Palos and Compas - Flamenco Beirut  
« Palos » and « Estilos »
These feelings are expressed through the impressive number of PALOS, or types of songs, that exist in flamenco. Each has its own COMPAS, a word we will define below. Some palos themselves are subdivided in “styles” or ESTILOS, the number of which is often difficult to define. The criteria used to characterize a style have to do, amongst others, with the melody, the ornamentation, the sequence of sung fragments, their repetition etc. It is important to keep in mind that Flamenco music was initially not written, and its oral transmission lent itself to the creation of new forms.
The “Cante Flamenco” thus consists of tens, even hundreds of palos: some have endured and continue to evolve, some have fallen in disuse and are hardly performed outside of Peñas and family celebrations, and finally some have disappeared at least from performance stages and fiestas. All together, they constitute the rich arborescence of the Cante, and are explained in detail in the chapter: The Tree structure of Cante. 
The importance of the compás
Flamenco would not be what it is without the “compás” that forms its spinal column and its heart, whether one is dealing with cante, with toque, or with baile.  To fully understand the Cante Flamenco, it is necessary to keep in mind that it was born from the meeting of Western musical traditions with an Eastern mode of interpretation, with great importance given to the rhythmic aspect: the clapping of hands (palmas) in a characteristic rhythmic sequence (compás) is enough to immediately recognize a type of song (palo). 
Without a rigorously respected compás, no flamenco!

This is so important that any famous flamencos guitarist, no matter how great a virtuoso, most certainly started by accompanying for a very long time the cante or the baile, before being able to play as a soloist.

This is also so true that saying of a performer, even if he/she knows and performs complex falsetas, that he/she plays “fuera de compás” is a supreme insult, that implies he/she ignorant of what flamenco is, and that what he/she is playing is not flamenco. We could apply to flamenco what an Egyptian musician once said: “The one who makes a mistake is one of us, the one who adds or takes out from a melody is one of us, but the one who strays from the rhythm without being aware of it cannot be one of us.” 
How to define the compás ?
The compas is defined as the rhythmical framework of a cante flamenco. This rhythmical framework defines and differentiates various types of cante flamenco. It is also defined as the rythmico-harmonic structure of a palo flamenco.
How to mark the compás ?
There are several ways and various instruments to mark the compas in flamenco: accents generated by the tocaor with the guitar, percussion sounds (called the zapateado) generated by the feet of the bailaor, the palmas, the fists, the pitos, as well as percussion instruments such as the castanets and the cajon.

The palmas are the clapping of hands that accompany the cante or the  baile. One distinguishes the palmas "claras" or sonorous (one strikes with the fingers of one hands the fully extended palm of the other hand), and the more discrete palmas "sordas" that do not interfere with the singing, generated by striking the two palms on each other.

The fist can strike on a table, or the fingers can be spread open in sequence to hit the table, as if playing the rasgueados on a guitar.

The pitos are snapping of fingers. They can replace the castanets to create the musical atmosphere of flamenco.

The cajon is the typical percussion instrument of flamenco. It was introduced by Paco de Lucia who imported it from Peru. It is a rectangular box; its surface is of varying thickness, which allows a variable resonance when stricken. In the back, there is a hole around 10 cm in diameter that allows the sound to escape. Inside the cajon, one often places guitar or piano strings, and sometimes small bells.

Another percussion instrument is the hammer. The Martinete, a blacksmith cante, is indeed accompanied by the sound of the hammer hitting the anvil.

The various compás
While some styles are said to have a "free" compás, most styles are framed by a specific rhythm that defines them. They are structures that function in cycles of 4, 8 or 12 beats, with specific beats being accented.   

There are 2 types of compas: the regular compás and the alternating compás.

*The regular compás:It corresponds to rhythmic structures of 2 or 4 beats per measure (2/2 and 4/4) in cycles of 4 or 8 measures. They can be slow (e.g. tientos, tarantos) or fast (tanguillo, tango, rumba).

*The alternating compás:It is the rhythmic structure most representative of flamenco; in a 12 beat cycle, it alternates long beats with short beats (3/4 and 6/8). It can start at beat 12, 1 etc. It can be divided into two, three or four subsections. Examples are the Soleà, the Siguiriya, the Alegrias and the Bulerias. 

