Un poquito de flamencology 5 - Bambera
La niña que está en la bamba
Just like a swaying swing, Bambera is still up in the air.
Bambera was traditionally a type of Andalusian folkloric song. At local celebrations, a girl in a flared skirt would sit in a swing (el columpio or la bamba) hanging from the strong branches of a tree, then her lover would push her toing and froing, while people would sing ‘cantes del columpio’ or ‘cantes de la bamba’, songs of the swing. Although this tradition itself has nearly faded away, the songs of Bambera have survived in flamenco.
A poet and folklorist Francisco Rodríguez Marín (1855 - 1943) included ‘La Niña Que Está en la Bamba’ in his folklore collection, and the song was reconstructed to the piano in ‘Cantos Populares Españoles de Francisco Rodríguez Marín’ (2002). This would supposedly be close to how the primitive cante de la bamba might sound like, although you’d possibly feel awkward by listening to this melody:
La Niña Que Está en la Bamba (columpio)
Here, you’ll instantly recognise the melody line of ‘La Leyenda Del Tiempo’, a song made famous by Camarón de la Isla. In fact, this popular flamenco song of Camarón is sometimes credited as Bambera too.
From Fandangos to Soleá por Bulerías
Bambera as we now know has another distinctive tune, first recorded between the 1930s and 1940s, most famously by La Niña de los Peines (Pastora Pavón). Around that time, the guitar arrangements were borrowed from Fandangos. A modern cantaora, Carmen Linares, also applies this Fandango format, respecting the earlier generation:
La Bambera por Fandangos: Pepe Pinto, Pastora Pavón y Carmen Linares
While the legendary guitarists Niño Ricardo and Merchor de Marchena approached Bambera from the angle of Fandangos, it was Paco de Lucía who changed the wind direction to the style of Soléa por Bulerías, when accompanying the renowned cantaores such as Naranjito de Triana, Fosforito and Camarón de la Isla:
Naranjito de Triana & Paco de Lucía ‘Bamberas’ (1970)
This new, beautiful music arrangement enabled flamenco dancers to interpret Bambera as a variation of Soleá por Bulerías. Actually, flamenco dance students are often told that Bambera is a palo similar to Soleá por Bulerías, and some dancers perform it as though it’s another Soleá por Bulerías.
But then… does it have to be Bambera if it’s danced so much like another palo? In other words... what happened to the uniqueness of Bambera? Although the songs of Bambera have certain purity, simplicity and elegance, if you’re trapped in the musical setting of Soleá por Bulerías, it wouldn’t be so easy to differentiate a performance of Bambera from that of Soleá por Bulerías.
Swinging in the air
Bambera still leaves a space for other possibilities in terms of musical arrangements. As if making a joke of this indecisive situation of Bambera, a cantaor El Turronero made a playful version in his album ‘Aires del Sur’ (2016). I won’t explain further, hoping you will find it funny (I laughed until I cried):
‘Bamberas’ by El Turronero
We don’t have to go that far, but the destiny of Bambera is still blowing in the wind. The genius Enrique Morente fused it with Tangos, maintaining both the folkloric flavour of Bambera as well as the modernity of flamenco.
Bamberas y Tangos. Enrique Morente. 1990
The uniqueness of Bambera and its beautiful poetry shine in cante solo, in either Fandangos, Soleá por Bulerías, Tangos or possibly other styles too. For baile flamenco, even when it’s supported in the music of Soleá por Bulerías, the atmosphere of Bambera should still be felt. The swing could be pushed in an open direction, depending on our sense and artistry.