Flamenco Stairs | An urgent musical resource for African slaves played by the King

“I’m afraid to take that with me for the rest of my life. But I don’t care, on the contrary.” Philip VI before starting the speech Ateneo de Madrid In the XI, he responded this way when they asked him if he wanted to play Flamenco Cajun, present at the event. A few weeks ago, an image was circulating around the world: that of the King joining the cajoneada, a group flamenco show directed by a Spaniard (Guillermo García) and a Peruvian (Mario Cubillas), at the inauguration ceremony of the International. Spanish Language Conference Cadiz.

“clearly Do you know what stairs are?As one of the organizers of this cajoneada says, Baby Zapata (Malaga, 1969). And the symbolism is interesting. It does not cease to carry an important meaning to see a whole king sitting on a humble deedwho started playing African slaves in Peru in the Viceroyalty which now still belongs in popular culture.”

Now, (almost) everyone knows that The cajón is a percussion instrument which is often used in Flemish. What many people don’t know is that Its origin as a tool is in Peru and that it was incorporated into flamenco in general only in the 1980s.

Even fewer people know that the Basic wooden staircase had become percussion instrument In Peru at the beginning of the 17th century – when the country was part of the Spanish Empire and therefore dependent on the crown – because the Catholic Church forbade slaves to use their drums, which they believed helped them communicate and could thus be a threat to the established order. Forced to find an alternative to accompanying themselves with percussion at their parties, slaves used what was closest to hand: Fruit collection boxeswhich over the years have become widespread and standardized as musical instruments.

Basic percussion instrument

What distinguishes the cajon as a percussion instrument? So? “It’s very basic, it doesn’t make a complex sound, it’s easy to hit, it’s a nimble and light instrument, it doesn’t weigh much though it’s rough, it has a raspy sound, it’s very earthy. But despite that, it covers a wide range: between bass and treble.” Fold, the range of sounds is wide.” Which lists The virtues of the stairs as a musical instrument Augustine Diacera (Huelva, 1977), Sun Flamenco percussionists The most sought after at present, who has a long career behind him as a musician.

The cajón is the simplest drum kit, commonly known as the cocktail drum kit Perfect tool to travel withexplains Zapata, who has researched the history of the cajón as a musical instrument for nearly fifteen years, in addition to dedicating himself to dissemination and training through the initiative Staircase gallery in Granada.

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despite of dating back to the seventeenth century, When the first written and visual testimonies appeared (it is possible to see them in engravings and drawings of the time), their size and composition were not standardized until the 1950s. The voice of Peruvian shelf It is drier. They usually build them out of soft wood: cedar or mahogany, Zapata explains, and that is reflected in the sound.” Cubadescendants of slaves also used them, although in this case, in a set of three tools, of different sizes.

Paco de Lucia and the party at the ambassador’s house

In 1977, El Cajun was part of several Peruvian musicians. Paco de Lucia (Algeciras, 1947 – Playa del Carmen, Mexico, 2014), he was touring Latin America with a group of musicians. In the group there was a Brazilian percussionist, Rubim Dantas, which accompanied the brilliant flamenco guitarist’s compositions with rhythms typical of his cultural tradition. When they arrived in Lima, the capital of Peru, the Spanish ambassador wanted to entertain the musician with a party where a local Afro-Peruvian band performed, and where a famous percussionist, Carlos Ketro grove, She is famous for being part of the regular cast Great chubuca.

Paco was fascinated by the toolAnd she asked Soto to give it to him. He put a price on it and brought Paco de Lucia to Spain for 12,000 pesetas (just over €70 in return). The first time the cajón appears in a flamenco recording is on record, published in 1981, I just want to walk The first thing Baku scored with the sextet. Next will be like water that Island shrimp It was recorded for the Phillips label a year later with production Ricardo Passion. The rest is history.

Paco said he found the sole and heel in the drawer, and Two basic percussion sounds which bailaores do,” Zapata explains. In flamenco, the traditional rhythm is Stomping, clapping, knuckle hitting On a table,” adds Diacera. The cajon can be adapted very easily, because its essence is the same, body percussion on wood. Paco was bold, but you didn’t have to be a genius to see that within the aesthetics of a flamenco sound, the cajón fit itself perfectly.”

