Flamenco Glossary

Flamenco Glossary

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Flamenco Acorde – Chord

Aire – the atmosphere or the ambiance in a flamenco performance. Also, the term used for some guitarist’s rhythm playing quality, “si tiene aire” means that it “has the air”, and that it is light but still groovy

Alboreá – is a flamenco style typically sung during Gypsy weddings, with rhythm and guitar similar to the soleáres

Alegrías – originated in Cadiz with a rhythm similar to Soleares. This is an up-tempo style of flamenco with a lively rhythm and more energetic dance and guitar playing. The meaning of the word “alegrías” is “joy”, it is a joyful expression of flamenco. However, the dance arrangement for alegrías can be very strict in following traditional forms, with several different structured sections. Without the dance, alegrías is a more free form

A Palo Seco – a form of singing without harmonic instruments accompaniment, sometimes accompanied only by some simple percussion, mostly handclapping, or Palmas

Armonía – Harmony


Bailaora / Bailaor – dancer (female) / dancer (male)

Baile – dance

Braceo – Artistic arm movements of the flamenco dancer, “los brazos” means something like “arms”, abrazado means “embraced”

Bulerias – a flamenco style originating from Jerez. It is rhythmically similar to Alegrías and Soleares. It is the fastest and perhaps the most difficult style of flamenco, the whole flamenco performance includes fast guitar strumming, dancing with plenty of improvisation by everyone, singers, guitarists, and dancers. The upbeat tempo of Bulerias has proven to be quite a popular style, and it’s performed in many flamenco shows, most often as a finishing act of bigger performance.

Café Cantante – The original forms of the tablao flamenco, these venues were popular places to see live flamenco shows in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These venues also enjoyed a brief resurgence in the middle of the 20th century.

Cajón – this percussion instrument traces its origins back to Peru in the 1800s, but didn’t enter the flamenco music scene until the early 1980s.  Many remember thanks to guitarist Paco de Lucia, who introduced the cajón in one of his songs together with percussionist Ruben Dantas.  The cajón is played with the performer sitting atop the box, using their hands on the front of the box for rhythm and percussion.

Cantante – singer

Cantaor / Cantaora – Singer (male / female)

Cante – Singing, also used to describe the different styles of flamenco when used in a context such as cante chico, cante grande or jondo, and cante intermedio.

Cante Chico – One of the three main stylistic families of flamenco, Cante chico has a lighter and more upbeat mood.  Themes are often of love and happiness.  Forms include bulerías, alegrías, and flamenco tangos.

Cante Libre – A free form of flamenco music in which the vocal melody plays an important and unique element, while rhythm and meter seemingly do not appear. In fact, the singing has a defined harmonic rhythm, but in many cases these songs grew out of more traditional, rhythmic flamenco music, evolving into pure melodies.

Cante grande / Cante Jondo – One of the three main stylistic families of flamenco, Cante grande or cante jondo is darker in mood, with themes such as loss, anguish, despair, and death.  Forms include soleá, martinete (wooden sticks dance form, tonas, siguiriyas, and carceleras (“carcel” is a jail, so like “prisoners songs”)

Cante Intermedio –One of the three main stylistic families of flamenco, Cante intermedio is a looser family of styles, which encompásses all of the forms which do not fall under cante chico or cante grande.

Cantiñas – Cantiñas style of flamenco comes mainly from the province of Cadiz, while some forms of this style also originated in Seville.  With a similar upbeat tempo to Soleá, this form of singing was popularized with the rise of the singing coffees in the late 19th century into the early 20th century, and later became the origins of the modern tablao flamenco.

Carceleras – a form of flamenco song which originates from the jails in Andalucia, where the inmates would often sing about themes relevant to prison life.

Cartageneras – Cartageneras traces its origins to the Fandango style of flamenco.  The style developed from the typical songs of mineworkers in the area around Cartagena in the eastern province of Murcia where Fandango was already popular.

