The piece that I’m going to play for you today is an Alegria from the student repertoire (Intermediate Level 1) titled Alegrias en LA — which means Alegrias in A (A major) and that can be found in Manuel Granados’s book titled “Metodo Elemental de la guitarra flamenca.”
The Alegria is a popular stye of flamenco music & dance that belongs to a larger family of styles called the Cantñas. And Cantiñas were developed by artists largely from the cities along the western coast of Cádiz, SP. The only exceptions are the Cantiñas de Córdoba and the Cantiñas de Lebrija.
The first Cantiñas were created in the mid-1800s almost in parallel to the Soleares and they were designed to be a contrasting style to the latter desipte that both share the exact same 12-beat compás (rhythm). The main difference between the Cantiñas & Soleares has to do with each styles’ key center and expression or mood.
In terms of the Alegrias’ musical history, F. Nuñez, Guillermo Castro and other musicologists show a very clear melodic ancestry from two popular 19th century Spanish dances called the Jota (Aragón) and Jaleo. In fact, the Alegría is distinguished from other Cantiñas precisely because it is the only Cantiña that shares the same melodic structure as the Jota. This is particularly true for the juguetillo of the alegrias letra.
The 12-beat compás (or rhythm) of the Alegrías, like I mentioned before, is exaclty the same as the Solea. Two fundamental rhythms for cantiñas accent beats 3, 6, 8, 10 and 12 -OR- 3, 7, 8, 10 and 12.
That said, it’s important to keep in mind that clapping (tocar las palmas) is an instrument in flamenco. And like any art, variations and improvisation are part of the deal.
In terms of the guitar, like all other traditional styles of Flamenco, the guitars roll in the Alegrias was exclusively accompaniment prior to Ramón Montoya (1879-1949). And actually, one of the first recordings of a solo guitar Cantiña was a piece by Montoya titled “La Rosa” recorded between 1923-1936. And one of the most iconic cantiñas was Paco de Lucia’s Alegría in A major titled “La Barrosa” from his album “Siroco” (1987).