Thursday, 30 September 2010

Part 1: History of Flamenco

Origins of Flamenco
Flamenco is part of the culture of Spain, but it's origins is only select to one region, Andalusia. The cities in Andalucia are Sevilla, Granada, Cordoba,Jerez, and Malaga,and reflect the great Moorish influence,since historically Moors ruled from the 7th to 11th century. What makes flamenco interesting is the influence of other dance forms that have helped to create it. The earliest settlers in Andalusia came not only from the Middle East,North Africa and Persia,but from the Punjab region of India,Rajasthan. We call them the gypsies. Flamenco is an amalgamation of all cultures. It has drawn its inspiration from Greek, Roman, Indian, Moorish and Jewish cultures.

Flamenco was born from the frustration and heart aches of the oppressed peple in Spain: the Jews, gypsies,and Moors. Since the time of the Spanish Iniquisition, the Jews,  Moors and Gypsies were treated as outsiders, often persecuted disdained and hated by the Spanish people.  Flamenco was born from this, as a spirtual outlet very much like gospel was born from the opression of the  American slaves.Often whole families would gather impromptu in their neighborhoods to sing,dance and entertain for their community.It was not until later that flamenco became an accepted artform. It took a long time for flamenco to become accepted as an artform in Spain. It was not until non-gyspies performed it in cafes and theaters that it became popular. It has been since,commercialized and now has many schools that train to dancers to be full fledged flamenco dancers, combining thier training with ballet.

Flamenco and Gypsies
Until the late eighteenth and nineteenth century, Flamenco dance, music and song was widely considered to belong to the Gypsies, whose customs, beliefs and way of life were disdained and even hated by Spanish society. During and for centuries after the famous expulsion of the Moors and Jews in 1492, the Gypsies were tortured, persecuted and even killed if they would not conform to the accepted standard of Spanish society. Nomadic by nature, many of the Gypsies never settled in one town for very long; they would stay in one location only as long as they were able to make money doing odd jobs, selling their wares, and many of them performing Flamenco for the curious Spaniards.

Expulsion of the Gypsies in Spain
Famenco, a tri-art:
The traditional view is that flamenco was originally unaccompanied singing (cante). Later, the songs were accompanied by flamenco guitar (toque), rhythmic hand clapping (palmas), rhythmic feet stomping (zapateado) and dance (baile). Other scholars maintain that while some cante forms are unaccompanied (a palo seco), it is likely other forms were accompanied if and when instruments were available. 19th century writer Estébanez Calderón described a flamenco fiesta in which the singing was accompanied not only by guitars, but also bandurria and tambourine.

Flamenco Dance Categories
Flamenco dance has many as 50 different dimensions, each projecting the different moods of a person. The mood reflects the nature of the dance and sets the melodic parameters and the cultural backdrop for it. The three main categories of Flamenco music and dance are: Jondo or the grande, which depicts the lament and the grief of the people. It centers on themes of death, anguish, despair or religious sentiment. Intermedio (intermediate), which is of a lesser intensity, but is reflective in nature. It is often accompanied with an oriental cast to the music. Chico (small or light), which depict the feelings of love, ribald humor and happiness.

Flamenco Today
Today flamenco is being performed by gypsies as well as non-gypsies, far away from its birthplace, and achieved acclaims globally. There is a man that has a flamenco dance troup.In modern  Spain, flamenco is fully a part of Spanish culture and echoes of Spanish flamenco have colored main stream pop. Many Spanish pop singers have that ache and heartbreak in their voice reminiscent of Spanish Flamenco singers. It is evident in the singing style of many pop singers, like Estopa, Rosario, Azucar Moreno, and Chambao to name a few.Flamenco is quiet evident and weddings and parties and social events. An American man forms a Flamenco dance troupe.

Spanish poet Fredererico Garcia Lorca said of Flamenco.
"Flamenco is deeper than all the wells and all the seas that surround the world, deeper than the hearts that create it, or the voices that sing it, almost infinite. It crosses the graveyard of time and the fronds of parched winds. It comes from the first sob and the first kiss."

A trip to Spain, would not be complete without going to a restaurant or café and experiencing the drama and passion of an authentic Flamenco performance.

