Each region of Andalusia has its own flamenco genre, inspired either on its landscape or the most ancient local traditions. With respect to this, Huelva has always been remarkable for having many styles which come from the same thematic source and have different tones and melodies, each one with its own special stamp. Even though Huelva’s flamenco genre is fandango, it would be an exaggeration to say that each town and village of Huelva has its own fandango style – although it is true that few places in Andalusia can offer such a wide musical range. Scholar José Gómez Hiraldo says about Huelva’s fandango that “there is a strange, still unravelled enigma about Huelva’s fandango. Just like other flamenco styles, we still have doubts about its origin, the womb which gestated and gave birth to this beautiful, unequalled singing style. Fandango is said to have uncertain origins and is despised and considered an illegitimate child of flamenco. This is due to the misrepresentation made by those who have interpreted it their way and have made it known as an easy music piece which anyone can sing.”
Despite Gómez Hiraldo’s opinion, today Huelva’s fandango has recovered its most significant features thanks to the flamenco associations of the area – this means that now more attention is paid to Huelva’s fandango. Consequently, Huelva’s presence is more noticeable at the main flamenco shows offered today. The towns and villages of Huelva with fandango styles of their own are located in two regions – El Andévalo and the Sierra de Huelva. The first one encompasses the towns and villages of Alosno, El Cerro de Andévalo, Cabezas Rubias, Santa Bárbara de Casa, Calaña, Zalamea la Real, Minas de Riotinto, and Valverde del Camino. The second one encompasses the villages of Encinasola and Almonaster la Real.
According to scholars R. Molina and A. Mairena, “the world of fandango is three-faced as it is inspired on three main themes – the sea with the boats, the countryside with the farming works, the hunting, and the horses, and the towns and villages with their popular characters and their local stories and anecdotes. Everything, even love, depends on geography and is projected on the well-known scene of that ‘small homeland’ which are towns and villages.”
Following the geographical delimitation of Huelva’s fandango, we should especially remark the region of El Andévalo, which encompasses some of the towns and villages previously mentioned whose characteristics will be specified as follows. The first place is Alosno, which is said to have a rich fandango style, also described as vigorous, strong, and tender. Manuel Romero Jara, who is the author of a book about fandango styles in Huelva, dedicated most of it to the style of this village, which he calls “blessed Alosno”. According to him, there is not just one fandango style in Alosno, but several ones – the so-called estilos populares (‘popular styles’), the estilos personales (‘personal ones’), and the estilos perdíos (‘lost styles’) – these ones are fandango styles without specific names or known authors. In his contribution to the XV Congreso Nacional de Actividades Flamencas (Benalmádena, Malaga, 1987) about the topic ‘The Fandango of Huelva and its Surroundings’, flamenco critic
Onofre López González declares that “sixteen fandango styles have been documented within the airs of Alosno. Most of them were born from popular tradition, whereas others have name and surname” (Candil Magazine, Issue No. 53, October 1987).
There is such a diffusion and development of this music genre in Alosno, that there is a sign at the entrance of the village which states “Alosno, cuna del fandango” (‘Alosno – Cradle of Fandango’). People of Alosno say that fandango was born there, and they say it by singing: Fandango, ¿dónde has nacío que to el mundo te conoce? Yo nací en un rinconcillo que Alosno tiene por nombre, donde le dan el “dejillo” (Fandango, where were you born, so everyone knows ‘bout you? I was born at a small village which everyone calls ‘Alosno’ and where they give it the ‘air’.) Ricardo Molina refers to this fandango – in fact, to the end – when he says that “under an innocent appearance, the verses which have been cited actually give us deep knowledge of fandango when they mention the dejillo which is given to fandango in Alosno. What is that dejillo? To my mind, that is what many scholars call the ‘air’ of the fandango. Each singing style acquires very special features, almost imperceptible, when it gets used to a village – especially at the birth of the style, if that is the case. Those features are the dejillo or ‘air’. If a fandango style is deprived of its air, it loses its charm and authenticity. Even when a flamenco singer alters that native ‘air’, the fandango suffers an invisible misrepresentation.” The fandango of Alosno has been listened to in the furthest places in Spain due to the fact that the inhabitants of the village spread all over Spain as tax collectors of the Impuesto de Consumos (‘Consumption Tax’) from the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century. It is clear that the people of Alosno did not want to leave their village, as they expressed it by singing: De las cosillas más malas que yo hice en este mundo fue dejar mi escopetilla y marcharme a los consumos. (‘One of the worst little things in the world that I could do was leaving my good, old rifle and leaving to collect taxes.’) The fandangos populares have no known authors. Two styles are especially outstanding and are considered the main types of the fandango of Alosno by Romero Jara – the fandango cané and the fandango valiente. The former is a group singing, whereas the latter is individual, a display of strength and power from the beginning of the singing. The latter was commonly performed by the Toronjo Brothers, who were famous flamenco singers.
The fandangos personales are attributed to concrete people and are named after their authors. Some of those authors are Tío Nicolás, el de las patillas; La Conejilla; Manuel Pérez; Juan María Blanco; Bartolo el de la Tomasa; Manolillo el Acalmao; Don Marcos Jiménez; Antonio Abad; Juan Rebollo, and Juana María. The Toronjo Brothers took the fandango to all the corners of Spain in the 1960s and 1970s. Encinasola is a village of Huelva, close to Extremadura and Portugal, where the dance of fandango has been performed since the 18th century. Women dance and play castanets while men sing and play several musical instruments – guitar, bandurria, lute, or accordion. The four lyrics which are sung are always the same, in the same order, and the only ones which are sung.
Flamenco Associations in Huelva
Peña Flamenca El Higueral 6 Sanlúcar de Guadiana Street 21007 Huelva +34 959 27 04 40
Peña Flamenca Femenina 11 Pablo Ruiz Picasso Avenue 21007 Huelva +34 959 23 23 89
Peña Flamenca de Huelva Andalucía Avenue (no number) 21006 Huelva +34 959 27 05 05
Peña Flamenca La Orden Diego Morón Avenue (no number) 21005 Huelva +34 959 15 16 19