Flamenco music is very rich and vibrant. Its history is very interesting since it has evolved into an extremely vast and complete genre of music. Flamenco music started with the singing –cante in Spanish- and then other instruments were incorporated little by little.
The first instrument to accompany the flamenco singing was the guitar. Nowadays, it is still the most important instrument in this genre. The most characteristic thing about the Flamenco guitar is the Andalusian scale that includes the following chords: Am, G, F and E. The Spanish guitar has also developed and has been influenced by the classical and modern guitar. Today, the guitar plays a main role in Flamenco and has also become a soloist instrument.
The handclapping has always been an essential instrument that has accompanied the singing and the dancing. There are certain players who perform specifically with the handclapping and are called palmeros.
Cajón or Box
Another recent instrument that was introduced to Flamenco by Paco de Lucía in the 1970s is the cajón. It is a percussion instrument originally from Peru. It is a six-sided box made of wood with a hole in it. Percussionists sit on it and play it by slapping the front of its face with their fingers and hands. It is a very modern instrument in Flamenco and is being used more and more frequently.
There is another percussion instrument present in the Spanish Folklore: the castanets. They are really interesting since they are very old instruments that have formed part of many different cultures. Both the Greeks and the Egyptians used to play some kind of sticks that made a similar sound of the castanets to accompany the dancing. Little by little the shape of this instrument was improved and became what we know today.
They consist of a pair of concave shells, normally made of hard wood, that are tied together on one edge by a string. Although the most common and traditional material is wood, nowadays people use other materials such as pressed canvas or fiberglass to elaborate castanets.
In order to play them, the performer must wrap the string around its thumb and use the rest of the fingers to clap the shells and produce those particular and beautiful sounds.
Castanets were brought to Spain and are now one important element of Spanish Folklore. In Andalusia, castanets are known as palillos and they are played by singers and dancers, usually in Sevillanas and Fandangos.
The evolution of Flamenco music is quite fascinating. Flamenco becomes more and more worldwide known everyday and many new instruments and tendencies influence modern artists. Right now people can enjoy Flamenco shows that are complemented with metal or air instruments. So, the combination of these new tendencies and the most traditional elements of Flamenco results totally captivating.
You can be part of this amazing experience and know all the instruments that are played in Flamenco nowadays by going to a tablao enjoying a traditional show in Madrid. You’ll be surely delighted!