Stay Tuned to Flamenco:Part 2

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Sunday, 8 August 2010

Part 1: Learn Spanish with through Shakira's songs

Shakira, the Colombian chanteuse became the world's biggest Latin crossover artist with her hit album Laundry Service in 2001. Born to parents of Colombian and Lebanese decent, Shakira Mebarak discovered her love of singing and at very young age. The rest is history.

She's an excellent song writer and lyricist.  Through out the years she's evolved from Rocker, Belly Dancer, and now she's in her more diva  phase with songslike Gypsy and She Wolf. I personally love her original raspy voice. She sang the songtrack for the movie, " Love in the Time of Cholera". The haunting lyrics of Hay Amores and Despedida. Here are a few songs to see for yourself.

Donde Esta Corazon

Wherever, Whenever

Ojos Asi

Ciego Sordo Muda

I find  listening to Spanish music an excellent way to learn Spanish. It's great to hear the song first in Spanish, and then read the lyrics once in Spanish. Next, study the lyrics in English, then, listen to the song again,
and see if you don't have a better understanding. Here are some song lyrics below with the Spanish lyrics, and then the English Translation below.

Estoy Aqui
Donde Estas Corazon
Ciego Sordo Mudo
Ojos Asi
Si Te Vas

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Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Sister Acts from Spain

There have been a lot of sister acts from Spain, here are two of them, Azucar Moreno and Las Ketchup. Las Ketchup are more recent  all Girl Pop group and the song that made them famous is called, "Asejere" or known as  "The Ketchup" song.

The  Azucar Moreno sisters have been around since the Nineties. I remember buying their music in the 90's,you might be familiar yourself with the popular hit "Solo se Vive Una Vez" and "Mambo"Mambo.There quite gorgeous and I love their sultry music.

Azucar Moreno- Mambo

Azúcar Moreno (Spanish for “brown sugar”) is the name of a famous music duo from Spain. Composed by sisters Toñi and Encarna Salazar, the singing duo comes from Extremadura. They are part of a large family of performers: .

Azucar Moreno became famous all over Spain, the rest of Europe and Latin America, after singing their song "Bandido" at the Eurovision Song Contest 1990.  Like David Bustamante in my previous blog, they also sing a beautiful rendition of a classic Spanish love song, "Hoy Tengo Ganas De Ti" and a version of the Gloria Gaynor classic, I Will Survive, in Spanish, it's called, "Sobrevivire".

Azucar Moreno- Bandido

Azucar Moreno- Besame

Las Ketchup is a 4-girl group (previously consisting of three sisters), whose members are Lola, Pilar, Lucía and Rocio Muñoz from Córdoba in Andalucia, Spain. They are the daughters of Juan Muñoz, a flamenco guitarist known as El Tomate (The Tomato).

Prior to Rocio’s addition to the group in 2006, the other three girls had success with their worldwide hit “Aserejé”, also known as The Ketchup Song in 2002. It reached or almost reached the top of the charts in many countries including Spain, UK, Italy, Greece, France, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Romania, Argentina, Poland, Venezuela, Mexico, Peru, India, Australia and Puerto Rico. However, it failed to chart on the U.S. Billboard.

Their first single as a 4-girl group was "Bloody Mary" (like the name of the CD) was the Spanish entry in the Eurovision Song Contest 2006. The song did not perform as well as expected, ending 21st with only 18 points.

Las Ketchup-Asereje

Las Ketchup- Kusha La Paya

Las Ketchup- Asejere
Las Ketchup- Kusha La Paya
Azucar Moreno- Besame
Azucar Moreno-Hoy Tengo Ganas De Ti

Lánzame los Trastos, Baby (Album Version)

Originales: 20 Exitos

Listening to  music, is the best way in my book, to learn languages.The more you learn Spanish, the more you can enjoy the music, and the more you learn about Spanish music, the more you can enjoy Spanish.
Spanish music has a great heritage and in the future, I will be writing more about different genres: Flamenco, Rumba, Tango, Salsa, Merengue, Cumbia,and Bachata.

