In this article I discuss the translation of flamenco songs to English.
Is it possible to really translate flamenco to English?
Translation of flamenco songs to English
My first feeling is that it is somewhat difficult to translate flamenco into another language.
Certainly, I can translate the words.
But the emotion of flamenco is not necessarily contained in the words themselves.
What I mean by this is that how the singer sings is more expressive than the words themselves.
In fact, the words to a certain extent are just a means to expression of feeling.
Thus, even if I do produce a good translation of the Spanish Andalusian lyrics in English, they may not convey the emotion.
That does not mean to say that I would not carry out such a translation.
Indeed, I do just that from time to time.
My translation provides information to my client and wider readership.
In that sense of course the translation of flamenco songs to English is a valuable endeavour.
An example of a flamenco song translated to English
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.
Interpreting the translation to English of this flamenco song
Perhaps this is a conversation between a young man in the army and a lady who enquires about his regiment.
More research on the movement of Spanish soldiers might help.
Especially those from Navarra in the North to Andalucia in the South to support Spanish military forces.
This might suggest a reference to the Peninsula war between Napoleon’s empire and the Spanish Empire for the control of the Iberian Peninsula.
Our theory might be 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 such academic research we can still experience the flamenco emotion.
Should we translate flamenco songs?
The translation provides information.
And having access to such information can help to draw people closer to flamenco.
Ultimately if we speak Spanish, we will get even closer to understanding flamenco lyrics.
Our emotional response to flamenco is of course personal.
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