Flamenco is a genuine Spanish art, and to be more exact a genuine Southern Spanish art. It exists in three forms: Cante, the song, Baile, the dance, and Guitarra, the guitar. Gypsies are very often named as its fathers, and (it can at least) be taken for certain that they played an important part in its creation. However The popular songs and dances of Andalusia have also influenced early Flamenco considerably.
Certainly there were other influences, too, which is not surprising in a country that has been dominated by most diverse cultures and civilizations during its different historical eras. There were the legendary Tartessos, and then seven centuries of Muslim occupation which hardly could have passed without leaving traces. All that, directly or indirectly, influenced Flamenco.
The first time Flamenco is reported in literature is in the "Cartas Marruecas" of Cadalso, in 1774. Its birth-place was most probably where, between 1765 and 1860, the first Flamenco-schools were created: Cádiz, Jerez de la Frontera and Triana (Seville).
In this eras Flamenco dance started to establish its firm position in the ballrooms. Early Flamenco seems to have been purely vocal, accompanied only by rhythmical clapping of hands, toque de palmas. It was left to dedicated composers, as Julián Arcas, to introduce guitar playing.
During its Golden Age (1869-1910) Flamenco was developed in the period's numerous music cafés (cafés cantantes) to its definitive form. The more serious forms expressing deep feelings (cante jondo) dates from this time.
Flamenco dance arrived to its climax, being the major attraction for the public of those cafés cantantes. Guitar players featuring the dancers increasingly gained a reputation.
The time from 1910 to 1955 Flamenco singing is marked by the Ópera Flamenca, with an easier kind of music such as fandangos and cantes de ida y vuelta. The latter clearly showed South American influences. From 1915 onwords, Flamenco shows were organized and performed all over the world. Even so, not everybody was pleased with the development and intellectuals such as Falla organized 1922 in Granada a contest to promote "authentical" cante jondo.
1955 started a sort of Flamenco Renaissance, the great performer Antonio Mairena being its key figure. Outstanding dancers and soloists soon made their way out of the small tablaos, (successors to the early cafés cantantes), to the great theaters and concert houses. It was now that guitar players acquired a great protagonism, and their playing arrived to masterity.
Actual Flamenco frequently shows influences of other kinds of music, such as Jazz, Salsa, Bossa Nova, etc.
Flamenco dance has also changed, especially the female dancers they now try to showcase their temperament rather than artistry. The Flamenco guitar that formerly was just featuring the dancers arrived to be a soloist art form, great virtuoso Paco de Lucia being the pioneer of that development.
Mass medias has brought Flamenco to the world stage, but deeply it has always been and will remain an intimate kind of music. You have not listened real Flamenco if not with a small group of friends, at midnight somewhere in the South of Spain, when there is nothing around but the voice, the guitar and the body of a dancer moving in the moonlight.