Oscar Nieto Workshops

January 22-25

Malagueñas del Mellizo | Viernes con una Letra

by Laura on November 21, 2014

casa in province of málagaI am in the province of Málaga, so I am thinking of malagueñas.

which I love.

Apparently the original malagueñas had folkloric and rhythmic origins from here in Málaga. It would make sense to share one of those letras with you.

But I don’t want to.

(Anyway, I posted a verdiales last week.)

Today I want to share this Malagueña del Mellizo with you.

It is said that Enrique el Mellizo’s influence transformed malagueñas into the cante libre style we hear today. (He was not from Málaga.)

Whoa, that was more teória than I am used to offering, but I had to know more, so I found out more and then shared it with you.

So the letra below, you can click here to hear it.

This was the first Pitingo album I ever purchased, I think it was his first. Get it. It’s so good.

I fell in love with this song immediately. I’m not joking about that.

One of my favorite things in this rendition are his ays.

The melody of them. And what they say without words.

I also love love love the way the guitar responds.

Malagueñas del Mellizo

Voy sintiendo
que la noche a mí me habla
ay por las calles, puertas y ventanas
yo quiero que venga el día
ay con la luna mi pena se vaya
y mi recuerdo se marchitará

I feel
that the night speaks to me
through the streets, doors, and windows
I want day to come
with the moon my sorrows go
and my memory will leave

And, You?

You can leave a comment here.

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11 Things You Hear in Class with Mercedes Ruíz

by Laura on November 18, 2014

Mercedes ClassIf you’ve ever taken class with Mercedes Ruíz, you will likely recognize the words and phrases below.

If you have not yet studied with her and plan to, prepare, because you are sure to hear these utterances over and over again.

If you have previously studied with her but were unsure of what she meant, read on, and find out.

If you have not studied with her and don’t plan to, read anyway

Because the first eight are important tips to remember all of the time in your independent practice or in anybody’s class.

Let’s Begin

1. Pompi dentro

Keep your bottom in.

2. Todos los deditos

Give attention to all of your fingers.

3. Mantener el mismo plié

Stay in plié and keep your body at the same height. Don’t bend and straighten your knees and go up and down.

4. ¡Falda!

Use your skirt, hold your skirt.

5. Respira


6. Baila

Dance. (I know, easier said than done sometimes, but try.) [read more…]


Verdiales | Viernes con una Letra

by Laura on November 14, 2014

Verdiales - hojita de limonThis week, since I am in Málaga, verdiales.


Hojita de limón verde
y flor blanca de azahar…
sale mi niña a bailar,
y un rayo de sol se prende
en sus enaguas bordás.

Little green leaf of the lemon
and white jasmine flower …
my girl goes out to dance,
and a ray of sun catches
her embroidered petticoat.

I found this here.

Hear some verdiales and other cantes de Málaga below:

P.S. What am I doing here?

I am here to finish the first draft of my book. I am going to do it. This is going to happen! [read more…]

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Ten cuidao con ese gato~ bulerías ~

This is a letra that Zorri sang the other night.

Watching Zorri laugh after singing it was the best, and then hearing him laugh because, well, if you’ve ever heard his laugh,

It’s a laugh that makes you laugh. That on top of the meaning of the letra, let’s just say it made for a good laughing session.


Ten cuidao con ese gato
que se coma una a una
las sardinitas del plato

Be careful with that cat
because one by one it eats
the little sardines from the plate

We were supposed to go to a tablao that night, but that didn’t happen. [read more…]


I Want to Get Drunk | Viernes con una Letra

by Laura on October 31, 2014

NomequiteslabotellaIt is Halloween, and I just returned home from the peña.

I am in Jerez.

On the way I saw a family dressed up in zombie-style Halloween costumes. Their two dogs were dressed as jack-o-lanters.

At the peña

We saw Manuel Agujetas Hijo sing with Domingo Rubichi accompanying on guitar.

Below is a letra por fandangos that he sang.

(You can hear El Chocolate singing it here.)


No me quites la botella
que yo me quiero emborrachar
no me quites la botella
voy a beber de verdad
y a ver si no pienso en ella
y yo la consigo olvidar

Don’t take away my bottle
I want to get drunk
Don’t take away my bottle
I am seriously going to drink
to see if I can stop thinking of her
and if I can forget about her

During the break some of the ladies said they wanted to go to another place to see if anything was going on there. I encouraged them to stay because one of the best part, según yo, was yet to come,

The bulerías.

