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Diana Navarro and Flamenco's New Wave

Singer Diana Navarro is from the province of Andalucia, in Spain — the birthplace of flamenco. Her debut album, released in 2005, sold 250,000 copies (12 times as much as what the average flamenco album sells) and got her a Latin Grammy nomination.

But it turns out that Navarro doesn't really sing flamenco — or not just flamenco. She's part of a new generation of artists who are transforming Spain's most traditional music.

Miguel Marin, founder of the New York Flamenco Festival, came to the Soundcheck studios to explain more about who they are. But first, Diana Navarro started off with an in-studio performance of a song called "Mira Lo Que Has Perdido" (look at what you've lost).

As Marin explains, Navarro's approach falls more into a style called copla. Though copla and flamenco have the same root, copla doesn't require the use of guitars or the same set of rhythms flamenco does.

Marin says copla is making a comeback, even after it enjoyed a surge in popularity during the Franco regime. "For a while, people didn't like it because it was something with a bad connotation," Marin says. "So now the new generation are just looking at the art form as it is, without that negative connotation."

The emergence of copla is part of the new wave of flamenco artists who are re-inventing the style from within the tradition, as opposed to merging pop-music influences.

"What I think is particularly interesting now is that the change is coming from something very organic, and it's coming from the root," Marin says. "It's not bringing something from the outside."

Take, for example, the group called Son de la Frontera. Its brand of flamenco incorporates the Cuban three-string guitar called the tres, as well as other folkloric styles from the Americas.

"When you listen to Son de la Frontera, you can see something fresh and new," Marin says. "But at the same time, it's something very earthy. And you can see it's a traditional art form."

Copyright 2008 WNYC Radio

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