The Macho

Just when you think you’ve survived accompanying your first (or 357th) Soleá, all of a sudden things can get a little weird at the end. But don’t worry – if it feels like you’re suddenly playing some other Palo altogether, chances are you’ve just encountered the Macho.

What is a Macho?

While we’re on the topic I thought I’d try to explain what a Macho is in the first place.

A quick glossary term for Macho is: When a piece/song/dance changes key or tempo at the end. Click this link for the short video example of this glossary term: Macho.

Cante Explained

In our series Cante Explained we look at one possible Macho for Soleá. Click that link to view the video tutorial. It’s not the only thing that can happen at the end of a Soleá, but it’s one I love and also one that can be really weird if you’re not expecting it. If you’re learning to accompanying cante or just learning flamenco guitar, this is a great video tutorial to help you understand the Macho.

Macho in detail…

The Macho is the thing that comes at the end of a cante that feels different. It’s like another letra at the end of a Cante that punctuates everything as if to say ‘now we’re ending this’. In many cases the macho morphs from one Palo into another simply by picking up speed, and that part, at least, is somewhat predictable.

There are two main continuums (continua?) that help understand this:

Tientos becomes Tangos and Tangos becomes Rumba

Soleá becomes Soleá por Buleria and Soleá por Buleria becomes Buleria

Also, anything in 12 turns into a Buleria, and anything in 4/4 becomes a Tangos/Rumba

So when the singer sings a Tientos, the Macho (if there is one) will be por Tangos, and if they sing a Tangos the Macho can be por Rumba. Likewise, a Solea can speed up into a Soleá por Bulerias, and a Soleá por Buleria can end in a Buleria. Rumba and Buleria have nowhere to go in terms of tempo, but the Macho of a Buleria very often goes to the parallel major key (so if you’re playing Por Medio, in A Phrygian, you’d go to A Major, etc…).

See it in action in Alegrias

The Macho por Alegrias is a Buleria (You can see our Alegrias Explained videos for an example of this). As I said, everything in 12 ends in Buleria! – but it’s specifically the Bulerias de Cadiz, which is in the same Major key that the Alegrias has been in. Likewise, a Guajira, which is in 12 even though it feels really different, basically turns into a Major key Bulerias. And even the Seguirilla, which can be seen as a turned-around Soleá, turns into a faster Seguirilla which sounds like a turned-around Buleria, and sometimes also goes Major.

Listen to as much flamenco as possible

As always, the key to really learning all of this is not so much memorizing what I’ve written here (though that can’t hurt) as it is to listen to as much flamenco as possible. When you get to the end of the Cante and things seem to really change all of a sudden, that’s the Macho. The more you pay attention to what’s happening when you hear this, the less likely you will be to be taken by surprise when the singer sings the Macho.

As to why it’s called the Macho – your guess is as good as mine!