For being versatile, inexpensive and flexible, Flamenco musicians soon welcomed him and he joined them for good. “He was bubbleBecause it was so visual, so instinctive and so close to what we already had as a rhythm inside Three pillars of flamencoSinging, guitar and dancing,” adds Diasra Melodic and Harmonic Code, Flamenco It is distinguished from other music by its manipulation of meter, tempo, and what he calls flamenco. compass. “The Cajun made it possible to manipulate this scale without straying from the tapping or applauding timbre that was typical of it, that is, without guesting on the timbre of other cultures.”

However, after staying in Spain, the drawer would suffer Some additional modifications: It will stop being manufactured in noble woods conglomerate And some crossed guitar strings will be added inside, which will change the sound so that it ceases to sound so dry. “ropes They add double To the sound, it is very much like a snare drum” – what is generally known as a drum -. Those wires with the cajon inside which the blow of the hand on the wood gives a greater vibration to the sound.

No, it’s not easy to play cajon

the Pictures of King playing the cajon With some knowledge they surprised themselves and strangers. in diaries Spanish And they quoted sources close to Felipe VI, who confirmed that the king had two drawers in the palace, one of which was a gift from the musicians of the bailaura. Sarah Paras– And in a way that he studies by himself, he learns and practices in his spare time. Is it then Easy to play tool?

Zapata and Diacera categorically deny this. Zapata was quick to stress that he “has his own world.” “Participating in a cajoneada is easy, but learning the different scales of flamenco styles, knowing when to enter, and when to change the tempo… Good play takes a lifetime“.

Diacera reflects: “Almost all percussion instruments It causes a direct reaction It doesn’t happen like a trumpet or a violin that you need years of knowledge to make an acceptable sound. For example, if you leave a child in the middle of a rehearsal Symphony orchestra, which all families of musical instruments have, the instinctive thing about it is to go percussion, because you blow a trumpet and it doesn’t sound, but if you hit a percussion instrument, there’s something that sounds. It’s not that it’s easy to play, it’s productive. but To play cajon you have to understand scale, the AestheticAnd where they are used and for what purpose .. It is not easy.

And he concludes: “Then there is another question: percussion in the hands of a person who does not know how to play it. It is a weapon of mass destructionOn a musical level. so by saying, It can ruin the sound. The first sound is easy, but everything that comes after it is complicated.”

From fruit crates to building “crafts”

What started as an obsolete, giving a new use to the no longer useful fruit box, ended up being a tool with very specific characteristics which they are building today Luthers Specializing in different parts of the world. “Its construction probably isn’t quite as complex as a guitar,” says Diacera the Luthers who build drawers They take it with the same profession and with the same dedication.

He was the first to do it for flamenco, comments Zapata Germans. Today’s Cajun is not Flamenco or Peruvian, it’s a Universal tool And it’s easy to find Luthers Build it in different parts of the world: Europe, Peru and other places in Latin America and Southeast Asia… And, of course, also in Andalusia”. The best of them allow their strings to be modified, as well as to have better quality wood and better finishes. Zapata explains that in the land where flamenco was born, flamenco has only recently emerged as a creature. Cajonan Staircase Craftsmen Association Specifically for job evaluation Luthers local.

but price range – and adjectives – vast. “We’ve all had a staircase in our learning,” Diasera admits. “First of all, they’re usually very primitive because they’re so easy to get. Mine was built for me by my dad, and it’s very easy,” he explains. In Andalusia, it is as common to find children playing cajón at a gathering of friends or at a folk party as it is to see them with a guitar. Its use is common, and all schools where flamenco is taught include the possibility of studying it.

From flamenco to the world

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the Geographical diversity in its production It is also a sign of how widespread its use is. after existence Peruvian afro machineFlamenco released it to the world. Alejandro Sanz He includes it as another instrument on his world tours, on youtube it is easy to find pictures of the drummer from foul play Cajun playing in concert, and musicians of as diverse styles as Jazz, rock and world music, but also trap and reggaeton They use it as a percussion instrument. “El cajón really speaks all languages, it’s completely internationalized,” Zapata admits.

At Cajón Export, he explains that they mainly work on publishing and publishing, and they organize the only stable festival around cajón, focused strictly on training. and that every year in Torrox (Málaga) gathers an audience of many origins who wish to get closer to the musical instrument or to deepen their interpretation.

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