Fandangos is the name given to a broad array of flamenco forms which, taken together, seem to have little in common. Part of the confusion stems from the fact that the term Fandangos is used across the Spanish-speaking world to refer to a wide range of songs, dances, and parties. It's even a brand of mezcal.
As we explore Fandangos on this page and on our other pages devoted to the Fandango, Fandangos Arrítmicos and Fandangos de Huelva, we see that all these forms are related to the Verdiales traditional folk song and dance from the mountains near Málaga.
As the Verdiales became part of flamenco, new forms developed, some slower, some faster, some with altered harmonies or new melodies, some focusing on vocal or guitar virtuosity, but all of them connecting back to the source.
As we can see through some of the examples provided below, this process is still going on. Innovative artists are creating new versions of these ancient forms while the old forms continue to flourish.
Here, we focus on Fandangos associated with Málaga and the surrounding area. Founded by the Phonecians around 770 BC, Málaga sits between the Mediterranean and the mountains. It is home to a broad range of Fandangos, including some of the oldest known flamenco forms in existence.
We look at five essential fandango forms from this region:
Verdiales is a regional dance and song from the mountains near Málaga that, like Sevillanas, has been folded into the flamenco repertoire. Like Seviillanas, it is associated with an annual festival. In this case, it is the festival Fiesta Major de Verdiales, traditionally celebrated on the feast day of the Santos Innocentes, December 28th. The term Verdiales refers to the green olives that are grown in the region.
This lively dance and song has a three count pattern in which the second beat is accented more strongly than the first.
The samples in this video, recorded at the Verdiales festival in Málaga in 2008, will give you the feeling for this underlying pulse.
It may take your ear a moment to accept that the accented beat is the second beat, but count along, saying one - TWO - three, and you'll get the feel of the rhythm. It helps to watch the guitarists' right hands, where you'll see them perform full rasgueado on beats two and three.
One instantly recognizable feature of the Verdiales that carries over into related forms is the descending G-F#-F-E cadence used to start a song or to tie off a phrase.
You can hear two versions of this pattern in the introduction to this sample Verdiales, which also ends with this pattern.
This cadence is a variation of the Andalusian cadence (Am-G-F-E). For many listeners, this cadence is the defining characteristic of flamenco music. In Verdiales, the introduction and interludes between verses that use this Andalusian harmony, while the verses themselves are generally performed in a major key. As you can see in the chords for this sample, which are shown below, the characteristic cadence ties the two contrasting modes together.
De los montes de Algarrobo
Yo vendo la malagueta
De los montes de Algarrobo
Vendo helado a la fiesta
Y cantando coplas que adoro
Mi alma no esta en la caleta
From the mountains of Algarrobo
I sell on La Malagueta
From the mountains of Algarrobo
I sell ices at the fiesta
And sing verses that I adore
My love is not at La Caleta
Algarrobo: A village near Málaga
La Malagueta, La Caleta: Beaches in Malága
For more information . . . Here is a website (in Spanish) dedicated to the Verdiales.
Whereas the verdiales is a lively folk dance associated with violins and tambourines, the abandolao is traditonally a slower song accompanied on the guitar. In fact, abandolao means "to the guitar," bandola being a regional synonym for 'guitar." The form is also known as Fandango Abandolao.
The Abandolao is essentially a slow Verdiales, the underlying compás a three count pattern in which the second beat is accented and the first beat is silent or accented softly with the foot.
In this first example, we hear Rocio Marquez singing a Malagueña and an abandoloas by Juan Breva (Antonio Ortega Escalona, the singer most closely associated with the music of Málaga.) The Abandolao starts around 3:04.
In the second sample we hear Bonela Hijo, a contemporary singer from Málaga perform an abandolao with the energy and drive of a bulerías.
As with the verdiales, the introduction and interludes in the abandolao are in a phrygian mode ending with the characteristic G-F#-F-E cadence. The verses are in the major mode.
