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Siguiriyas by the Sevillano painter Alfonso Grosso y Sanchez

About Siguiriyas

Derived from flamenco's earliest root forms, the tonás, Siguiriyas is one of flamenco's oldest and deepest forms. Its name is a corruption of the term seguidillas, a group of 18th Century songs and dances. Siguiriyas first emerged in the 18th Century in Cádiz, Sevilla and Jerez de la Frontera.

Slow, majestic and tragic, Siguiriyas is the most jondo of cante jondo forms. Its lyrics focus on tragedy, inconsolable sorrow, and pain.

An important feature of Siguiriyas is its unusual compás which gives the form its unique, uneven pattern and much of its expressive power.

Siguiriyas is a highly personal form and most artists associated with the style, such as El Planeta, La Niña de los Peines, Manuel Molina and Antonio Chacón, created their own extraordinary versions.

Form

Compás

Palmas

Video Samples

HOME DANCE LESSONS GUITAR LESSONS CANTE LESSONS CDS VIDEOS GUIDES FLAMENCO FORMS
About Siguiriyas

Form

When performed without a dancer, siguiriyas opens with a solo introduction on the guitar, followed by a temple in which the singer warms up, matching tone and tempo with the guitar. The singer then sings one or more letras. The guitarist accompanies the letras with a fairly regular chord and bass note pattern, maintaining a steady pulse. As with other forms, the guitarist can insert a falseta between the letras or between the lines of a letra.

If a dancer is present, they interpret the letras and falsetas, and insert escobillas and other percussive sections accompanied by a quicker, more rhythmic pattern on the guitar.

Often, musicians and dancers will transition into a bulerías or even a tangos at the end of a siguiriyas, changing the compás to match the new form. However, many dancers prefer to end with a salida por siguiriyas, speeding up the tempo during the exit.


Compás

The underlying compás for siguiriyas is a 12 count pattern with beats grouped as 2, 2, 3, 3, 2, and with an accent on the first beat of each group.

V
V V V
V
1
2 1 2 1 2
3
1 2 3 1 2

It's interesting to note how many different ways this pattern can be expressed.

For example, dancers hear the pattern as a variation on the standard Soleares 12-count compás, but with the pattern starting on beat 8:

V
V V V
V
8 9 10 11 12 1
2
3 4 5 6 7

One traditional way of counting the siguiriyas pattern is simply to feel it as a collection of five unequal beats. Two short, two long, and one short (counted as: 1 and 2 and 3 and a 4 and a 5 and):

V
V V V
V
Short
Short Long Long Short

There is a tradition of counting out this rhythm by associating the beats with the fingers on the right hand, with the length of each beat corresponding to the relative length of each finger:

V
V V V
V
Thumb
index Middle Ring Pinky

The verse structure of siguiriyas is unique as well. Whereas its antecedent, the seguidilla, has a verse structure of four lines with 7, 5, 5, and 5 syllables, the third line is extended in siguiriyas, creating a structure of four lines of 7, 5, 11, and 5 syllables.


Palmas

The standard palmas for the siguiriyas are:

V
V V V
V
8 9 10 11 12 1
2
3 4 5 6 7


For Dancers Siguiriyas is one of flamenco's most exciting and difficult dance forms, and a dancer's first job is to master the compás.

Mastering this dance also requires an understanding of how the letras are performed. Most singers stretch the compás of a single letra or all letras, and many singers change tempos, speeding up and slowing down throughout a letra for dramatic effect.

Throughout it's performance history, theatrical dancers have often used props in siguiriyas, including mantons and castanets.

The structure for a danced siguiriyas usually includes the following sections:

1) Guitar falseta, followed by the singer's salida/temple.

2) Entrada: A dancer can enter slowly and lyrically to a guitar falseta, or may choose to enter with driving footwork, culminating with a sharp, dramatic remate and/or llamada to cue the singer. Dancers often combine these two elements.

3) The letra, which includes dramatic remates interspersed throughout the verse. Similar to the Tarantos in character, the dancer pays strict attention to the singer's letra, which dictates the mood, tempo and choreographic content. Given the somber lyrics and dramatic music for siguiriyas letras, dancer's will match this mood with extravagant gestures, turns, footwork, and facial expressions.

4) 1st escobilla, often performed to a rhythmic falseta.

5) 2nd letra, which is similar to the 1st letra.

6) A danced falseta, performed rhythmically or arhythmically (this could also be included after the 1st letra).

7) Final escobilla. The tempo will increase here, and the dancer can either perform a salida, exiting the stage with dramatic gestures and/or footwork, or transition to Bulerías or Tangos, changing the compás and mood to finish the dance.


For Guitarists
Once you get a feeling for this unusual compás, it's fairly easy to play a basic siguiriyas. What makes it difficult is the level of musicianship required to pull off an effective performance. It's easy for soloists to lose the compás by getting wrapped up in an expressive falseta. It's equally easy for an accompanist to lose the compás trying to stay connected to a singer who is stretching the compás around or extending a phrase. The trick, as with any palo, is to internalize the compás so that you always know where you are.

The most essential step in playing siguiriyas is to learn this simple phrase:

Bb/D
Bb/C Bb/Bb A
A
8
9 10 11 12 1
2
3 4 5 6 7

Accompanying the cante involves repeating this essential phrase with one simple variation on the third phrase, where the chord changes to C7 (or C9) on beat 3:

Bb/D
Bb/C Bb/Bb C7
8
9 10 11 12 1
2
3 4 5 6 7

When playing a llamada in siguiriyas, a guitarist will often hold an A chord and play the palo's underlying rhythmic pulse:

Falsetas in siguiriyas often underscore the form's unique pulse, as in this traditional example:


Sample Cante Here is a example of a traditional siguiriyas letra:

Ay.yyy eran tan grande mis duquelas

Que no cabe más

Que estoy viendo, que me voy a ver

Yo malito de muerte en el hospitalE

Translation:

My worries were so great

That nothing would end them

I'm going to see

The evil of death in the hospitalEnEnEnEnEnn el


Video Samples

Al Baile

Al Toque

Al Cante