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Siguiriyas is a style in flamenco that is distinctive for its rhythmic compás and for the depth of expression one feels with it. Adjectives such as tragic and desolate are often used to describe the siguiriya; the words of the cante often deal with death and persecution. Donn Pohren, in his The Art of Flamenco, puts it very well: ‘…the siguiriyas are completely out of place in commercial surroundings (like the Lord’s Prayer in the local gin mill).’

Spanish and Latin American music often uses a rhythmic pattern which is know as the Spanish hemiola because the rhythm of the bars alternate between the time signatures of three-four and six-eight. Siguiryas uses that alternation, but the pattern starts mid-bar.

There are various systems used for counting. One system is to count it with its five accents thus: 1 & 2 & 3 & a 4 & a 5 &.

Another system of counting, recommended by Donn Pohren, which gives you the same result of course, is to count in the traditional 12-beat cycle, with accents as follows:

9  10  11  12  1  2  3  4  5  6  7.

Alain Faucher has just published a book with 100 Siguiriya falsetas transcribed for the guitar, as part of his Calle de Flamenco series (Editions Affedis). 

Siguiriyasaffedis

These siguiriya falsetas are taken from recordings by Paco de Lucía with Camaron de la Isla, Vicente Amigo with El Pelé, Enrique de Melchor with José Mercé, Moraíto with with Carmen Linares,…the list is long and impressive.

The flamencologist Manuel Ríos Ruiz says that La Serrana was the first to record a siguiriya, singing the siguiriya of her father Paco de la Luz:

Yo le pío a Dios

que tú me miras

con los mismos ojillos

que te miro yo.

Watch some of flamenco’s finest performers, the dancers Antonio Gades and Cristina Hoyos dance a siguiriya with El Lebrijano singing and Emilio de Diego accompanying on the guitar. The film clip dates from 1970 and  has Cristina Hoyos dancing in a white bata de cola (flamenco dress with a frilled train) and playing the castanets.

© 2010 Thérèse Wassily Saba

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