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About Fandangos

Fandangos is a tree with roots that reach across Andalucía and branches that keep growing. The form emerged as a popular song and dance in the late 18th Century in the port city of Cádiz from songs and dances brought to Spain from the Americas. The Fandango of today is an aflamencada gathering of those disparate roots.

Fandango Andaluz is a broad term that refers to all the forms of Fandangos found across southern Spain. Within this broad category, there are essentially two types of Fandangos, each defined by its source and underlying rhythm:

Fandangos Comarcales: Regional or local versions of the basic rhythmic Fandango song and dance.

Fandangos Naturales: Arhythmic, expressive re-workings of the essential Fandango form into highly personalized, cante jondo songs. Each of these forms are associated with the particular cantaor/a who created them. These songs are also know as Fandangos Personales, Arítmicos, Grandes or Artisiticos.

There are also hybrid forms such as the Fandangos por soleares or Fandangos por bulerías, but these are more reflective of the essential flexibility of flamenco music than of new forms in themselves.

Here, we look at Fandangos de Huelva, the prime example of a Fandangos Comarcales, and at Fandangos Naturales.

Fandangos de Huelva

Fandangos Naturales

For more information about Fandangos from Eastern Andalucía, go to About Fandangos de Málaga or About Cantes de Levante.

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About Fandangos de Huelva
The city of Huelva on the coast of Spain between Portugal and Cádiz is closely identified with the Fandangos. There are 32 types of Fandangos de Huelva, each associated with a different part of the city, the nearby mountains or coast, or with individual artists. The underlying form for all these Fandangos is the same, and the variations are in the melodies, lyrics, and the supporting harmony. The most frequently performed version of the Fandangos de Huelva is the Fandangos de Alosno, named for a village north of Huelva.

The most common setting for Fandangos de Huelva is a group of friends gathered around a table after a meal or drinks. The guitarist provides constant accompaniment while individual singers provide letras or the group sings in chorus.

The dance is popular during the annual pilgrimage to Rocio – the Romería del Rocio.  Participants in this event dress in traditional costume and travel on foot, by car or in brightly decorated horse- or ox-drawn wagons.  All converge in the city of Rocio to participate in a weekend of religious ritual and fun.

Today, the dances and songs are also popular in Spanish dance companies and in smaller flamenco performances, and are mostly accompanied by the guitar, cante, and castanets.


Compás

The compás for the Fandangos de Huelva is a six count pattern with accents on the third and fifth beats:

1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6


Form

The underlying form of Fandangos de Huelva is the underlying form for all Fandangos Comarcales.

There are two parts to a Fandangos de Huelva, including the estribillo, a rhythmic chordal refrain played on the guitar with or without singing, and the coplas. These two parts alternate, similar to the chorus and verse in a folk song:

Sample Estribillo

The copla consists of five eight syllable lines. One line of the verse is usually repeated, making a six line verse. (See Sample Cante below for an example.)

Some artists have modified this form slightly. For example, cantaor Paco Toronjo, a singer closely associated with Fandangos, would often begin a Fandangos by singing por Siguiriyas.


For Dancers

Each copla (verse) of the Fandangos de Huelva contains six sets of twelve counts, and dancers usually perform several verses of the song, or trade off performing a verse with another dancer.

In a performance, the guitarist plays two or four sets of estribillos before each copla. The singer may also sing the estribillo before the first copla.

When performed in the traditional, regional style, steps are characterized by beautiful leg gestures, flicks of the feet, jota steps and jumps, escuela bolera steps and patterns, a small amount of taconeo/zapateado, castanets, and a distinctive arched line in the back of the dancer – torcido – which produces a spiraling effect.

The dance is also often performed aflamencada, in a flamenco style that includes footwork, flamenco marking steps and cues, and llamadas and remates that are similar to those found in Bulerías.

