Cantes de Ida y Vuelta

Sometimes people ask me to explain the meaning of  Cantes de Ida y Vuelta. We can perhaps translate this rather literally as Songs of Going and Returning.

I have a YouTube video of the Guajira which is a very typical example of one of these flamenco forms or palos flamencos as as we say in Spanish.

There is a theory which I will explain here but I do have certain reservations: I am not entirely sure that it is 100% accurate.

The generally accepted idea is that Spanish people moved to the South American continent many years ago and introduced the Spanish language, culture and music to the peoples of South America.

The indigenous people would have assimilated these Spanish imports and mixing them with their own language, culture and music thus created a kind of mixed or ‘mestizo’ culture of Spanish and indigenous Indian.

It is believed that in the early part of the 20th Century Spanish musicians visited South American countries to perform flamenco. These flamenco artistes heard and were inspired by the South American music styles and in turn incorporated these into flamenco music thus creating  a group of flamenco forms or ‘palos flamenco’ with distinct South American flavour yet modified to create once again a mixed or ‘mestizo’ musical expression.

This theory may well be quite accurate but I am tempted to consider a few ideas.

It is interesting that in Argentina Spanish people are called Gallegos which means native of Galicia or to use their language Galiza or Galica and Galego.

The people of Galicia have emigrated extensively throughout the world and especially to the Americas. So great were their numbers in their first excursions that the people of Argentina knew them as Gallegos rather than españoles.

The national instrument of Galicia is the bagpipes and they consider themselves to be ‘celtas’ or Celtic or Gaelic.

Their music is very different to flamenco from Andalucía in the South of Spain.

That is not to say that there are no similarities with flamenco music, indeed it is accepted that the flamenco form or ‘palo flamenco’ Farruca originated in Galicia and the Garrotín from neighbouring Asturias.

When I was a boy and beginning to play flamenco guitar we used to frequently enjoy the visit of  a Galician family to our home for lunch. Whenever I played the Farruca it struck a chord and the mother used to sing along with her own Galician folk song. She was clearly hearing Galician routes in my flamenco Farruca.

Many years later I played in Scotland with the master Galician bagpipe player Carlos Nuñez. We played his composition called Fandango de Vela so to him that was a fandango but I played something in the style of Alegrías from Cádiz and the two worked very well together.

The Alegrías of course was almost certainly an Andalusian development of the Spanish folk dance ‘Jota’ which is not specific to Andalucía and indeed is heard a great deal throughout Northern Spain.

So we begin to get a picture of different music from different people interacting and developing or indeed metamorphosing into a new expression.

This does not mean to say that all Galician music is close to flamenco; that certainly is not the case.

Turning now more specifically to the Cantes de Ida y Vuelta for us in Spain we would list our South American influenced flamenco as:





The Guajira is especially associated with Cuba but it is important to point out that the Cubans do have their own Guajira which is not identical to ours. The mood and timing is slightly different.

What I do not know for certain is whether  the Guajira is the result of the Spanish culture into Cuba and the Americas or whether on the contrary that musical style already existed among the Cuban people irrespective of Spanish influences.

The Colombiana sounds like it should be from Colombia but I have also heard some people dispute this and say that it may have originated in other parts of the Americas but as a Colombian style.

The Milonga is sure to be associated especially with Argentina and Uruguay and in the flamenco version it is typically slower and more sorrowful than the other South American styles.

Rumba is interesting in that there are so many variants. In its origin it was Afro Cuban but it also entered Argentina and later Spain. In flamenco there is a very clear authentic expression of Rumba which we call Rumba Flamenca and indeed is very flamenco in character.

However the Rumba has developed  as a somewhat pop style in Catalonia where it is known as Rumba Catalana. The famous French group the Gipsy Kings base most of their repertoire on a kind of Rumba rhythm and structure which may not be identical to the Rumba Catalana but certainly is quite similar.

So I do certainly think that Spain has contributed to South America but I am careful not to give all the credit to Spain and am very respectful of the original South American musical styles that have contributed a whole section to the flamenco repertoire.