Flamenco, one and one hundred thousand styles
As the means of expression of the Gitano nomads, flamenco collected rythms from multiple cultures with whom the gipsies established contact during their migration through the Middle East and the Mediterranean, up to the Andalusian mountains.
The epic history of this artistic movement led to the formation of a very wide variety of styles, called palos, each one expressing different facets of the human soul. The palos groups range from cante jondo, or deep singing, expressing tragedy and sufferance, to cante chico, small singing, expressing joy, feast and jest.
Among the most representative flamenco palos there are indeed, on the one hand, soleá, on the other, bulería. Soleá, whose name derives from solitude, means an intimate and severe style, built on a rythmic pattern of twelve beats. Bulería means feast and joke, it expresses joy with a quick pace and inciting voices.
Finally there is the interesting history of the palos de ida y vuelta, meaning those styles that travelled to the New World and came back, acquiring South American melodies and creating palos like milongas, guajiras, colombianas and rumbas. Even the cajón, the most typical instrument of the new flamenco, comes from South America, namely from Peru, and has become the distinguishing feature of the new styles.
Telling the various flamenco styles one from the other is not easy for unexperienced ears. Generally, the distinction is based on rythmical patterns, in 12, 4 or 3 beats, on the musical instruments used or on the topics and compositions of the stanzas. Not all palos are accompanied by instruments or dance, as in the case of palos secos, performed by singers with no instruments.