The typical scenario for a traditional Fandangos de Huelva dance (performed by soloists or in groups) is as follows:

Entrance/entrada

Danced to a musical (with or without cante) estribillo

1st copla Each verse contains six sets of twelve count phrases, performed with or without castanets, and includes traditional regional or flamenco steps and phrases
Estribillo transition Two to four sets of twelve count phrases are performed to the estribillo music, acting as transitions between the coplas (verses). These transitions allow dancers to enter or exit the stage.
Arrimaté

A traditional cierre (closing/ending) for cante and baile por Fandangos de Huelva


For Guitarists
Fandangos de Huelva is a fairly easy song for guitarists to learn. Accompanying the Fandangos is largely a matter of knowing which section is being sung - the estribillo, copla, or arrimaté - and knowing the basic chords for each section.

Estribillo

The basic estribillo without a singer is always the same.

E
Am G F E E
1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6

Naturally, if there is a singer, the guitarist would provide the harmonic accompaniment for the lines being sung.

The chords for the estribillo in our sample Fandango below are as follows:

E
Am D7/F# G7
1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6
C7
F F E
1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6

Copla

The basic chords for the copla are also fairly simple and the strum pattern remains the same. Here are the chords used in our sample:

E
G7 C/G
1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6
C/G F
1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6
F C/G
1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6
C/G G7
1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6
G7 C/G
1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6
C7 F E
1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6

Arrimaté

The chords for the arrimaté are a variation on the traditional estribillo:

E
Am G F E
1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6
E
Am G F E
1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6
E C G
1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6
G FF E
1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6
E C G
1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6
G FF E
1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6

You can hear all three parts put together in the sample cante below.


Sample Cante The Fandangos de Huelva are usually sung aflamencada, or in the flamenco style. For the singer, the rhythm has a definite 3/4 feel, but with accents on 3 and 5, and with count 6 held at the end of the 2nd set of 6 counts (see the rhythmic example and description in the Compás sample above).

Letras for Fandangos de Huelva have to do with the annual pilgrimmage to Rocio and the April and May fairs, both events held in Spain after Semana Santa. Many letras have religious significance, including the estribillo example below, which alludes to the statue of the Virgin Mary carried to the same religious site every year. When esconsed at the site, the statue becomes a sanctuary for her and for all those who travel there.

Our Fandangos sample includes three parts: a sung estribillo, a copla, and an arrimaté:

Estribillo

Vamos andando, de Rociera
Entre pinares, por las arenas
Yase divisa, tras de la loma
La Hermita Blanca, de la Paloma.

Let's go walking, dressed for Rociera
Between the pine trees, to the plaza,

With money in our pockets, and in our costumes,

To the Palace of the White Dove.

Copla

Por ti...
A una flor en la marisma
Yo le pregunte por ti

Le dije que si me amaba
Y me contesto que si
La picara me engañaba.

For you . . .
Of a
flower in the marsh

I asked if it loved me
It said yes, but it deceived me.

Arrimaté

Arrimate, Ay, Gitana mía,
que yo no puedo
Vivir sin ti-i
Vivir sin ti,
Ay no puedo más
Ay-yy! Gitana Mía
me vas a matar.
Come close Gypsy girl
I can't live without you
I can't live without you any more
Ah, Gypsy girl, you're going to kill me.

Video Samples

Al Baile

Al Toque

Al Cante

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About Fandangos Naturales

Fandangos Naturales can be thought of as arhythmic Fandangos. While the estribillo on the guitar may retain a basic sense of rhythm, the verses are sung as cantes libres, the guitar simply supporting the changes in harmony as it does for the Tarantas or Grana'inas. Guitarist Niño Ricardo reshaped the guitar part of the Fandangos Naturales to fit the rhythm of a Soleares, while retaining the libre feel of the cante.

Where Fandangos de Huelva is a light hearted, social form of musical expression, Fandangos Naturales or Fandangos Grandes are a deeply personal, cante jondo form. We've selected samples from two of our favorite singers to give you an idea of this form.


Video Samples

Jose Merce and Moraíto

Aroa Cala and Juan Morerno