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Thursday, 1 July 2010

Some Hip Spanish Pop Artists

There is more to Popular Spanish music than just Ricky Martin, Shakira and Julio Iglesias.Here is a list of some music I just discovered recently.Most of the artist I have selected have reached the top in Spanish music Charts for 2010.

Estopa is a pop/flamenco duo founded in 1999 by brothers José and David Muñoz of Cornellà de Llobregat (Baix Llobregat), Catalonia. Their first album, Estopa, has sold well over 1,000,000 copies to date (the equivalent of an American platinum album) and their latest, Voces de Ultrarumba, sold more than 200,000 copies on its first day of release. Their playful, Rumba-tinged compositions have made them one of the most successful pop groups in Spanish history, in terms of both album sales and critical acclaim. The name of the group, “Estopa” (tow, in english) refers to when both brothers worked together at a SEAT automobile factory and, in their own words, a boss kept on screaming at them, “¡Dale estopa!” which means something like “Work hard!”.

Estopa - Vino Tinto

El Run Run con Rosario has been on the top charts for 21 weeks in 2010.

David Bisbal (born June 5, 1979) is a Spanish singer. Bisbal was the second finalist of the reality show “Operación Triunfo”, a show inspired by American Idol.Bisbal’s first album, Corazón Latino (Latin Heart), was a smash hit in Spain and all over Latin America, so much so that he had to schedule a 2002-2003 tour that covered the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and a good portion of the rest of South America and Central America, as well as the United States. It is estimated Bisbal has already earned over one million US dollars in his career as a singer. Ave María, Lloraré Las Penas and Dígale were huge hits.

David Bisbal- Ave Maria

Bustamante’s breakthrough was in the TV hit Operación Triunfo. This program, similar to American Idol, broke ratings records as well as dominated the top position of the CD sales charts during its 5 month run. When the program ended in February 2002, David Bustamante was one of the three finalists.David Bustamante has had big success in Spain and Latin America. He has sold over 1,400,000 units. His new album Al filo de la irrealidad went platinum at the top of the Spanish charts, and it was released by Universal music, in the USA and Latin America the last 3 March 2008.

David Bustamante- Hoy Tengo Ganas De Ti

Jorge Drexler (b. September 21, 1964) is an Uruguayan singer, the first Uruguayan to win an Academy Award, which he won for composing the song “Al Otro Lado del Río” from The Motorcycle Diaries. Though Drexler himself sang the song on the soundtrack, it was performed together by Antonio Banderas and Santana at the 77th Academy Awards ceremony.

Drexler was born in Montevideo, where he studied medicine and became a doctor. He also studied music and recorded two albums (Radar, La luz que sabe robar), which were only released in Uruguay. In 1995 he was invited to Madrid (Spain) by well-known Spanish songwriter Joaquín Sabina, who introduced him to other important Spanish singers. Drexler went to Spain to record the album Vaivén in 1996 with Spanish musicians. Vaivén included some old songs from his previous releases mixed with new compositions. He moved to Spain and recorded another five albums: Llueve (1998), Frontera (1999), Sea (2001), Eco (2004) and 12 Segundos de Oscuridad (2006).

Although he lives most of the year in Spain, his latest three albums were partially recorded in Uruguay with Uruguayan musicians. Juan Campodónico and Carlos Casacuberta, former members of rock band El Peyote Asesino, have produced Drexler’s albums since Frontera.

His music is a combination of Uruguayan traditional music (candombe, murga, milonga), bossa nova, pop, jazz and electronic music, which results in very personal compositions with original arrangements.

Jorge Drexler- Guittara y Vos

For Estopa's Anniversary Compilation
X AniversarivmX Aniversarivm

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Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Spanish and Latin American Poetry

A great way to learn Spanish is through poetry. Hearing the rythym, the cadence, the pauses in between words, the mystery and romance of the Spanish language comes alive. If you don't know Spanish or your just learning the language, read the English version first and then Spanish. Either way, it will be a good way to understand the nuances and subtleties of the Spanish language. Subsequently, you will have enrichened your knowledge not just of Spanish, but of poetry.

Here are some of my favorite Spanish and Latin American poets that I think you will enjoy.

