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  • Writer's pictureYumi La Blanca

Soundscape of extraordinary - Expanding the view of flamenco instruments

Feeling suffocated and drained during lockdown, we need fresh air into our spirit too. This time I’d like to take you to refreshing soundscapes through renovating flamenco sounds created by ranges of ‘unconventional’ musical instruments. Remember - even guitar was ‘new’ to flamenco at first. Learning about different instruments, we might witness a new and unexpected musical encounter. Tuned percussion

Already having palmas, castanets and zapateados/footworks, flamenco seems to be kind enough to welcome percussive instruments, such as cajón. How about melodious ones?

The piano has a dual identity in its definition; it’s stringed and percussive at the same time. Thanks to the geniuses of Chano Domínguez, Diego Amador and Dorantes, the piano has already been acknowledged to core flamenco fans, but not as deeply routed as the guitar yet.

Not crispy-dry like the guitar, the piano can add a certain gorgeousness, composure and dignity to the music, especially when played by a master like Dorantes:

Dorantes (Piano) & Marina Heredia: Granaina

The marimba is more obviously percussive than the piano. Mellow and velvety, it invigorates and revitalises a familiar flamenco palo such as Bulerías:

Alejandro Solano (Marimba): Bulerías

The tones of handpan or hang are usually tranquilising, but flamenco could convert its image to passionate and cosmic simultaneously:

Liron Man (Hang Drum): Soleá por Bulerías

Singing strings

With the residential presence of the guitar, it’s not surprising that the bass guitar also appears in modern flamenco scenes. Adding a certain funky flavour, the bass guitar could be played as a guitar alternative, sounding more weighty and darker than the usual flamenco guitar:

Juanfe Pérez (Bass Guitar): digest of a show ‘DeBajo’

Paco Montalvo, a virtuoso of violin, has contributed to flamenco with his outstanding musicality. Here, his violin sings Tanguillos with sparks of grace, vibrancy and warmth:

Paco Montalvo (Violin): Tanguillos de Cádiz

Gentle and flowing, the harp could also renovate flamenco music with its crystallized yet vigorous chimes, resonating with elegance:

Ana Crismán (Harp): Bulerías

Howling winds

Somehow, wind instruments are good at depicting desertingly sorrowful soundscapes, when playing dark flamenco tunes (or, only to me?). They are, due to their characteristics, close to replacements of human voices. This Taranto is almost like singing through the flute, providing an air of solitude:

Sergio de Lope (Flute): Taranto

Trumpet sounds are normally regarded as powerful, but here, we could hear delicately somber, profound melody, capturing the essence of Soleá:

Enrique Rodriguez ‘Enriquito’ (Trumpet): Soleá

The ‘conventional’ instruments such as the guitar and cajón have gained flamenco citizenship through numerous sessions, fiestas and shows between artists throughout history. The keys for ‘new’ instruments to be integrated in the genre of flamenco lie in whether the musician has deep knowledge of flamenco music and songs, and also whether they can provide creative pleasure to other flamenco performers to collaborate. If you can interweave a soundscape of flamenco together with your colleagues, it is flamenco, whatever instrument you play.

For the last treat, I hope you’re overwhelmed by this thrilling flamenco session featuring the harmonica, while you can also notice many more interesting instruments participating in the excitement. The door is open to wider perceptions of flamenco music.

Antonio Serrano (Harmonica): A Tribute to Paco de Lucía


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