SOTW - Swinging Malagueña (Spain)
This week we’re going to SPAIN! “Malagueña” is an old Spanish folk tune that dates back to the 1800s. This means there are TONS of variations on the melody by TONS of different musicians. This is basically the definition of a folk song: everyone recognizes the song, no one really knows where it’s from, and every version is slightly different. A “Malagueña” is a woman from Málaga, a city in the Andalusia region of Spain. Andalusia is the birthplace of flamenco, which is what we’ll be focusing on today. Specifically, flamenco guitar!
Do you hear the guitar on The Music Class’s recording of “Swinging (Malagueña)?” I bet you recognized that it sounded Spanish. Why though?
Flamenco guitars and classical guitars are different in many ways. First, they’re actually different instruments. (Unlike a violin and fiddle, where the only difference is how you play it.) Flamenco guitars are lighter and thinner, the strings are lower and closer to the neck of the guitar, and flamenco guitars have a tapping board or golpeador to allow the musician to tap the guitar with their fingernails to create percussive sounds without damaging the wood. You can listen to two Frenchmen with charming accents describe the differences HERE. These different instruments produce different sounds. The sound of the flamenco guitar is louder, punchier, and buzzier. You can hear a quick example of how playing the same thing on a flamenco guitar and on a classical guitar sound so different HERE.
Now let’s get into the fun stuff... examples!! The reason the strings of a flamenco guitar are positioned closer to the neck is to allow for extremely fast playing both with the right and left hand. Take a look at the video below. This is Sabicas, a Spanish Romani flamenco guitarist that was hugely influential on this style.
The super-fast, staccato finger runs are called picado. Paco de Lucía is another extremely influential flamenco guitarist, sometimes considered the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time.) Watch this example of his and see if you can pick out the Malagueña melody at around the 30-second mark!
Another classic feature of the flamenco guitar style is golpe, the percussive finger tapping on the body of the guitar. For this example, please allow me a little leeway to present Rodrigo y Gabriela, who are Mexican not Spanish, but who ROCK THE ACTUAL SOCKS OFF flamenco guitar and especially this percussive golpe technique. They are some of my favorite musicians so I’m taking liberties to include them in this blog, lol. Seriously just watch Gabriela’s hand. It’s mind-blowing.
The end! I hope this has helped deepen your appreciation for flamenco guitar and inspired you to listen to more of this amazing style!