The idea of flamenco as novelty, Spain-by-numbers music is, like so much else, the fault of General Franco. He was keen to promote tourism to Spain during the latter years of his tyranny and flamenco seemed like a good starting point. But, as this evocative documentary shows, real flamenco is soulful, endlessly varied folk music boasting deep roots and a powerful outsider heritage.
Writer Elizabeth Kinder is our lucky guide to the heart of ‘El Duende’. As she wanders from Cadiz to Seville and from Granada to Cordoba, it’s hard not to feel envious. But the ethnomusicological gems she returns with are plentiful – what these bar, town square and back room performances suggest is that flamenco is a performative, largely oral tradition. Indeed many of its most renowned practitioners feared the taint of commerce and were deeply uneasy about being recorded. Accordingly, the culture is to some extent a phantom: hard to pin down but, when you experience it, you’ll understand. A fascinating and seductive film.