To hear the compás of a few palos, and to have a clearer idea of it, there are flamenco metronomes available on the market, including one by Herrero Oscar. There are also web sites where you can listen to compás with a friendly and whimsical "clock".

The Palos and their compás
Let us examine in detail some of the most popular palos, hence the most likely to contain mistakes and slips.
The times marked in black correspond to silences or weak beats, and the times marked in red are stressed.
-Palos with a regular compás:

-Tientos and Tangos: The tiento belongs to the tango family, but with a slower and more solemn compás. Its dance is majestic, sober and of a great dramatic tonality. The tientos are traditionally followed by tangos, that are much more lively, and have a quick, festive and stimulating rhythm.

Their compás is easy to identify. The first beat is silent, followed by 3 marked beats.

Compás of tiento and tango: 1 2 3 4 / 1 2 3 4 / 1 2 3 4 / 1 2 3 4

-Fandango: There are many different fandangos, classified by their geographical origin (e.g. Huelva, Malaga, Lucena), the name of their creator, or the style from which they derive. The copla comprises 5 octosyllabic verses, on a variety of topics. In the Baile, the fandango is an example of ternary compas: in a 12 beat measure, the beats that are stressed are 1,4,7 and 10.

Compás of fandango: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 

-Granaina: The Graiana is a style that derives from fandango. Its compás is also in 3 beats, however its rythmic interpretation is free.

Compás of the Granaina : 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

-Rumba: The Rumba is a palo that originated in Latin America. When performed by flamenco dancers, it displays gypsy characteristics of energy, and passion, with brisk and powerful movements. It includes many desplantes and torsions. The rumba is often danced by itself. 

Compás of the rumba : 1 2 3 4 / 1 2 3 4 / 1 2 3 4 / 1 2 3 4

-Colombiana: The colombiana is generally not danced. There are however some choreographic versions that are close to tango. It is more often played or sung itself on a very rhythmic music. Its compass is reminiscent of the rumba and of Cuban music, and has 4 beats. 

Compás of the colombiana : 1 2 3 4 / 1 2 3 4 / 1 2 3 4 / 1 2 3 4

-Palos with an alternating compás:

-Alegrias and all the range of the cantiñas: Are generally played in a major tonality. These palos represent gracefulness and joy, and the corresponding dance is characterized by a harmonious braceo, undulating movements, suave punteados, and escobillas.

Alegrias and the cantiñas belong to the group with a 12 beat compass, with the accents on 3,6,8,10,12 as follows:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

-Solea: The Solea is a Palo that derives its name from "Soledad" i.e. solitude. It is the basic Cante Grande, the queen of cante jondo in all its fulgurating beauty. It depicts deep feelings. The dance that accompanies it is splendid, the summit of harmony and gracefulness, and a feminine dance par excellence. It is distinguished from the others palos by the solemnity of its performance, and the foregrounding of the feeling of loneliness that underlie it. The compás of the solea is 12 beats; there are 2 possible versions of the rhythm:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 or: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

-Bulerias: It is one of the "festeros" i.e. "festive" cantes, and probably the best known cante. It is very rhythmic, calls for dancing, and is accompanied by palmas. It is the cante that ends every gypsy celebration.

Its compás is the same one as the Solea's, but much faster. Also, the measure of the the Buleria starts at beat 12 and not at beat 1, unlike the Alegrias and the Solea. 

Its compás is as follows:

12 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 then on to 12 ,


12 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 then on to 12 ,


1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 a compás specific to the Buleria de Jerez.

-Siguiriya: is the quintessence of flamenco. It is a cante originating in the depth of oneself. Its copla usually has 3 or 4 verses. Its dance is sober, tragic, and majestic. It is solemn and unornamented. It is the most jondo of all the flamenco baile: it expresses the tragedy of human loneliness, anguish and despair.
Its compás is slow and majestic, as follows:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

-Martinete: Derived from the Siguiriya, the Martinete has the same compás, however marked with a hammering sound, reminiscent of the hammering of the blacksmithing. This cante indeed originated in the smithy, where it remains a favorite).

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