Jaberas are a variation on the essential verdiales form, providing singers with an opportunity to display their skill as they stretch out the last syllable of each line in a virtuosic display of melismatic decoration. The name "Jaberas" refers to a bean seller from the 1840's credited with creating this form. ("Jabas" is a regional variation on the Spanish word for beans, habas.)
The Jaberas has the same three-count compás as the verdiales.
Musically, Jaberas is the same as the Verdiales or the Abandolao. The only important difference is that a Jaberas tends to have four lines, whereas the Verdiales and Abandolao have five or six.
In the sample provided here, Paco de Lucía accompanies the flamenco singer Fosforito. As you can hear, the singer begins his virtuoso display with a florid extension of the last syllable of the second line.
Malagueñas are the one flamenco form that everyone in the world thinks they know. However, the piece that everyone thinks of as the Malagueñas is the sixth movement of the Suite Andalucía by Cuban pianist and composer, Ernesto Lecuona (1895-1963) - Lecuona's Malagueñas.
In contrast to Lecuona's driving rhythms, The flamenco Malagueña is a slow, unmeasured Fandango for voice and guitar. Whereas the forms described above all have a steady, 3-beat pulse, the singer carries the Malagueñas from tonal center to tonal center, as they extend each melodic idea in expressive display. As the singer approaches the new tonal area, the guitar is there to meet him/her. This is beautifully illustrated in this performance by Aroa Cala with guitarist Juan Moreno.
As with the forms described above, the introduction and interludes between the verses of the Malagueñas are in the phrygian mode, while the verses themselves are in the major mode.
In this example, after an introduction in the phrygian mode on the guitar, Aroa sings a salida (entrance) in the same mode, which Juan answers, still in the phrygian mode.
The singer re-enters singing the six-line verse. The guitar meets her at each change in the harmony with a highly-decorated statement of the underlying harmony. Line by line, the chord changes are essentially the same as those of the Verdiales.
1st line: G (or G7) moves to C
2nd line: C (C7) moves to F
3rd line: G (G7) moves to C
4th line: C moves to G7
5th line: G7 moves to C
6th line: C goes to F which resolves to E and returns to the Phrygian mode.
The characteristic manner in which the guitarist establishes each of these new harmonies, and the manner in which he anticipates and supports the singer's arrival at the new harmony, is the essence of the accompanist's art.
Solo Guitar Malagueñas
Although Malagueñas is essentially a vocal piece, we've included a rare solo guitar Malagueñas by Curro de Maria.
There are two types of Rondeñas: the song, which is a Fandango associated with the city of Ronda, and the solo guitar form, created by Ramón Montoya.
The rondeñas song has the same 3-count compás as the other rhythmic forms based on the Verdiales.
The solo guitar piece is a toque libre with no fixed rhythmic pulse.
The primary feature that distinguishes the Rondeñas from other Fandango forms is the melody. As with other Verdiales-based forms, the guitar introduction and interludes are in the phrygian mode, while the lines of verses themselves are in the major mode.
In this sample Rondeñas, Gloria de Málaga sings a Rondeña that is easy to compare to the other Fandango forms described above.
Solo Guitar Rondeñas
As mentioned above, Ramón Montoya created a solo guitar version style called the Rondeña that is distinguished by a special tuning, and that doesn't seem to have anything in common with the traditonal Fandangos based on Verdiales.
The tuning for the Rondeñas is D-A-D-F#-B-E (6th to 1st strings). We don't know how Montoya arrived at this tuning. Dropping the 6th string to D isn't unusual, and dropping the 3rd string to F# imitates lute tuning, but there's no reason to think that Montoya chose this tuning for any reason other than the new harmonic possibilities it offers.
We've attached a a video of Manolo Sanlucar playing his Rondeña in tribute to Montoya.
We've also attached a lesson from a wonderful flamenco teacher in Toronto, Ruben Diaz, who describes the tuning and harmony to teach part of a Rondeña by Paco de Lucía.
The underlying harmony for the solo Rondeña is the descending Andalusian cadence. In this case, the cadence is transposed from the usual Am-G-F-E to F#m-E-D-C#. As you can hear in both examples, this tuning allows for some unique chord voicings.