From Cuba to Málaga
Tangos Flamencos, different from Argentinian Tango, is one of the most diverse flamenco styles, so rich with local and personal variations; we have Tangos de Cadíz, Tangos de Triana, Tangos de Granada, for example. ‘Tangos del Piyayo’ is personal in the sense that it is a collection of Tangos created by a particular singer called El Piyayo, local in the sense that he was from Málaga. However, it is more global, because it certainly has a Cuban influence.
There is a group of flamenco palos categorised as ‘cantes de ida y vuelta’ (songs of roundtrip, travelled back from South America), and most of them are thought to be influenced by Afro-Cuban music. That includes Guajiras, Colombianas, Milongas, Vidalita, Rumbas. It’s debatable if Tangos should be one of them, but some of the variations can be, and Tangos del Piyayo surely is.
During his lifetime, Rafael Flores Nieto ‘El Piyayo’ (1864-1940) travelled a lot, all over Andalusia, to Morocco, and to Cuba. While delivering his flamenco artistry to Cuba, he also absorbed the essence of the local music. Tangos del Piyayo is sometimes called ‘Tangos Aguajirados’, having Guajira’s essence in its tone.
Unfortunately, he didn’t leave a recording, but many of his successors have interpreted this palo with respect to this unique cantaor. As you’d notice in this version by Antonio Mairena, it’s what we usually call ‘Tangos de Málaga’:
Antonio Mairena & Merchor de Marchena ‘Tangos del Piyayo’
In the interpretation by Pepe Campillo, we can dictate more Cuban flavour, almost like Guajiras sung in the style of Tangos:
Tangos del Piyayo. Pepe Campillo. 2000
On the other hand, if this palo is performed by such a personality like La Cañeta, the songs are seasoned with full of Andalusian flavour. Tangos del Piyayo is a lavish fusion dish of Cuban and Andalusian:
La Cañeta de Málaga (Tangos del Piyayo)
Melancholic and joyous
In flamenco dancing, we hear these songs as ‘Tangos de Málaga’. However, Tangos del Piyayo doesn’t fully represent Tangos from Málaga, as we also have other important variations from the area, such as ‘Tangos de La Repompa’. Besides, considering its origin, Tangos del Piyayo isn’t simply from Málaga.
For dancing, the singing parts are usually slowed down and carries a certain melancholic feel. I don’t know when and how this tradition happens, but possibly it’s a similar case to Tientos being a slow version of Tangos de Cadíz. In any case, the dance interpretation of Tangos del Piyayo as in ‘Tangos de Málaga’ usually conveys a little serious mode, which makes this palo distinctive among other types of Tangos.
Here, you can still smell the joyous Cuban air as well as sensing the birth of somber feel in a baile flamenco version of ‘Tangos de Málaga’, named (correctly) as ‘Tangos o Cantes del Piyayo’:
Yolanda Heredia baila por ‘Tangos o Cantes del Piyayo’ (1989)
Tangos del Piyayo has such a rich flavour in itself, being a part of the miscellaneous Tangos family. Although the binary rhythm sounds simple, it’s complex in an enjoyable way.
Tangos de Málaga: Cantes o Tangos de El Piyayo (Italian)