Flamenco rhythms are very unusual - and consequently quite difficult to understand and to learn. The musical chord progressions and melodies are different from usual Western music, and are more reminiscent of Arabic tones - which is hardly surprising as the Moors occupied Southern Spain for many centuries.
Much of the music is in flamenco 12-beat rhythm, which is constantly changing from groups of 3 beats to groups of 2 beats and back again. Added to this, flamenco performers love to stamp or clap on the offbeat, which gives flamenco its unique jazzy and exciting feel. Be careful or the rhythms will hook you and you will hear them day and night!
But the most exciting thing about flamenco is the raw passion. All human emotion is expressed in the dance, from love to hatred, from joy to sorrow, from anger to despair. This emotional passion is called "Duende!"
So what IS flamenco?
Flamenco is a traditional gypsy dance from Andalucia in Southern Spain.
It is well-known for its passion, its strong, rhythmical and percussive footwork, and expressive wrist and arm movements. Dark-haired ladies look proud and beautiful in long, frilled dresses and hooped ear-rings, while the men strut and smoulder in suits with jackets or waistcoats!
If you have been on holiday in Southern Spain you may well have seen Flamenco performed in a "tablao", with dancers and musicians consisting of guitarists, singers, and players of percussion such as the "cajon" (literally a box which the cajonista sits on and plays like a drum) and "palmas" (rhythmical hand-clapping).
The rhythms of Flamenco vary from slow and soulful to fast and vibrant. But they are always exciting, hot and passionate, jazzy and syncopated, leaving you foot-tapping and shouting jaleos - Ole! Bravo! Guapa! Eso es! Jale!