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Do you actually understand the Cante?   You are logged in as Guest
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roozbeh60

 

Posts: 47
Joined: Apr. 9 2015
 

Do you actually understand the Cante? 

So I've been listening many palos of Flamenco for at least 6 years now. For me, it is quite interesting how I enjoy the Cante specially Seguiriyas or Solea Cante when I don't even speak Spanish nor understand any of it.

Now a days there are so many songs where the music and song are so much better than the actual lyrics and I wish I never understood what they are saying. Sometimes I think my expectation of the meaning behind the Cante may actually be better than what they are actually saying, and other times I wish I understood every word!

For the Spanish/English speakers out there, what is your thought on this?
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 31 2020 19:23:09
 
Ricardo

Posts: 12088
Joined: Dec. 14 2004
From: Washington DC

RE: Do you actually understand the C... (in reply to roozbeh60

The melody and rhythms of cante coupled with the sophisticated method of guitar accompaniment is plenty to focus on for intellectual pursuits of Flamenco.

However getting into the meaning of the poetry and the way it gets delivered by the singer connects you with the considerably deeper emotional level of Flamenco.

When it comes to English music, my favorite vocal/guitar music is melodic metal. Along the lines of your point, two of my favorite bands are Iron Maiden and Helloween. The latter is German, and while I’ve been discovering their repertoire of late and especially the vocal melodies I greatly prefer, I must admit their attempts at writing lyrics fall ridiculously short compared to the British band. Helloween songs are beautiful with often times good message or meaning, but sadly the poetry they are attempting reveals English is not their first language. So at least I can admit one case where the poetry is not so important for delivering great vocal music.

As far as spanish goes, look no further than Gipsy Kings...great songs and rhythm with melodies and rhythms pulled from Flamenco sources.... but the lyrics are a mess. But it’s still fun to sing those choruses in a group, lots of feeling and power. But Flamenco proper, you’ve got both heavy poetry and powerful music. Something to keep in mind.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 31 2020 22:55:36
 
TonyGonzales84

 

Posts: 78
Joined: Apr. 23 2020
From: San Diego, CA

RE: Do you actually understand the C... (in reply to roozbeh60

A lot of it is in Caló - not Spanish, so there's also the vocab/conjugation thing, there. The Andaluz accent can also be difficult for native Spanish language speakers to acclimate to.

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Tony
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 31 2020 23:04:26
 
Piwin

Posts: 2814
Joined: Feb. 9 2016
 

RE: Do you actually understand the C... (in reply to roozbeh60

If you never learn Spanish, you'll never know...

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 31 2020 23:39:48
 
Ricardo

Posts: 12088
Joined: Dec. 14 2004
From: Washington DC

RE: Do you actually understand the C... (in reply to Piwin

quote:

ORIGINAL: Piwin
If you never learn Spanish, you'll never know...


The poetry has deep connection to Gypsy life and culture. It’s not enough to understand the words grammatically.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 31 2020 23:44:11
 
Piwin

Posts: 2814
Joined: Feb. 9 2016
 

RE: Do you actually understand the C... (in reply to Ricardo

Sure. That's true of any language. You don't just learn a language; you learn the culture, history, lifestyle, etc. that go along with it, otherwise you won't understand much, particularly when it comes to poetry.

But nobody can tell roozbeh whether the lyrics will live up to his expectations except himself. So if he doesn't learn Spanish, he'll never know... And as in anything you learn, your expectations also change along the way.

Depends on the question I guess. If it's just about whether you can enjoy flamenco without understanding the words, then sure. Nothing wrong with that. Most of the music I listen to is in languages I don't understand.

But if it's about whether it's better to understand the language, then of course it is. It's one thing to come from a place of knowledge and think "man these lyrics are crap, they're so bad I wish I didn't understand them". It's quite another to come from a place of ignorance and think "it's better not to know because maybe these lyrics are crap and maybe they'll ruin it for me".

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 1 2020 0:42:35
 
roozbeh60

 

Posts: 47
Joined: Apr. 9 2015
 

RE: Do you actually understand the C... (in reply to Piwin

quote:

ORIGINAL: Piwin
It's quite another to come from a place of ignorance and think "it's better not to know because maybe these lyrics are crap and maybe they'll ruin it for me".


I completely agree! My goal wasn't to ignore it because I may not like it. When I dive into music that is built around the culture, I'll be sure to learn it all the way including language when I have the time to learn Spanish. I just wanted to know ahead of time what to expect of the lyrics. I come from a Persian background and my non-Persian friends ask me about lyrics every once in a while and my response is "You'd enjoy the song more if you don't understand what the lyrics mean". I was hoping this is not what I'd run into with Flamenco in a few years but from the older traditional flamenco music that I prefer over the Nuevo (which I also love btw), I don't think I'd ever not like the lyrics, good or bad.

