Is it possible to really translate flamenco to English?
Certainly the words can be translated but will they make sense and more importantly will they convey the same meaning and message that they convey in the original Spanish.
My feeling is: no.
No, even if we can produce a very good translation of the words of flamenco songs into English from their original Andalusian Spanish this often will not bring flamenco any closer to us.
Why is this?
The words in flamenco songs themselves are very often not so important in themselves. What matters is how they are sung.
Flamenco is such a unique and powerfully emotional form of human expression.
There are times of course when the lyrics of a flamenco song do narrate a particular experience.
For example one of the countless lyrics for Alegrías and Cantiñas:
“Que bien te pega la gorra
¿De qué regimiento eres?
Que de Navarra soy, señora”
These lyrics are heard sung as far back as 1927.
They could be translated something like this:
” How well your cap suits you
little guy from Navarra, little guy from Navarra
What regiment do you belong to?
I am from Navarra, madam.
The translation does not get us very far.
Perhaps we can work out that this is conversation between a young man in the army and a lady who does not know where he is from.
We would have to do more research to find out if this is a reference to the movement of Spanish soldiers from the north of Spain in such regions as Navarra to Andalucia in the South to support Spanish military forces.
We could then see if this is a reference to the Peninsula war between Napoleon’s empire and the Spanish Empire for the control of the Iberian Peninsula.
At the end of our research we could perhaps think that the lady in Andalucía is delighted to see the young soldier from the north and that is why he looks so grand in his military cap.
But without all that study into the possible meaning of the lyrics we will get the sentiment by listening to Naranjito de Triana sing these words in this performance of Cantiña. These specific lyrics start at 8:30
Why translate Flamenco?
As a method of information; as a way of simply showing a non Spanish speaker what the lyrics of the song, translation has a function.
But my feeling is that if we want to get closer to flamenco we simply have to learn Spanish as a first step and then of course we would need to feel an affinity with flamenco sentiment.
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