Castañetas / Castañuelas – castanets, a percussive instrument consisting of two wooden pieces held in one hand.  Used in traditional Spanish dance, the instrument has also at times been used in flamenco performances although castanets should not be considered as belonging to flamenco.

Colombianas – a form of flamenco song which has roots in Colombian folk music.

Compás – refers to the rhythmic pattern of a flamenco song.  Compás is one bar, or one single measure in music, but also a name for the type of a certain flamenco rhythm; in flamenco, this is often with hand-clapping, the strumming or tapping of the guitar as well as the cajón.

Copla – can be used to describe a verse of the song, also a style of music in Andalucia which is not strictly related to flamenco, called “La Copla Andaluza”

Duende – the inner spirit which guides a flamenco performer. A spiritual connection between the performer and the song – that is transmitted to the audience

Ensayo – rehearsal

Entrada – start or beginning of song.  (Also used for ticket)

Escenario – stage

Falda – skirt.

Falseta – melodic progression by a guitarist.

Fandango – the origins of Fandangos have long been under dispute: differing opinions trace the style to Andalucia, Aragon, or the Canary Islands, while some include West Indian, Latin American, and Moorish influences.  The style is also important in traditional Spanish and Portuguese dance and has been included in many classical compositions.  Over the years many sub-styles have developed. For example, there are fandangos typical of Huelva and Malaga (the latter style known as verdiales).  New versions have also emerged, such as Fandanguillos, or “little fandangos”, which are an upbeat style of fandango

Farruca – farruca likely has its origins in the northern province of Galicia where it developed from traditional Christmas songs known as Villancicos. This style of flamenco also carries influences of Celtic folk music, typical of the region of Galicia, while others have noted connections to Fado, a traditional form of Portuguese music and song.  Other similarities include the Zambra style of flamenco which is typical in Granada.  Both Farruca and Zambra share similar rhythms

Gitana / Gitano – Gypsy

Golpe – the tapping and hitting the guitar’s front board in many different ways, to create a different percussion type sounds, used to mark the binary or ternary rhythm in different ways

Guajira – Cuban influenced version of flamenco, the original guajira was brought back to Spain from the colonized countries in the 16th century. This upbeat style of flamenco requires a virtuoso solo guitarist

Guitarra – guitar



Jondo – deep form of singing

Juerga – party or fiesta

Jaleo – Really means: “background noise made by people”, but in Flamenco is different shouting,  and expressions of encouragement to continue the performance, like Venga…! Vamos…! Ahhi va…! Vaya…! Hóle…! et.c…


Letra – lyrics of a song

Malagueñas – the Malagueñas style traces its origins to a local variation of fandango in the province of Malaga.  In the mid to late 19th century these more traditional folk songs began to blend with flamenco.  Creating the style known as Malagueña.  Over time additions such as brief guitar solos and a loosening of the typical rhythmic pattern became an integral part of this style of flamenco.

Manton – embroidered shawl with tasseled edges, at times used in flamenco dance.

Martinetes – belong to the tonas / cantes a palo seco family.  These are a capella songs accompanied by simple percussion, often times with the hammer and anvil, a connection to the gypsy working class roots of this style.  Martinetes differ from other types of tonas flamenco in melody.

Mineras – a type of flamenco song which originated from mine workers in the area around Levante.

New Flamenco Fusion – during the mid 1970s new forms of flamenco began to arise.  First was a natural, purer evolution under Paco de Lucia and Camaron de la Isla.  While foreign influences styles began to influence the music, during this time flamenco still remained close to its roots.  Further innovations often came from modern music styles that were blended, creating fusion – a stronger mix of flamenco with jazz, latino, world music and rock.  Very talented international artists adopted parts of flamenco styles, while others used their native musical heritage to create new flamenco.

Olé –  word of encouragement often shouted by the audience or other performers.  Common expression in the jaleo of a performance.

Palmas – hand clapping, rhythm in flamenco music.

