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Flamenco is a song, music and dance style originating from the gypsies in Andalusia, Spain. Originally, flamenco consisted of unaccompanied singing (cante). Later the songs were accompanied by guitar (toque), hand clapping (palmas) and dance (baile); the toque and baile are also often found without the cante, although the song remains at the heart of the flamenco tradition. More recently other instruments like the cajon[?] (a box used as a percussion instrument from Peru), palillos (castanets), and the bass guitar have been introduced.

The origin of the name flamenco is a much-debated topic. Some people suggest an Arabic origin for the name, but it seems more likely that it is of Spanish origin and originally meant Flemish.

Flamenco forms

Flamenco cante consists of a number of traditional (and not-so-traditional) forms, with characteristic rhythmic and harmonic structures. The rhythm (compas) is perhaps the most fundamental distinguishing feature of the different flamenco forms.

Some of the forms are sung unaccompanied, while others usually have a guitar and sometimes other accompaniment. Some forms are danced while others traditionally are not. Amongst both the songs and the dances, some are traditionally the preserve of men and others of women, while still others would be performed by either sex. Many of these traditional distinctions are now breaking down; for example the farruca is traditionally a man's dance, but is now commonly performed by women too.

The classification of flamenco forms is not entirely uncontentious, but a common and convenient first classification is into three groups. The deepest, most serious forms are known as cante jondo (or cante grande), while relatively light, frivolous forms are called cante chico. Forms which do not fit into either category but lie somewhere between them are classified as cante intermedio. Many flamenco artists, including some considered to be amongst the greatest, have specialised in a single flamenco form.

Flamenco artists

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