Spider styles

Gerald Howson’s The Flamencos of Cadiz Bay is a damn good book that stays well clear of the “Andalusia, soul of Spain” myth-making that poisoned much foreign writing from Washington Irving on. Catalonia was for a long time the home of Spanish bull-fighting and I reckon it also houses more of what I in my ignorance would regard as gypsies than Andalusia; it is in connection with the latter and their music that Howson says something very interesting:

Several of the Taranto songs [ie possibly songs originally devoted to curing tarantula bites] … change, at the end, into a solemn anapestic rhythm (di-di dum di-di dum), which is accentuated by cracking the nail of the forefinger against the front of the guitar above the bass-string. Efrén, showing it to me, said, ‘That’s how the Catalans do it!’ (He had learned to be a professional in a Barcelona club.) If I may make my little contribution to the general confusion I would suggest this rhythm comes from the Sardana, which changes into it during the second part. I see no reason why flamenco guitarists, working in Barcelona and hearing that rhythm day in and day out, should not have put it into a ‘toque’ they thought most suitable, such as the Tarantas which is in free time and therefore can accommodate anything.

This doesn’t click with me, but my last visit to a peña flamenca was highly instructive (as well as pretty bizarre) so I’ll ask next time round

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