Female Flamenco Guitarists

Recently I am seeing attention in the media to female flamenco guitarists and I feel that I want to offer a few of my own ideas on the subject of women playing flamenco guitar.

My first reaction is why are people talking about females who play flamenco guitar as though this were a separate issue to flamenco guitar players in general.

Before I discuss my own ideas here is a list of female flamenco guitarists for anyone who would like to do some research.

Antonia Jiménez

Laura Gonzalez

Celia Morales

Davinia Ballesteros

Belen Novelli

Noa Drezner

I have absolutely no interest in what size or shape or anything else a flamenco guitarist is. My joy is in listening to the music that they play but in this world, it seems that not everyone feels the same way.

I saw an article in Spanish media fairly recently in which a female flamenco guitarist said that she kind of perceives that there are those who feel that it is not her place to be playing flamenco guitar; that it is a man’s world and that men should play flamenco guitar.

Now, I am hoping that this is just some misunderstanding, something the journalist doing the interview misunderstood or some kind of personal perception not based on reality.

I say this because back in Spain I do not know any people men or women who would dream of suggesting such a frankly absurd concept.

Spain and Spanish attitudes have changed and matured and evolved massively. One would have to seek out a very elderly individual living isolated in a very remote area to hear any such idea.

More than a 100 years ago when flamenco started apparently it was not uncommon for people in general and men in particular to say that women could not sing flamenco as well as men because it was thought that the typical female voice was not suited to the profound emotional expression necessary for the singing of the deeply tragic songs known as “cante jondo”.

Women proved repeatedly that this was not the case and the idea of man dominance of flamenco singing and of flamenco in general has vanished.

As a side comment anyone who imagines that bullfighting is popular with most Spanish people is reading the wrong sources of information.

Coming back to flamenco guitar playing I am quite sure that just about everyone in Spain cannot see any advantage to playing flamenco guitar in being  a man.

Special emotions that women don’t have? Is this a joke?!

Physical strength? Yes but , not but.

There are two observations here.

As much as I may become unpopular with certain very politically correct people I think that men seem to usually develop some kind of upper body strength, have bigger hands and a stronger grip that most women.

I am refering to people men or women who do not play any particular kind of sport that develops these kinds of characteristics.

If women train then they can be as strong or stronger than men and some are stronger simply genetically. But by and large men seem to get this  physical muscle thing which I think I read somewhere is partly due to the presence of testosterone.

As you can see I don’t pay lip service to political correctness.

So the question is how important is physical strength for playing flamenco guitar and how is this relevant to female flamenco guitarists.

My thoughts are that if we are using a lot of power in our hands when playing we might be doing something wrong.

There are times when accompanying flamenco dance that we really have to produce a very powerful “rajeo” also known as “rasgueo” or “rasgueado” but except in these very special cases I don’t think that strength is a pre- requisite for flamenco guitar playing.

All the women guitarists I have met have had an abundance of strength in their hands and I have seen them produce exceptionally powerful playing.

So where I am going with all of this is: why do we need to discuss female flamenco guitarists at all? Is this helpful to gender equality?

I am not sure.

I think what matters is people and their right to live the lives they want and develop the careers they want and I think I would be happier seeing a few less articles and a few more flamenco guitarists of any gender or anything else performing more often.