WHAT IS FLAMENCO?
To put it simply, the art form known as flamenco originates from the Roma of Southern Spain and consists of the three core elements: singing (cante), guitar playing (guitarra), and dancing (baile). Not only is flamenco popular in Spain, it has gained popularity in North America and all around the world.
Everything is centered around the singing, both the guitar and dancer follows the singer and everyone follows a set rhythm (compás) that is unique to flamenco. In addition, there are people who help keep the compás by clapping and sometimes a drum called the cajon is used. Even the audience can get involved with shouts of encouragement called "jaleos". There are very many styles of flamenco, each belonging to particular region of Spain and each with their own style, mood and compás.
Some people find the singing to be an acquired taste as it is very rough and guttural, not the type of sound that North Americans ears are used to. The closest music often compared is Blues singing. There are two categories of songs, the "deep songs" dealing with morbid topics such as pain and death while the "light songs" deals with much lighter topics.
Flamenco guitar has a unique and beautiful melodic sound, and the notes can be very intricate. Guitarists play without a pick, using a specialized guitar similar to a classical guitar. The style is to strum with the side of their thumb and most grow a long thumbnail to get just the right sound from the guitar.
Flamenco dance can be very beautiful, sensual and emotional. The mood ranges from happy and fun to deeply sad and serious depending on the style. To express themselves dancers use rhythmical footwork, arm and hand movements. Traditionally male dancers have a different style, concentrating more on complicated footwork and technique while female dancers focus more on upper body movement in addition to using castanets, shawls, fans, and their skirt. However as time changes, the line drawn between the two becomes blurred and there is now less definition between their movements and even in the way that flamenco dancers dress.