Neruda- Me Gusta Cuando Callas

Neruda- Puedo Escribir los Versos Mas Triste

Garcia Lorca's Poem: Verde Que Te Quiero Verde

Ernesto Cardenal

Machado Recita la Poesia de Ruben Dario

I will be having more blogs on Spanish and Latin American Poets in the future.

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Sunday, 23 May 2010

Ruben Dario: Father of Modernism

 Ruben Dario  marks an important shift in the relationship between literary Europe and America. Before him, American literary trends had largely followed European ones; however, Darío was clearly the international vanguard of the Modernist Movement. The poetry we read now in the 21 st century is a mixture of Modernism and Post Modernism.Modernist elements include 1)experimentaion 2) anti-realilsm,
3)individualism, and 4) intellectualism.

Here is a poem Dario wrote in honor of Roosevelt. It is a good example of the intellectualism rife in Modernist poetry.

Es con voz de la Biblia, o verso de Walt Whitman,
que habría que llegar hasta ti, Cazador!
Primitivo y moderno, sencillo y complicado,
con un algo de Washington y cuatro de Nemrod.
Eres los Estados Unidos,
eres el futuro invasor
de la América ingenua que tiene sangre indígena,
que aún reza a Jesucristo y aún habla en español.

Eres soberbio y fuerte ejemplar de tu raza;
eres culto, eres hábil; te opones a Tolstoy.
Y domando caballos, o asesinando tigres,
eres un Alejandro-Nabucodonosor.
(Eres un profesor de energía,
como dicen los locos de hoy.)
Crees que la vida es incendio,
que el progreso es erupción;
en donde pones la bala
el porvenir pones.

Los Estados Unidos son potentes y grandes.
Cuando ellos se estremecen hay un hondo temblor
que pasa por las vértebras enormes de los Andes.
Si clamáis, se oye como el rugir del león.
Ya Hugo a Grant le dijo: «Las estrellas son vuestras».
(Apenas brilla, alzándose, el argentino sol
y la estrella chilena se levanta...) Sois ricos.
Juntáis al culto de Hércules el culto de Mammón;
y alumbrando el camino de la fácil conquista,
la Libertad levanta su antorcha en Nueva York.

Dario emphasises  the cerebreal aspects of this poem as he alludes to Bacchus,Netzahualcoyotl,Atlantis,Montezuma and Plato.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Nicaragua: Land of Poets

Words should paint the color of sound, the aroma of a star."
Rubén Darío

The very famous and controversial writer Salman Rushdie,  wrote his first non fiction book on Nicaragua, The Jaguar Smile: A Nicaraguan Journey, it's about his time in 1986 when he travels all over the country and talks to everyone from the campesino to the politician. He quotes the great poet from Granada, José Coronel Urtecho,who once said that "Every Nicaraguan is a poet until proven otherwise".

All Nicaraguans whether they are the campesino, coffee plantation owner, policeman, lawyer and politician know how to write and recite poetry. Poetry is a national past time, and it's very often that you hear people address each other as in "Hey poet !"

The love of poetry in Nicaragua can be traced back to
Rubén Darío(1867-1916). But before Dario, there were poets like Salomon de la Selva, ( 1893-1959),who was the first Latin American poet to be nominated for the Nobel Prize.Another famous Nicaraguan Poet that also lived in Dario's house at another time was Alonso Cortes. But it was Ruben Dario, otherwise known as the Father of Modernism, who solidified poetry as the country's dominant art form.

Most Nicaraguans have a passion for poetry and young children, beginning in first grade learn to express themselves in poetry and team up with other classmates to recite Ruben Dario's poetry.Margarita Debayle is one of Dario's most famous poems and is most Nicaraguans know it by memory.

Two great poets, Garcia Lorca ( Spain) and Pablo Neruda ( Chile) pay tribute to Ruben Dario in this effervescent and witty dialogue.

Neruda: His red name deserves to be remembered, along with his essential tendencies, his terrible heartaches, his incandescent uncertainties, his descent to the hospitals of hell, his ascent to the castles of fame, his attributes as a great poet, now and forever undeniable.