Thanks for the responses though Piwin and Ricardo!
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 1 2020 1:21:11
 
Ricardo

Posts: 12088
Joined: Dec. 14 2004
From: Washington DC

RE: Do you actually understand the C... (in reply to roozbeh60

http://www.foroflamenco.com/tm.asp?m=111391&p=62&tmode=1&smode=1

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www.ricardomarlow.com
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 1 2020 6:06:30
 
glowingturnip

 

Posts: 7
Joined: Aug. 26 2020
 

RE: Do you actually understand the C... (in reply to roozbeh60

went to an evening in Seville, and it dawned on me after a while that one of the songs was about frutas y verduras
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 1 2020 16:05:49
 
Morante

 

Posts: 1486
Joined: Nov. 21 2010
 

RE: Do you actually understand the C... (in reply to roozbeh60

Well

The gitanos de Jerez have some letras which might offend: the carrito de la muerte refers to the old style of funeral: the cantaor cries that he only knew that his mother had died when he recognizes her hand hanging from the carrito.

Another when the cantaor had a nightmare where he was buried and the worms were eating his intestines.

These are letras which record what life in the barrio used to be. The family de Los Mijitos still sing them.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 1 2020 16:37:47
 
tele

Posts: 1435
Joined: Aug. 17 2012
 

RE: Do you actually understand the C... (in reply to roozbeh60

It's normal also for Spanish people not to understand part of what the words of the songs are, altough they understand more than foreigners of course. It's no wonder, flamenco is quite complicated to understand in many aspects

But I bet it can be practiced just like anything else, or just learning letras in advance might help or be good practice if interested.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 1 2020 17:10:01
 
kitarist

Posts: 952
Joined: Dec. 4 2012
 

RE: Do you actually understand the C... (in reply to Ricardo

On the other hand, I remember reading in a paper somewhere suggesting that a popular practice is to modularize the "story-telling" down to stanza level (3-4 liners) but without necessarily a logical connection between the stanzas. So if a song has 4-5 stanzas each of 3-4 liners, they may be some "random" string with each stanza a tribute (say) to a different singer telling part of some story, but no connection between them. Isn't this a bit odd for someone understanding the words? Or at least isn't it a conventional expectation that a single "song" (i.e. a singer accompanied by guitar etc. performing one piece of music in a particular palo) will tell one story, rather then [parts of] several unconnected ones?

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Konstantin
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 1 2020 18:16:13
 
Piwin

Posts: 2814
Joined: Feb. 9 2016
 

RE: Do you actually understand the C... (in reply to roozbeh60

quote:

my response is "You'd enjoy the song more if you don't understand what the lyrics mean"


Out of curiosity, what kind of thing are we talking about here?

I see two separate issues. One is basically form or style, which is what I think Ricardo was talking about with that German band. And the other is the overall theme/message itself.

For the latter, on the whole I've found things to match up pretty well with the music.

For the former, I think that's where the connection with culture really comes into play (though it of course also comes into play for the choice of theme too). I forget the specifics, but I have this vague memory of poet Rafael Alberti talking about a line from Federico Garcia Lorca. He said that he had always thought the line was a metaphor. Then he went to Granada and realized that it was really just a down-to-earth description of something real. I find myself reacting like that pretty often with flamenco letras.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 1 2020 19:05:23
 
Ricardo

Posts: 12088
Joined: Dec. 14 2004
From: Washington DC

RE: Do you actually understand the C... (in reply to kitarist

quote:

Isn't this a bit odd for someone understanding the words? Or at least isn't it a conventional expectation that a single "song" (i.e. a singer accompanied by guitar etc. performing one piece of music in a particular palo) will tell one story, rather then [parts of] several unconnected ones?


Hmm, not sure what you were reading, but the beauty of the 3-4 liners of solea/buleria, or 5 liners of Fandango etc, any and ALL of them, and same for Alegrias and the colletillas, is that the story is compact and complete and separate (ie unrelated to any others), within each one. Any multiple verse performance that seemingly pertains to one Gitana Mala you might know is purely coincidental . Also they are (or were until social media and cel phones ) “timeless”, or constantly relevant to Flamenco people’s lives, generation after generation. I mean there is no reason for a watchman to ring that bell when he sees the queen coming anymore. But for a long time, the meaning behind that was pretty heavy.

