Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Spanish Lesson/Adventures in Rhythm: Rasguenda las Cuerdas

In an attempt to improve my Spanish I started listening to a lot of flamenco. This turned out to be not very productive: Flamenco is usually sung in a gypsy argot with an intense Andalusian accent, where the S's are dropped and the vowel at the end of a word always sounds like 'oowwww'. It's like trying to learn English by listening to delta blues.

Anyway this clip features some great flamenco singing, dancing and guitar playing (I think it's a tangos) in a festive setting—although in Arabic instead of Spanish. But it's also notable for a couple of cross-cultural connections. The melody here comes from an old Spanish/Moorish song (there's some debate about this), of which there are versions in Spanish and Arabic. Part of it was used by the Gipsy Kings in their more famous song, 'Viento del Arena.' (The Gipsy Kings are in fact Spanish gypsies, but from families that were displaced to southern France during the Spanish Civil War.)

The beautiful young woman who sings and dances here is Lole Montoya, later the singer for Lole y Manuel, the duet that inaugurated the flamenco nuevo movement of the 1970s. Quentin Tarantino used one of their songs, 'Tu Mira,' in his more famous Kill Bill 2.

(By the way, if anyone knows more about the song behind this and 'Viento del Arena,' please tell me. I know nothing. Also, there's definitely some Michael Jackson stuff going on in her dancing.)

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