Within the enormous diversity of Flamenco music from southern Spain, siguiriyas are considered by the purist, the true aficionado, to be the most profound.

The siguiriyas are always about the release of pent-up emotion: hate, love, jealousy, persecution, and--more often than not--the inevitable marauding nature of Death that will not be denied.

It is unlikely that the casual observer of this insular art can experience the essence of siguiriyas in a commercial setting. A bar in Madrid or Seville--or worse, New York or Los Angeles--isn't the place. The tradition is too long. The emotion is too deep. The artist must channel too much pain.

Likewise, a listener unfamiliar with Spanish will find the going difficult. The inflection cannot be translated. The experience is racial and geo-historical. It's a gypsy thing.

That being said, however, we may discuss approximating this fleeting glimpse of the world's hopelessness and cruelty. The purpose of course, would be to experience catharsis, to release the demon within us. Recordings of the greatest singers por siguiriyas will still thrill us deeply if we're attentive.

Familiarity with the compas, the rhythm, is important. It is the rhythm that gets under your skin. The beat within siguiriyas is the very soul of grief. It can bring the listener to tears without a single word being sung.

Flamenco is all about rhythm. Palmas, the pulsating clapping with which we are familiar, are considered to be an instrument unto themselves. The siguiriyas compas is a somewhat subtle transmutation of the compas of soleares, the form known as la madre de flamenco, the mother of flamenco. Soleares are counted--slowly, like a resting heartbeat--thus:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

accenting (or clapping on) the bold numbers 3, 6, 8, 10 and 12.

Tying this rhythmic sequence together over and over again gives us soleares compas. You may clap or dance along with any recorded soleares and be a compas, in rhythm. This is very important. Once you get the rhythm right, flamenco is like jazz--everybody knows where the thing is headed and you can take off anywhere as the spirit moves you and get back together at the end.

Siguiriyas have the same compas with a subtle but extremely important twist: the beat is twice as fast and it starts on 8.


8 9 10 11 12 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

and repeat--a perfect compas a siguiriyas

It's the little "hitch" that comes in the middle, before and after the 3 that does the damage. Listen to a singer like Agujetas de Jerez, Camerón de la Isla, or el Chocolate and try not to cry.

Here's a sample lyric. Note the third line is longer because of the compas:

No quiero que se entere
I don't want her to know,
quien solo era mia
she who was only mine,
que en mis profundos suspiro por ella
that in my profound sighs for her
se me va la via...
my life is wafting away...

Anhelaba vivir
I longed to live
por verte y oirte;
to see you and hear you;
ahora que no te veo ni te oigo,
now that you're not here,
prefiero morirme
I prefer to die.

The lyrics--lettres--of flamenco songs are both ancient as the Andalusian gypsies' trek from India and fresh as this Valentine's Day. Like so much in life however, repetition of the familiar can touch us the most deeply.

Many of Federico Garcia Lorca's poems have been given flamenco interpretations. The effect is mesmerizing.

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