La Copla Andaluza (Andalusian Copla)
It even happens to Spaniards… sometimes the music we think is flamenco is actually a copla. Yep, it’s true, songs as traditional as “La Zarzamora,” “María de la O,” or “Ojos Verdes” are not examples of flamenco, but rather of Andalusian coplas.
But let’s break it down. Both genres come from Andalusia and many of the same artists perform them both, but they are not the same. There are many differences, but we’re going to take a look at the most “comprehensive” one: flamenco refers to instrumental music just as much as singing and dancing, while copla simply refers to a type of song. In the same vein, while flamenco uses guitars, castanets, the cajón (box), and even the heels of the dancers’ shoes, coplas sometimes include orchestral arrangements.
When it comes to the history of both genres there is some controversy. Those on the side of the copla say that it is older than flamenco, citing its origins at the beginning of the 19th century, while flamenco appears at the end of the same century. On the other hand, many studies say that flamenco was born out of a fusion of elements of Muslim, Jewish and gypsy cultures in the 15th century, while the copla is a genre that began to appear at the beginning of the 20th century.
The copla enjoyed its glory days between the 1940s and 60s. During those years, the trio of composers and poets, Antonio Quintero, Rafael de León and Manuel Quiroga wrote the majority of the coplas that are known today. The fall of the genre began in the 70s due to two key factors: the progressive retirement of the trio of composers, and the identification of the copla with Franco’s Spain. Many musicians and authors from the new democratic state rejected the songs they considered dated, superficial and more than anything, linked with a dictator that had practically made them official pieces of music.
It was not until the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 90s that the copla reemerged, redeemed by authors like Joan Manuel Serrat, Carlos Cano and the one and only Martirio. We’ve also got to mention popular singers like Isabel Pantoja, Rocío Jurado and Lola Flores who decided to dust off some of the old compositions from the 40s, liberated from their political slime. In the same vein, we should mention a revitalization of the music in the media. The music boomed in areas dedicated to the genre, and was presented by great radio and television personalities!
Today, the copla is not as popular as it once was. It is considered out-of-style or old-fashioned and of an older generation and very few new copla artists enjoy popularity among young audiences. However, famous, successful, Spanish pop stars have recognized the influence that the copla has had on their work. It may not be in fashion, but it could be said that its grandchildren recognize that if they are on stage now, it is only because there was once a time when their grandmother gave it everything she had.