García Lorca: As a Spanish poet he taught the old and the young in Spain with a generosity and a sense of universality that are lacking in the poets of today. He taught Valle-Inclán and Juan Ramón Jiménez and the Machado brothers, and his voice was water and niter in the furrows of our venerable language. From Rodrigo Caro to the Argensolas or Don Juan Arguijo, Spanish had not seen such plays on words, such clashes of consonants, such lights and forms, as in Rubén Darío. From the landscapes of Velázquez and Goya's bonfire and Quevedo's melancholy to the elegant apple color of the Mallorcan peasant girls, Darío walked the Spanish earth as in his own land.

For such a small country,(the size of New York state) Nicaragua produces more poets and writers, than any other profession.

Here is a list of Nicaraguan Poets

Gioconda Belli,(1948)designated amongst the 100 most important poets during the 20th century.
Claribel Alegría (1924), poet, she received the Neustadt International Prize for Literature in 2006.
Héctor Avellán (1973), poet
Eugenio Batres Garcia (1941) noted newscaster and journalist, writer, author and poet.
Beltrán Morales (1945-1986) poet, essayist, critic and narrator.
Erick Blandón Guevara (1951), poet
Yolanda Blanco (1954), poet and translator.
Tomás Borge (1930), writer, poet, and essayist.
Carola Brantome (1961), poet and journalist.
Omar Cabezas (1950), writer
Blanca Castellón (1961), poet
Ernesto Cardenal (1925), poet
Blanca Castellón (1958), poet
Lizandro Chávez Alfaro (1929), poet, essayist and narrator.
Juan Chow (1956), poet
José Coronel Urtecho (1906-1994), poet, translator, essayist, critic, narrator, playwright, and historian.
Alfonso Cortés (1893-1969), poet
Pablo Antonio Cuadra (1912-2002), poet
Rubén Darío (1867-1916), poet, referred to as The Father of Modernism.
Gloria Gabuardi (1945), poet and writer.
Mercedes Gordillo (1938), poet, writer and critic.
Salomón Ibarra Mayorga (1887-1985), poet and lyricist of "Salve a ti, Nicaragua", the Nicaraguan national anthem.
Erwin Krüger (1915-1973), poet and composer.
Marta Leonor González (1973), poet, narrator and journalist.
Danilo López (1954), poet
Tino López Guerra (1906-2001), poet
Rigoberto López Pérez (1929-1936), poet and writer.
María Lourdes Pallais (1954), narrator and journalist.
Carlos Martínez Rivas (1924-1998), poet
Francisco Mayorga (1949), writer
Ernesto Mejía Sánchez (1923-1985), poet
Christianne Meneses Jacobs (1971), writer, editor, and publisher.
Vidaluz Meneses (1944) poet
Tania Montenegro (1969), poet and journalist.
Rosario Murillo (1951), poet
Michèle Najlis (1948), poet
Daniel Ortega (1945), poet
Azarias H. Pallais (1884–1954), poet
Raphael Pallais (1952), writer
Joaquin Pasos (1914-1947), poet
Horacio Peña (1946), writer and poet.
Rodrigo Peñalba Franco (1981), narrator and author.
Sergio Ramírez (1942), writer
Guillermo Rothschuh Tablada (1926), poet
María Teresa Sánchez (1918-1994), poet
Mariana Sansón Argüello (1918), poet
Eunice Shade (1980), writer
Arlen Siu (?-1972), essayist
Juan Sobalvarro (1966), poet
Milagros Terán (1963), writer, poet, and essayist.
Julio Valle Castillo (1952), poet, novelist, essayist, literary critic and art critic
Daisy Zamora (1950), poet
Flavio Cesar Tijerino(1926-2006) Writer and poet.

Reverend Father Ernesto Cardenal Martínez (born January 20, 1925) is a Nicaraguan Catholic priest and was one of the most famous liberation theologians of the Nicaraguan Sandinistas, a party he has since left. From 1979 to 1987 he served as Nicaragua's first culture minister. He is also famous as a poet. Cardenal was also the founder of the primitivist art community in the Solentiname Islands, where he lived for more than ten years (1965-1977). He was nominated to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature in May 2005.

