What Does Soleá Feel Like?
What is Soleá, and what does Soleá feel like? This is a big question, and I get pretty regular reminders that learning to play Soleá on the guitar and really knowing what Soleá is are two different things.
On paper, Soleá (or Soleares – you can say either and always be understood) is one of the slower Palos, with a 12-beat compás and played in a Phrygian key, usually Por Arriba. Often called the mother of flamenco, Soleá holds a sacred place among the Palos of flamenco. Most guitarists start their flamenco journey with Soleá – indeed our Beginner Course focuses on Soleá exclusively. For guitarists it’s a great choice, as it’s slow enough that beginners won’t fight too much with tempo, and most of what you need to know about the 12-beat compás can be learned through Soleá. Dancers and singers, however, work their way up to Soleá, as it takes great experience and control to dance or sing slowly and with the emotional depth that’s expected of this Palo.
But of course none of this tells you what a Soleá actually feels like. So if you’re ready to get a better sense of what Soleá is, or can be, I’ve put together a bunch of videos of Soleá performances for you below to watch that in sum will give you a the beginning of a sense of what Soleá is and how it feels.
Watch then watch some more
There’s no way I can be comprehensive about this, of course. These are simply a bunch of performances that speak to me. The first bunch are solo guitar pieces. The next bunch are Cante, and I encourage you to watch these too, even if you’re not yet a fan of Cante! Quite a few different styles of Cante are represented here, so you might find your way in to the Cante through one of these singers. And even if you’re not yet a fan, hearing the accompaniment and the role that the guitar plays with the Cante is super helpful in understanding how the solo guitar is grounded in that.
And finally I’ve included some dance, as one of the very best ways to see/feel/hear the totality of a Palo is through the dance, which includes Cante and guitar, of course.
And if I missed a Soleá performance that you particularly love, just let us know in the comments!
Ramon Montoya 1936 – There’s no video of Montoya that I know of, but he’s credited with essentially inventing the concept of solo flamenco guitar, and also wrote tons of what we consider ‘traditional’ melodies for Soleá. A giant in the history of flamenco guitar.
Antonio Mairena with Manuel Morao – I guess you could say that Mairena was to Cante before Camarón what Sabicas was to the guitar before Paco. The difference being that Mairena was consciously trying to preserve a style of Cante, as well as specific Cante, that he feared were being lost. He was a hugely influential singer and is still for many the reference for how many Palos should be sung.
There are a lot of dancers I could have chosen, but I was lucky to see the young Eva perform quite a bit in Granada back when she was just starting, and I think everyone should know more about Paco Jarrana.