spanish Inquisition, were mirrored in the cultural milieu of flamenco.
Evolving visions of human relationships were forming, a consequence of the adaptation of the social strata to the new times that had brought about the Industrial Revolution starting in 1760. The new bourgeoisie, as an emerging economic power, began to introduce new tastes, opportunities and amusements associated with the evolving mores and values.
These changes were so wide-spread that a new model was produced of urban life. It was accompanied by other diversions leaving behind the more traditional, folkloric, and if we may, more simplistic. Peasants migrated to the cities, seeking better living conditions through factory work where there was need for a large labor pool. This created a new economic class, which was the proletariat, later to evolve into creation of the middle class.
New philosophical trends emerged as an expansive world-view began to take root, influenced by the emergence of new artistic expressions that were channeling their interpretation of the changes taking place in societies. At this time, Rebética music arose in Greece; in Argentina, tango; in Spain, flamenco.
“Music of the Oppressed: Flamenco in Historical Context” is our attempt to not only place a particular framework around flamenco’s past, but also to introduce elements of metamorphic collaboration for the future, in particular the links between Cervantes and Shakespeare and those between Federico Garcia Lorca and Leonard Cohen. Stay tuned!
FERNANDO BARROS, born and raised in Andalusia, has spent a lifetime delving into the history of Flamenco as a relatively new genre of music, having written two books on this subject. As a student, he learned to sing with the gypsies in the caves of southern Spain. His voice has been described as “beautiful. . .low in register but with a clarion brightness to it, and beautiful diction.” His compositions retain the complex and authentic flamenco rhythms, along with the spontaneity and pathos so true to Flamenco. He continues to explore Flamenco’s place in history and in initiating new collaborations sited above. He performs throughout the United States and in Spain.
MELISSA MOORE, born in Wyoming and raised in three distinct regions of the US, grew up in Memphis where her family was active in the Civil Rights Movement. She had the honor and privilege of being present at MLKing’s “Mountaintop” speech in April 1968. She is a life-long visual and textile artist, graduate of The Guild for Spiritual Guidance, and director emeritus of Desert Montessori School in Santa Fe. Together with Fernando, she co-authors, translates and presents their research into the artistry of flamenco, placing it in historical context for the inquiring mind.