Poetry Resources:
Articles on Nicaraguan Poets
For a Description of Modernism

Darios Books:
Translation of Dario's poem,Roosevelt
Rubén Darío y Nicaragua: Bilingual anthology of poetry
Azul (Spanish Edition)
Poesias (Spanish Edition)
Ernesto Cardenal's Books:
Pluriverse: New and Selected Poems
Love: A Glimpse of Eternity
Apocalypse, and Other Poems
Other Recommended Bilingual Books:
Twentieth-Century Latin American Poetry: A Bilingual Anthology (The Texas Pan American Series) (English and Spanish Edition)

If you are interested in Spanish Classes contact me at

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Sunday, 18 April 2010

Why Learn Spanish?

Who's learning Spanish these days? For starters, residents of the United States, a bunch not known for conquering monoligualism, are studying Spanish in record numbers. Spanish, too, is becoming of greater importance in Europe, where it often the foreign language of choice after English. And it's no wonder that Spanish is a popular second or third language: with some 400 million speakers, it's the fourth most commonly spoken language in the world (after English, Chinese and Hindustani), and according to some counts it has more native speakers than English does. It is an official language on four continents and is of historical importance elsewhere.

The numbers alone makes Spanish a good choice for those wanting to learn another tongue. But there are plenty of other reasons to learn Spanish. Better understanding of English: Much of the vocabulary of English has Latin origins, much of which came to English by way of French. Since Spanish is also a Latin language, you will find as you study Spanish that you have a better understanding of your native vocabulary. Similarly, both Spanish and English share Indo-European roots, so their grammars are similar. There is perhaps no more effective way to learn English grammar than by studying the grammar of another language, for the study forces you to think about how your language is structured. It's not unusual, for example, to gain an understanding of English verbs' tenses and moods by learning how those verbs are used in Spanish.

Knowing your neighbors: Not all that many years ago, the Spanish-speaking population of the United States was confined to the Mexican border states, Florida and New York City. But no more. Even where I live, less than 100 kilometers from the Canadian border, there are Spanish-speaking people living on the same street as I do. Knowing Spanish has proven invaluable in speaking with other residents of my town who don't know English.

Travel: Yes, it is perfectly possible to visit Mexico, Spain and even Ecuatorial Guinea without speaking a word of Spanish. But it isn't nearly half as much fun. I remember about two decades ago — when my Spanish was much less adequate than it is today — when I met some mariachis on top of one of the pyramids near Mexico City. Because I spoke (albeit limited) Spanish, they wrote down the words for me so I could sing along. It turned out to be one of my most memorable travel experiences, and one unlike most tourists have the opportunity to enjoy. Time and time again while traveling in Mexico, Central America and South America I have had doors opened to me simply because I speak Spanish, allowing me to see and do things that many other visitors do not.

Cultural understanding: While most of us (Pope John Paul II may be an exception) can't hope to learn the languages of more than one or two cultures other than that of our own, those that we can learn help us to learn how other people learn and think. When I read Latin American or Spanish newspapers, for example, I often find that I gain a sense of how other people think and feel, a way that is different than my own. Spanish also offers a wealth of literature, both modern and traditional.

Learning other languages: If you can learn Spanish, you'll have a head start in learning the other Latin-based languages such as French and Italian. And it will even help you learn Russian and German, since they too have Indo-European roots and have some characteristics (such as gender and extensive conjugation) that are present in Spanish but not English. And I wouldn't be surprised if learning Spanish might even help you learn Japanese or any other non-Indo-European language, since intensive learning the structure of a language can give you a reference point for learning others.

It's easy: Spanish is one of the easiest foreign languages to learn. Much of its vocabulary is similar to English's, and written Spanish is almost completely phonetic: Look at almost any Spanish word and you can tell how it is pronounced. And while mastering the grammar of Spanish can be a challenge, basic grammar is straightforward enough that you can have meaningful communication after only a few lessons.

Berlitz Spanish Phrase Book [With Book] [BERLITZ SPANISH PHRASE BK -OS]

Berlitz Latin American Spanish (Berlitz Phrase Book & CD) (Spanish Edition)

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