Sunday, 21 February 2016

Duende is a hugely important element of Flamenco, but it cannot really be included in the list above, because depending on the artist and their performance it may or may not be present.
The word duende actually refers to the mystical creatures like sprites, elves and goblins, but when spoken about in the context of Flamenco, when a person has duende, it is a little bit like saying they have soul. Not something you can learn!
The concept of duende has been the subject of much discussion over the years; it is interpreted in many different ways by different people and given a deep, spiritual significance by many poets and writers over decades.
The great Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca, was fascinated by duende and was once quoted as saying that, ”Duende could only be present when one sensed that death was possible.”
Now that sounds pretty extreme, but here he is perhaps referring to those performances where the artist has entirely lost themselves in the music and let go of themselves completely arriving at a point where they are in a heightened state of raw emotion.
Witnessing the artist behaving in this strangely vulnerable way you could be forgiven for thinking that they may have temporarily lost their mind.
Duende is not thought to be a state that only the artist can reach. It is believed that with an open mind, heart and soul those witnessing the performance can also be possessed by the mysterious power of duende.
For me, perhaps the most evocative description of duende, again, from Federico Garcia Lorca, who relayed a description of duende that had been explained to him once by an old guitar maestro.
I feel this description tells us all we need to know.
“The duende is not in the throat; the duende climbs up inside you, from the soles of the feet”.