La saeta, sentir flamenco. Posted by Magda on Apr 22, 2011 in Spanish Culture, Videos
“…son como flechas que atraviesan el corazón…”
(… they are like arrows going through your heart…)
Federico García Lorca, Spanish poet.
If we look for the meaning of “saeta” (arrow) in a dictionary , wordreference for example, we will find this definition: “a weapon consisting of a stick with a sharp pointed head, designed to be shot from a bow.” But taking into account that we are celebrating a Christian festivity these days, we will have to look for a different one. The definition that applies here is: “Flamenco verse sung at processions in Holy Week”.
If you spend this Holy Week days in Spain, and most concretely in Andalusia, you will probably be a spectator of this spontaneous art. An anonimous and broken voice, in front of one of the “pasos” (religious image of Christ or the Virgin Mary representing one of the different moments from the last day in the life of Christ) in one of the numerous processions. Singing from the heart, a capella, it gives voice to the deepest feelings about Christ ‘s passion and death. The atmosphere, (usually at nigth because processions last till late night) the absolute silence, the scent of incense, the devotion of people and the saetero (saeta singer) himself make these moments something really spectacular.
In its origin it wasn’t a flamenco song, but canticles of repentance and devotion sung by friars in these days of penitence. The need for common people to address God publicly and show their respect and religious feelings contributed to the Saeta’s transformation into a more popular form of singing, the lyrics changing from Latin into Spanish. Flamenco gave these songs their special flavour, making this religious expression an artistic one too.
The saeta is performed differently from one place to another, with examples of local songs inspired by the several brotherhoods and religious imagery . The most primitive ones are said to come from Arcos de la Frontera (Cádiz) and Alcalá de Guadaira (Seville). There are very famous flamenco singers who were and are magnificent saeteros, such as “La niña de los peines” (the girl of the combs”, funny name, uh?), Manuel Vallejo, or El Gloria.
I know this is only a brief introduction, but I think the best way for you to know about this fussion of religious sentiment and flamenco is to just feel it. So you will be very welcome to enjoy our Semana Santa (Holy Week) someday!
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