It’s hard to find equivalent example in English. Usually it’s a lot of lyrics before a story emerges, and usually no “surprise” ending that is set up to hit you hard in the feels. One example is this obscure rock ballad where the first verse prepares you for the fact somebody left home, or grown up, or maybe Parent died? Second verse gets more interesting and you know it’s gonna be sad. Then finally you realize the truth in the last verse and (if you have a heart) it sends the Duende up your spine....but it took the three full verses to achieve what a Flamenco 3 or 4 liner often can do. But cante does require the listener to have enough depth of imagination to fill in some blanks.



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CD's and transcriptions available here:
www.ricardomarlow.com
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 1 2020 21:25:58
 
kitarist

Posts: 952
Joined: Dec. 4 2012
 

RE: Do you actually understand the C... (in reply to Ricardo

quote:

the story is compact and complete and separate (ie unrelated to any others), within each one


Thanks for this. I didn't know each stanza is a complete story.

I am looking to find some printouts I had to figure out where I picked this idea up from. Later on I remember looking at the lyrics of 'Tu Tienes Un Amor Para Mi', Fernando de la Morena bulerias, and it seemed that the whole thing was one story across stanzas.

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Konstantin
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 2 2020 18:30:36
 
otirroz

Posts: 19
Joined: Jan. 10 2016
From: Vina del Mar, Chile via San Francisco, CA

RE: Do you actually understand the C... (in reply to roozbeh60

Are there any good sources for the letras in the classical cantes? Or, are they only acquired by careful and focused listening? Even though I speak Spanish, I still find it very difficult to make out even the Spanish lyrics let alone those in Calo. Since I speak both Spanish and English, a source in either language would be great.🤞
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 2 2020 21:12:20
 
kitarist

Posts: 952
Joined: Dec. 4 2012
 

RE: Do you actually understand the C... (in reply to otirroz

quote:

Are there any good sources for the letras in the classical cantes?


See all references here: http://www.foroflamenco.com/tm.asp?m=312777

I also just added a new post there (the thread linked above) pointing to some additional functionality on the tomaflamenco website.

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Konstantin
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 2 2020 22:38:07
 
otirroz

Posts: 19
Joined: Jan. 10 2016
From: Vina del Mar, Chile via San Francisco, CA

RE: Do you actually understand the C... (in reply to roozbeh60

👍Thanks kitarist,

I bookmarked them all and will check them out.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 3 2020 22:54:13
 
kitarist

Posts: 952
Joined: Dec. 4 2012
 

RE: Do you actually understand the C... (in reply to kitarist

quote:

On the other hand, I remember reading in a paper somewhere suggesting that a popular practice is to modularize the "story-telling" down to stanza level (3-4 liners) but without necessarily a logical connection between the stanzas. So if a song has 4-5 stanzas each of 3-4 liners, they may be some "random" string with each stanza a tribute (say) to a different singer telling part of some story, but no connection between them


I found where I read this (except, crucially, each stanza - i.e. copla - is a complete "story", just like Ricardo said):



Manuel, P. (2010). Composition, authorship, and ownership in flamenco, past and present. Ethnomusicology, 54(1), 106-135.

Google Scholar gives a link to a free copy here: https://academicworks.cuny.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1025&context=jj_pubs

The whole paper is very interesting.

Images are resized automatically to a maximum width of 800px

Attachment (1)

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Konstantin
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 6 2020 3:07:39
 
devilhand

 

Posts: 601
Joined: Oct. 15 2019
 

RE: Do you actually understand the C... (in reply to roozbeh60

In which way are flamenco cante lyrics written? In a poetic way such that the lyrics leave room for different interpretations? Or are the lyrics easy to read and understand?

I often visit this website to read different interpretations of songs written in a more sophisticated manner.

https://songmeanings.com/

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 6 2020 13:40:03
 
Deniz

Posts: 84
Joined: Feb. 16 2020
 

RE: Do you actually understand the C... (in reply to roozbeh60

quote:

I often visit this website to read different interpretations of songs written in a more sophisticated manner.

quote:

https://songmeanings.com/

Good one Although a bit too obvious this time..

I don't know much about cante and its letras yet, but my quick research found quite a few lines about it on Wikipedia:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sole%C3%A1#Lyrics

Yet I'm also curious to learn more about it from the more seasoned Flamencos!
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 6 2020 19:10:44
 
FredGuitarraOle

Posts: 885
Joined: Dec. 6 2012
From: Lisboa, Portugal

RE: Do you actually understand the C... (in reply to devilhand

quote:

In which way are flamenco cante lyrics written? In a poetic way such that the lyrics leave room for different interpretations? Or are the lyrics easy to read and understand?

