Flamenco is a genuine Spanish art form, or, to be more exact, a genuine Southern Spanish art. It exists in three forms: el cante, the song, el baile, the dance, and la guitarra, the guitar playing. Gypsies are often credited with the "invention" of flamenco, and it is at least certain that they played an important part in its creation. But the popular songs and dances of Andalusia also had a major influence on early Flamenco.
First there were the legendary Tartessos, and later, nine centuries of Muslim history in the Iberian Peninsula. Neither passed without leaving an imprint on Andalusian culture, and both influenced flamenco, directly and indirectly. The earliest mention of flamenco in literature is in Las Cartas Marruecas of Cadalso, in 1774. During its Golden Age (1869-1910), flamenco developed into its definitive form in the epoch´s numerous music cafés (cafés cantantes). Flamenco´s most intense form, cante jondo, expressing deep feelings, dates from this period. And in the cafés cantantes, the art of flamenco dance rose to new heights as the dancers became the major attraction.
The role of the guitar reached its peak during the café cantante years, as well, with the guitar developing into an essential part of the flamenco art form. From 1910 to 1955 flamenco singing was marked by the ópera flamenca, with an easier kind of music such as fandangos and cantes de ida y vuelta — the latter clearly showing South American influences. From 1915 onwards flamenco shows were organized and performed all over the world. However, not everyone was happy with that development and in 1922 a group of intellectuals, among them Manuel de Falla, organized a contest in Granada to promote "authentic" cante jondo. Modern-day flamenco frequently shows influences of other kinds of music, such as jazz, salsa, bossa nova, etc. And flamenco dance has changed, with female dancers often showcasing their temperament more than their artistry.
Flamenco guitar, originally just a backdrop for the dancing and singing, is now recognized as an art form in its own right. The virtuoso Paco de Lucia is one of most influential pioneers of flamenco guitar. Although mass media has brought flamenco to the world stage, at its heart it has always been and will always be an intimate form of music. You have not heard authentic flamenco if you have not been in a juerga, with a small group of friends, at midnight somewhere in the south of Spain, where there is nothing around but the voice, the guitar, and the body of a dancer moving in the moonlight.