What is Duende? Between Flamenco and Federico García Lorca

That Flamenco is more than just music was known to everyone, but what if we told you that within it, there is a true world of magic? (Here’s our short article on the magic of Flamenco and tablao.)

Indeed, and the proof is the presence of Duende!

But what exactly is Duende?

Some try to explain what Duende is with a strange and mysterious elf, some say it’s the artist’s inspiration… but it’s much more!

We humans try to explain everything rationally, but when it comes to art, we must accept that there is a force that goes beyond what we understand. This concept in Flamenco is fundamental, especially to understand what Duende is.

The first SEA and YOU concert (click here for our in-depth article) took place in Granada, the birthplace of Flamenco, and therefore, Duende.

We are sure that not only the artists of the Spanish CajaGranadaFundacion had this unlimited power, but also those of Ideal Fado and Napulitanata.

But now, let’s see together what Duende is and why it is so important for Flamenco.

What is Duende?

To explain what Duende is, we must abandon all our certainties and simply accept that art is something that goes beyond reason.

Many philosophers, writers, and psychologists have tried to give a definition of why, while watching an artistic performance, we are hit by a strange force that captivates our eyes and makes us look at the stage as if we were hypnotized.

First of all, we must remember that Duende is a term that cannot be translated.

An original word in the Spanish language, the concept of Duende goes beyond its literal translation of “house spirit,” a kind of elf, to embrace a more magical and spiritual essence.

Its history is intrinsically linked to Spanish culture and its artistic expressions.

Spanish culture is full of mystery and magic, thanks to the imprint of Gypsy culture.

It is precisely from the latter that Flamenco and Duende come.

Understanding what Duende is is first and foremost understanding what Flamenco is.

But perhaps someone explains what Flamenco is better than anyone else.

Federico García Lorca explains what Duende is

Federico García Lorca could not be more specific when he defined Duende as that Dionysian force that grabs the Flamenco artist, or the bullfighter. It is the point of maximum tension that is created between the artist and the spectator, that moment where the two speak to each other and communicate without saying anything.

In the vast panorama of Spanish literature, Duende emerges as an inspiring force that gives authenticity and emotion to texts. Illustrious writers have tried to capture this elusive entity in their works, creating masterpieces imbued with passion and mystery. Among the titles that stand out as eloquent examples of literary duende are Poeta en Nueva York and Romancero Gitano by Federico García Lorca, works in which Duende dances between the lines, transporting the reader to a world of deep emotions.

Born on June 5, 1898, in Fuente Vaqueros, Spain, and died on August 19, 1936, Lorca is considered one of the most important figures in 20th-century Spanish literature.

His works, influenced by the surrealist movement, address themes such as love, death, passion, and society. Unfortunately, his life was tragically cut short when he was arrested and killed by Francoist nationalists in 1936.

In 1933, Lorca delivered his definition of Duende to the world during the conference in Buenos Aires, Juego y teoría del Duende (Play and Theory of Duende).

Lorca explains that it is an extremely powerful force capable of taking possession of great artists in the act of pure creation.

Not all artists succeed, but all would like to possess this immense power.

Great poets, artists, philosophers, musicians, all can be possessed by Duende, but not everyone is granted this gift.

It is undoubtedly what all artists aim for, to be possessed by a magnetic force that attracts every gaze to the stage as your artistic energy bursts forth without restraint.

And it is no coincidence that Flamenco is the art par excellence of Duende.

Duende in Flamenco

In the world of music, Duende finds its highest expression in Flamenco.

This form of art is permeated by an unparalleled vital force.

Duende can manifest itself in all its power through the poignant notes of the guitar, the passionate movements of the dancers, and the powerful voices of the cantaores.

It is important to remember that Duende in Flamenco, as in all artistic expressions, is not just a matter of technique but a deep emotional connection that transforms the performance into a spiritual experience.

Duende is crucial to understanding the true essence of art.

It is not just a concept linked to Spain but a universal force that manifests itself wherever art breathes. It is what transforms a melody into a soulful song, a text into vibrant poetry.

Understanding what Duende is means delving into the depths of creative expression, capturing the enchantment of an inspiration that goes beyond words and notes.

In summary, Duende is a magical force that permeates Spanish culture, manifesting itself distinctly in literature and Flamenco.

It represents the very soul of art, transforming creation into an intense and authentic experience. Understanding Duende means opening up to the deepest emotions and spiritual connections created through art. In a world where technique sometimes dominates, Duende reminds us that true beauty lies in the passion and inspiration that turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.

By Davide Lancia