Writings and essays about flamenco

Category — Flamenco Rhythmics

Bulerías Structure – Who’s Counting? – Hits and Misses from the Virtual Mailbag

The great and unbuttoned flamenco form of bulerías is often described as having a twelve-beat compás or measure, but sometimes whole long segments are broken into six-beat pieces.  Must those pieces always add up to twelves in the end?  Or could the song end with a loose six, meaning that at least one compás would be (God forbid) eighteen beats long, or six beats long?

I’m delighted that a contributor went to the videotape and found that the wonderful singer and fabulous festero El Mono de Jerez consistently uses those “loose sixes” in bulerías, instead of doing the constant mental math to keep everything squared off in twelves.

If El Mono does it, I suspect that it must be very common among Jerez artists, and maybe among other dyed-in-the-wool flamencos from nearly everywhere.  I hope others will extend this survey to a point where it becomes indicative one way or the other.

(There’s a sort of secondary question — would it be done more commonly, even inevitably, while doing cuplé por bulerías?  But that raises the question of differentiating cuplé’s catchier and poppier melodies from “straight” bulerías, which could always be a bit tricky and may have become seriously muddled lately as Camarón’s Greatest Hits become embedded in the corpus of bulerías itself, rather than seen as the little meloditas that I, at least, initially dismissed them as.)

(My original pontification was centered on the practices of guitarists rather than singers, since I’ve never really analyzed the mechanics of singing compás.  Despite my broad-sounding claim, I didn’t mean to imply that I understood the technical issue of fitting a sung bulerías into proper compás — much less the way singers from various regions approached the problem.)

Any questions/answers/comments?

Brook Zern

January 19, 2014   4 Comments