Ravenna Flamenco

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Guajira is an "ida y vuelta" flamenco form, which means that it was brought back by sailors from the New World—in this case from Cuba. ("Guajira" means "girl" in the native Indian language of Cuba.) This transcription is an arrangement of a traditional guajira in the style of Manolo Sanlucar. I’ve included two "classic" guajira falsetas and a rhythmic rendering of a typical guajira copla (verse). The compás for guajira is the same count/accent structure as for buleria, but the guajira has a brighter, bouncier feel: think "tropical."

I’ve started this arrangement off with a four compás intro on Am/E7 before moving into the guajira entra-copla rhythm proper (at bars 17-31). This entra-copla phrase is the common thread that ties the guajira together and gives the palo its "signature." The variations on this theme are endless; I’ve given a few here in the style of Sanlucar for variety, though other possibilities and flavors certainly abound.

In this transcription b ars 33-40 operate as a remate and tie off the intro section in order to create a distinct move into the first falseta. This D-A-F-E7-A line occurs again after before the "copla" section. In both instances the remate is used to give shape to the arrangement: instead of one continuous progression of falsetas and rhythm, the remates break the arrangement up into discrete units—"movements," if you will.

The first falseta is a Manolo Sanlucar interpretation of a traditional theme. I play the melody tirando and let my thumb rest on bass strings for stability. For the quicker picado at bar 51 I switch to apoyondo in order to give the run more clarity. If this particular stretch is too fast for you, you can also play it in eighth notes (instead of eighth note triplets) by making the phrase a straight run down the scale (instead of one that moves up and down, as written).

The rhythmic section at bar 65 (and other sections like this elsewhere in this arrangement) are prime spots for a dancer to do some fancy footwork. If you’re playing guajira as a solo piece, these passages also help to give an arrangement some shape and texture.

The "copla" section starts (as marked in the transcription) at bar 89. If you were playing for a singer, this is an example of some of the typical chords he or she might move through (though the length, arrangement, and variations would, of course, depend on the letra he or she sings). As with the alegria, just because you don’t have a singer doesn’t mean you need to abandon the copla altogether. Adding a copla (even in the absence of a singer) can be a good way to give shape and texture to your arrangement (not to mention length)—and can make a good alternative to simply piling on more labor intensive falsetas. A "copla" section also gives you a chance to introduce some passing chords and chord variations, both of which make for a nice harmonic break from a strict A-E7-D diet.

The second (and last) falseta I’ve transcribed here is Manolo Sanlucar’s extended version of the classic guajira falseta. The first few compáses don’t need much explanation, but once you get to bar 153, be sure to watch your compás. The three high E pick-up eighth notes can throw you off (i.e. fuera de compás) if you’re not paying attention. As with the other tabs here at RF, the line breaks in the music correspond to compáses—the 12 count is the first note (or position, if it’s a rest) of each staff of music.

Played at a brisk pace, this arrangement works out to be a little over three minutes long. On different occasions, I have used longer versions of this basic structure both as a dance accompaniment and as a solo guitar piece. There is a lot of falseta material out there (and could soon be some more posted here), so once you have the basic structure and flow down, it is easy to move the pieces around and make it your own.

tags: accompaniment, manolo sanlucar, traditional, arrangement, falseta
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