At its most elemental, what is flamenco?

Wow, that’s a biggie. It is easy to say what it is in a light-hearted way. It is obviously a musical form from Southern Spain, but actually it is quintessential culture in music from the Southern part of Andalusia which is, in itself, an amalgam of many elements that have come there culturally from other regions, particularly the Eastern Mediterranean, and it is really the decanted end result of that great mixture producing a very powerful and meaningful expression of the Andalusian people.

Paco Pena Paco Peña

What are some of the most significant musical features of the style?

Spain historically has a very rich folklore, which has contributed to flamenco – which as I say is an amalgam of many things – and the expression of these different forms of folklore come into the culture in a very expressive way. Flamenco really comes into the history from a very difficult time in Andalusian history – in Spanish history – when life was very precarious, very difficult, and so there was discrimination, suffering, there were wars. The music, essentially, deals with those very basic and tragic elements of...