Flamenco: I still can’t get enough of Estrella Morente

13 Sep

Here she is singing soleares and siguiriyas, generally considered the two oldest and “heaviest” of flamenco genres: the most “jondos” of “cante jondo”.* Usually no dancing, none of the guitar or caja percussion of other flamenco, minimal if any clapping or ole-s, heavy melisma and chromaticism — what probably makes them the most definitively eastern-Med-sounding of flamenco genres.

Wiki says of siguiriyas vs. soleares:

Its deep, expressive style is among the most important in flamenco. The siguiriyas are normally played in the key of A Phrygian with each measure (or compás) consisting of 12 counts with emphasis on the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 8th and 11th beats as shown here: [1] 2 [3] 4 [5] 6 7 [8] 9 10 [11] 12

This rhythm can be contrasted to the rhythmic pattern of the soleares, which also has 12 beats, but the accents fall differently. Taking the unusual accenting into account, it can technically be seen as a measure of 3/4 (counted in eighth notes) starting on “2”, then a measure of 6/8 followed by the “1 and” of the 3/4. Every note is evenly spaced apart. For example: [2] and [3] and [1] 2 3 [4] 5 6 [1] and

However, this presents difficulties in counting and is counted more simply in 5 beats, with three “short” and two “long” beats: [1] and [2] and [3] and uh [4] and uh [5] and

In this case, the 1, 2, and 5 are the short beats and the 3 and 4 are long beats.

It sucks to really be into a certain kind of music and have absolutely NO clue what someone — like above — is talking about. I’ll give my first-born to anyone who can adequately explain it to me.

Anyway, Estrella; she’s friggin’ magnificent:

Like in ghazal, the verses of flamenco have only the freest of free associations between them. I love this particular soleá because at 2:30 she sings:

“No te compro más camisas, Y porque no he visto altares, pa que otros digan misa”

“I’m not buying you any more shirts, because I haven’t seen any altars, for others to cry ‘mass’.

Like, what does that mean? Like with any truly captivating poetry, you don’t really know what it means, but you kinda do.**


* “Cante” in Spanish doesn’t mean song, but chant. And “jondo” is deep, with the archaic Andalusian/Gypsy pronunciation of the “h” in “hondo”

** “Missa est” — it is mass, literally — is how the Catholic Tridentine Latin mass ends. It’s the participle of the Latin verb “mettere”, to put, to place — like “mise-en-place” in French culinary language, put in place — or “no te metas” in Spanish, don’t get involved. So in the Latin mass it means, “It’s done – it’s in place” – “you’re dis-missa-ed”.

So what is the soleá verse saying? We’re done, you and me? You ain’t all that? I don’t see any altars from where “Missa Est” is cried when I look at you? Y’ain’t so holy that I should keep you in shirts?

Again, you don’t know, but you do.


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