Palos – used to describe the different types or styles of flamenco.  These styles of flamenco are referred to as “flamenco palos”.  Each style has it’s differences, which are based on regional and cultural influences, the compás or rythym pattern, as well as the mood.  There are three basic palos:  Cante Chico (“small song”, which is lighter and more upbeat in mood), Cante Grande or Cante Jondo (“big song” or “deep song”, which is more melancholy)  and Cante Intermedio, which basically holds the remaining styles of flamenco which do not fit into the first two categories.

Paso – Individual movement of a dance.  Together the pasos form the choreography of the dance.

Peña – flamenco cultural association or fan club where flamenco is often performed.

Peteneras  – The origins of Peteneras are under dispute, with many tracing it to the province of Cadiz as a form which evolved from the traditional Spanish dance known as zarabanda.  Others have noted similarities to the songs performed by Sephardic Jews of Andalucia.

Pitos – snapping of the fingers

Polo (flamenco palo) – a flamenco form; there is only one known song which is classified as a polo.  Similar in rhythm to soleá, it is often considered as an evolution of the flamenco form known as caña.

Quiero (te) – I love you


Rasgueo, Rasqueado – strumming repetitive circular motion technique of the right hand

Sacromonte – neighborhood or barrio in Granada which is also famous for music performances in gypsy caves…

Saeta – Saetas are traditional Spanish Catholic songs that are most often sung during Holy Week (Semana Santa) in the form of an acapella / serenade to the image of the Virgin Mary or Jesus.  The passionate singing perhaps includes influences from Arabic and Hebraic styles, with some drawing comparisons to the singing of the traditional call to prayer in the Muslim world. The saeta is a passionate show of religious devotion.

Sevillanas – Sevillanas derived from traditional Spanish folk songs and dance and evolved in the south of Spain over the years.  The music and dance are extremely popular in Sevilla during the Feria de Abril (April Fair), as well as enjoyed in much of Andalucia during the various annual fairs.  The style is more festive, upbeat and positive and thus is popular for regional fairs where a celebratory atmosphere is a top priority

Siguiriyas – Is one of the most important styles of flamenco music.  Belonging to the cante jondo family, this is a deep and solemn type of song.  Siguiriyas, together with Soleá, are two of the most important forms today.  Many of the most traditional and popular songs come from these two styles families

Soleá – (Soleares plural) originates from southern Andalucia and is a popular style which demands a gifted singer accompanied by one guitar player.  Lyrics are of personal anguish and passion which the singer transmits through melody and an interchanging of strong and lilting vocals, best accompanied by a solemn face.  Soleá has several sub-styles linked to different towns and cities, which are classified as “Soleares de…” Triana (Seville), Cadiz, and Jerez, as well as Utrera, Alcalá, and Lebrija (province of Seville).  All have different regional variations

Soniquete – Spirit, or talent of an artist

Tablao – a modern-day version of the singing coffees, a venue dedicated to live shows

Tacon – the heel of the shoe

Taconeo – fast, rhythmic footwork of the dancer./  This can reach amazing speeds and when done well is the mark of an excellent dancer…

Tocaor / Tocaora  (Toca(d)or / Toca(d)ora) – guitar player (male / female)

Toque – the act of guitar playing

Tonás – Tonas is considered to be one of the oldest forms of songs.  This a cappella (voice only) style was revived in the 50s and remains a popular form today

Traje – dress, as in “traje flamenco”


Verdiales – Verdiales are a version of fandangos.  The musical style that comes from Almogia, a village close to the city of Malaga

Villancicos – Spanish Christmas carols with what seem like hints of flamenco.  However, the music and singing have their origins in Spanish folk music




Zapato – shoe

Zapateado – a style of the traditional dance of Andalusian origins. It is in 6/8 rhythm, marked with two ternary beats, with the second being accented. It is named by the shoes (Zapatos), and it has rhythmical patterns that include various Tacon (high heel) playing techniques (Taconeo)…