Both. Here are two extreme examples:

Tengo una estera
donde yo duermo
mi borrachera

Fui piedra y perdí mi centro
y me arrojaron al mar
y a fuerza de mucho tiempo
mi centro vine a encontrar

The first is a simple and trivial remark, the second is a thought full of meaning and subject to various interpretations.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 6 2020 23:51:22
 
devilhand

 

Posts: 601
Joined: Oct. 15 2019
 

RE: Do you actually understand the C... (in reply to FredGuitarraOle

quote:

ORIGINAL: FredGuitarraOle

quote:

In which way are flamenco cante lyrics written? In a poetic way such that the lyrics leave room for different interpretations? Or are the lyrics easy to read and understand?

Both. Here are two extreme examples:

Tengo una estera
donde yo duermo
mi borrachera

Fui piedra y perdí mi centro
y me arrojaron al mar
y a fuerza de mucho tiempo
mi centro vine a encontrar

The first is a simple and trivial remark, the second is a thought full of meaning and subject to various interpretations.

Is that possible the 2nd example is not old school?

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 7 2020 0:16:31
 
FredGuitarraOle

Posts: 885
Joined: Dec. 6 2012
From: Lisboa, Portugal

RE: Do you actually understand the C... (in reply to devilhand

quote:

Is that possible the 2nd example is not old school?

What do you mean? I don't really understand where you're getting at. This letra is traditionally sung in a Soleá style created by La Serneta. I would say that this letra is probably from the later half of the 19th century. But I really don't know, it's just a guess.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 7 2020 0:30:05
 
devilhand

 

Posts: 601
Joined: Oct. 15 2019
 

RE: Do you actually understand the C... (in reply to FredGuitarraOle

quote:

What do you mean? I don't really understand where you're getting at.

What I mean is writing style of old school flamenco lyrics is primitive and can't be poetic. Poetic lyrics in flamenco cante may have started to evolve when gitanos performed in cafes de cante during the second half of the 19th century and started earning money as a professional. Just my opinion.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 7 2020 22:39:45
 
tf10music

 

Posts: 51
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RE: Do you actually understand the C... (in reply to devilhand

quote:

What I mean is writing style of old school flamenco lyrics is primitive and can't be poetic. Poetic lyrics in flamenco cante may have started to evolve when gitanos performed in cafes de cante during the second half of the 19th century and started earning money as a professional. Just my opinion.


This is utter nonsense.

There are plenty of flamenco letras that are adaptations of old romances from the 15th and 16th centuries -- songs which were composed originally as poems. And also the idea that the 'primitive' can't be poetic or that one must be performing for the 'discerning' white/payo gaze for pay in order for one's expression to be legible as poetry is frankly grotesque.

Moreover, it's possible to find many examples of letras that are poetic by any measure in Demófilo's anthology, which was collected over the course of many years before its publication in 1881. Many of the letras that he gathered were already quite old. As someone whose primary work ('career,' if you must) is in the writing of poetry and in literary translation, I've found the poetic merit of that work to be considerable enough that I've translated some of it and arranged it into a cento.

"Fui piedra," the 2nd letra that FredGuitarraOle provided, is quite an old letra, as it's attributed to La Serneta, who was born in 1837.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 7 2020 23:01:45
 
Richard Jernigan

Posts: 2902
Joined: Jan. 20 2004
From: Austin, Texas USA

RE: Do you actually understand the C... (in reply to tf10music

quote:

ORIGINAL: tf10music

quote:

What I mean is writing style of old school flamenco lyrics is primitive and can't be poetic. Poetic lyrics in flamenco cante may have started to evolve when gitanos performed in cafes de cante during the second half of the 19th century and started earning money as a professional. Just my opinion.


This is utter nonsense.



Yes, absolutely utter nonsense.

By the way Devilhand, how tall are you?

RNJ
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 9 2020 6:27:17
 
devilhand

 

Posts: 601
Joined: Oct. 15 2019
 

RE: Do you actually understand the C... (in reply to Richard Jernigan

quote:

By the way Devilhand, how tall are you?

I'm not as tall as you. I read you're a very tall man. Mr. Jernigan, how is the air up there?

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 9 2020 15:07:51
 
Richard Jernigan

Posts: 2902
Joined: Jan. 20 2004
From: Austin, Texas USA

RE: Do you actually understand the C... (in reply to devilhand

I asked your height because after agreeing that you had written nonsense, it occurred to me you might be just a child, and I was being too hard on you.

RNJ
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 9 2020 19:42:01
 
devilhand

 

Posts: 601
Joined: Oct. 15 2019
 

RE: Do you actually understand the C... (in reply to Richard Jernigan

quote:

I asked your height because after agreeing that you had written nonsense, it occurred to me you might be just a child, and I was being too hard on you.

Sorry. I misunderstood. I thought I had a fanboy asking about my height.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 9 2020 20:49:14
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