As a child, I learned German, English and French and by the time I went to university, I thought I had done my fair share of studying foreign languages, and should get along comfortably with my languages in the world. How wrong I was…….All I needed, was to fall in love with a boy from the south of Spain, and it started all over again. I took one semester of Spanish in university, just out of curiosity, and it proved to be very helpful knowing at least ‘Hola, qué tal?’ (Hello, how are you?) when I arrived to Spain. Despite my basics in Spanish and all my foreign language knowledge, it felt like being in China at first. I didn’t understand a word, could only catch some ‘pero’s and ‘porque’s, but’s and because’s (“but” most certainly with one ‘t’!).
Living and working in Spain I quickly realised, how much the Spanish appreciate when you try to learn their language. So I did. After the first difficult 6 months, little by little I could understand and speak more and more. Spanish is easy at the beginning, it gets difficult at more advanced levels, when you want to use the correct past sense, when you want to use ‘subjuntivo’ and so on. Until then, it’s quite easy to make progress and start conversing. A book of phrases & expressions would definitely help everyone, because they use so many of them in everyday conversations, one never stops learning new ones!
And how does all this connect to my flamenco blog? Let me explain.
Flamenco comes from the south of Spain originally. There are theories about the gipsy origin, the Andalusian origin, the mix of the two, but at the end of the day everyone agrees that flamenco is an integral part of the culture and tradition of Andalusia and therefore of Spain.
Learning Spanish helps understanding not only the lyrics of the songs, but everything surrounding. Because flamenco is not only the music, songs and lyrics, but a lifestyle! I’m afraid I will never even grasp half of what the flamenco lifestyle means or especially what it meant in the past, but understanding the language brought me one step closer to it. I am reading “A way of life” from Donn Pohren and I really enjoy his description of the flamenco lifestyle in Morón de la Frontera in the 1960’s, where he and his wife ran a flamenco centre.
Understanding what the songs talk about, being able to talk to the artists or to the people, who live flamenco every day, is fascinating! I think one can get closer to flamenco by understanding Spanish. I remember telling my friend, P. (who is a flamenco guitarist/drummer) the same thing, and him responding, there is nothing to understand, only feel the music.
So you decide. Do you need to understand or just enjoy?