Duende – the overwhelming passion and emotion that you feel when you’re in love, or when you’re swept away by the spirit of Flamenco.
I’ve been introduced to it through Jason Webster’s book Duende which charts his journey from a life of academia to Spain in search of Flamenco. On the way he falls into a passionate affair with Lola, a flamenco dancer and flees from Alicante to Madrid when her husband threatens to uncover their affair. Through his journey of the soul he learns to play flamenco guitar, is introduced to the great gypsy guitarists and dancers and learns to distinguish his Alegrias from his Tangos.
It’s an example of setting aside the guidebooks and using a novel or autobiography to get into the spirit of a place, in this case the Andalucian south of Spain. I’d recommend it as a great holiday read if you’re off to Spain and would like to get under the skin of your destination, or perhaps feel a little Duende yourself.
And if you’d like a little flamenco guitar, song or dance to get you into the spirit if Duende, take a look below at what the magic of Youtube can offer. (If you’re reading this at the office, put your headset on now lest you startle your colleagues with all that passion and foot-stamping)
Paco de Lucía is the leader of the modern style of flamenco, taking the work of the previous generation and introducing new elements of jazz and rock. He is well known outside Spain for his collaboration with John McLaughlin and Al de Meola – you can see a clip of them playing together here.
Camarón de la Isla (The shrimp of the isles) was the stage name of the flamenco gypsy singer José Monje Cruz who recorded albums and toured with Paco de Lucía in the 1970s. His folk hero status was ensured by his untimely death in 1992. He was often accompanied by the leading flamenco guitarist Tomatito and you can see them playing together in this clip.
Sara Baras is an international star on the flamenco dance scene and has formed her own dance company which tours the world. As a solo dancer, she took part in several tributes to Camarón de la Isla, who had been her artistic sponsor. She has appeared in films including Mission Impossible II and also crosses into television and fashion. You can see her dancing with her company in this clip.
I couldn’t let you go without mentioning the delicious Joaquín Cortés who has achieved pop star status worldwide. He was trained in classical ballet and danced with the Spanish National Ballet but moved into flamenco and founded the Joaquín Cortés Flamenco Ballet company which allows him to fuse flamenco, ballet and modern dance. Here’s a clip in which Joaquín plays on the passion of flamenco and treats us to the sight of his undeniably gorgeous body – girls this one’s for you.
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