Un poquito de flamencology 4 - Farruca
The notion of beauty usually provokes the image of femininity, but in flamenco we can also feel beauty in masculinity: that is Farruca.
Sorrow of Farruca
The widely believed theory of the origin of Farruca finds its connection to Galicia. ‘Farruco’ and ‘Farruca’ are the terms that Andalusian people used to refer to those who descended from Galicia or Asturias to the south of Spain. Even the introduction of the cante ‘con el tran-tran-tran-tran-treiro…’, which is also heard in Garrotín, is said to have a Galician relation.
To us, the key point isn't scientific accuracy but the atmospheric value of Galician air felt in the music of Farruca. Though rarely sung, the best known letra actually goes:
Una farruca en Galicia amargamente lloraba
porque se le había muerto el farruco que la gaita le tocaba…
(a lady of Galicia was crying bitterly, because the Galician man who played the bagpipes for her had died…)
In flamenco, letras (lyrics) could be modified through history and also according to singers. In the version below by the legendary La Niña de los Peines (1890 - 1969), what ‘Farruca’ lost was a herd of goats, but the image of ‘a crying Galician woman/girl’ is common:
Farruca by Pastora Pavón (La Niña de los Peines)
When the guitarist Ramón Montoya and the dancer Faíco were said to establish the current flamenco form of Farruca in the early 20th century, the motif of ‘a crying Farruca’ had already been popular in the theatrical world in Spain. The composer José Serrano inserted a song of Farruca in his zarzuela ‘Alma de Dios’ (1907). It was actually called ‘Ay, farruca, no me llores…’, and shows a partial similarity in its melody to the flamenco version:
Farruca from the zarzuela ‘Alma de Dios’
Having been formed by a guitarist and a male dancer, Farruca in flamenco is, in many cases, still played as a guitar solo or a manly dance performance to the guitar without singing. As a guitar solo, the traditional Farruca entails somber feelings, as if resonating with the sorrow of crying ‘Farruca’. Although the musical simplicity often appeals as a practice piece to a guitar beginner, achieving the profoundness requires mastery:
Farruca by Sabicas
Farruca for men
The dramatic structure of the music of Farruca such as occasional pauses and varied intensity inspires valiant dance moves incorporating abrupt stops, sharp change of directions, determined body lines etc., which actually suits a manly style. Traditionally danced by men, dancing Farruca has almost meant an identity proof for male flamenco dancers. Until today, many acclaimed male dancers have expressed themselves in the artform of Farruca - Antonio Gades, Mario Maya, El Guïto, Manolete, to name but a few:
Farruca by Manolete (1998)
Although the orthodoxy of Farruca as a dance lies in manliness, we can also sense from Manolete not only masculinity, determination and solitude, but also elegance and stylised beauty. Farruca is an art form to prove that the notion of beauty isn’t exclusive for femininity.
Farruca for women, and beyond
For flamenco dance students, Farruca is often introduced as a manly dance so that female students are encouraged to wear trousers instead of flamenco skirts. This is due to the fact that many famous female dancers, including Carmen Amaya, danced Farruca in trousers to express masculinity of this palo. The best known example would be Sara Baras:
Farruca. Sara Baras. 1999
Despite her man-imitating costume and the courageous, fierce moves, her body lines and existence inevitably express her female grace too. It seems her Farruca goes beyond the boundary of manliness and womanliness.
In fact, you don’t have to dress as a man to dance Farruca. Manuela Carrasco, for instance, communicates the dramatic image of the lady ‘Farruca’ sung in the letra, crying for the loss of her ‘Farruco’. Dancing in a skirt, she is 'Farruca' herself:
Farruca. Manuela Carrasco. 1999
If Farruca refers to a woman from Galicia, then there is nothing wrong with dancing Farruca as a woman. One of my personal favourite versions of Farruca is performed by Inmaculada Ortega who generates graceful sensuality through her elegant style. Here, Farruca has been reborn as a feminine expression.
Whether man or woman, the real beauty of Farruca could emerge through the beauty of performers themselves, regardless of their styles, costumes or gender spectrum. We can now appreciate Farruca beyond its stereotype, as flamenco is about universal human emotions.
Farruca by Inmaculada Ortega