I told them every peña show ended with bulerías where certain people, amigos and family, would join the artists on stage with palmas and baile.

I love this part.

A chorus of palmas, jaleos, smiles, and buena energía.

Most of the ladies stayed, and they were very glad that they did.

Zorri danced. He did a bunch of his signature moves, the basketball one, and others.

And Manuel sang a letra I really liked, Cuando te marchas de noche. Perhaps I’ll publish it next Friday.

Time for bed

It’s well past 2am, and we have class with Mercedes at ten o’clock. (Each night I think I’ll get more sleep than the night before, but I never seem to. I am wondering now if I ought to just wait until November 10 when the tour is over to get sleep. Often I’ll catch up on sleep during siesta-time, but not this year, not yet.)

What’s going on? I am in Jerez right now on the FlamencoTour. You can find out more about it here. I’ll be back for another one in the spring.

P.S.  Don’t worry, other people get more sleep on the tour than I do. I just get so excited about everything and find it hard to get to bed… [read more…]

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Five Castanet Technique Tips & A Confession

by Laura on October 26, 2014

TariariariachipitachipitaYou’ve read my thoughts on avoiding castanets burn-out, and you’ve read about what made castanets finally doable for me. Today I’ll share with you five important technique tips.

But first, a castanets confession.

It has to do with my moving thumb.

My right thumb, that is. My right thumb that moves when I am doing the roll with my four fingers, well, and when doing postiseo, but it’s supposed to move then, so that’s a good thing. 

It’s a bad habit that I formed in my alone practicing.

I don’t know if I could have avoided it had I spent more time studying under someone else’s guidance in the beginning. I don’t know if the teacher would have noticed it happening and helped me to prevent it from continuing and developing into a habit. These are things I wonder about.

Most people tell me it’s almost impossible to “fix” at this point.

Most people except for Emilio.

When I asked him about it a couple of years ago he told me that he used to do the same thing.

Wait, Emilio used to have the same bad habit?! You have no idea how good that made me feel.

So one day he decided to fix it.

He said it took a lot of conscious thought and patience, but it was very possible, and he did it.

Emilio’s triumph gave me hope.

Until I actually tried to do the same thing.

I tried watching my thumb as I played and thinking it to stop moving.

This became very frustrating. And seemed impossible.

So I resorted to actually physically holding my thumb in place and seeing if I could still do the roll with my fingers without the thumb moving. Because maybe it just wasn’t possible. Maybe I just had one of those thumbs that moves when the other fingers move kind of thumbs.

But no, this wasn’t true.

Because my fingers could still roll when I held my thumb in place.

So I tried rolling my fingers veeeery slowly. Remembering that I just needed to do this poco a poco.

And it worked.

My four fingers rolled, riii, my thumb did not.

But as soon as I would go any faster, my thumb insisted on joining in.

This was going to take a lot of concentration.

A lot of focus.

A lot of patience.

And a lot of time.

Like any habit that that one wants to change. [read more…]


mis huesos 2Here’s another one from the little book that Melinda gave to me,


Dicen que no siento nada
y las carnes de mis huesos
a pedazos se me van

They say that I don’t feel anything
and the skin from my bones
falls off in pieces

Viernes con una Letra

On Fridays I publish a flamenco song in Spanish and English. Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox. [read more…]


How to Avoid Castanet Burn-Out

by Laura on October 21, 2014

What to Do When castanets Frustration HitsYesterday I told you we’d talk about what to do when castanets frustration hits.

Because it will.

Below are some ideas:

1. Don’t worry that you’re not producing the right (or any) sound.

This is part of the castanets learning process.

The movements are AWKWARD. Please give your sweet fingers some time to assimilate new movements they’re not used to making.

Sometimes remembering you’re not alone helps a lot. (You’re not alone!)

2. Keep trying.

When I would tell Mercedes I can’t do it, she would always say the same thing,



Amazingly, this did not drive me crazy.

I guess because she is Mercedes, and she always said it with a smile, (a she knows something I don’t know, reassuring, and semi-kanieving all at the same time kind of smile) so I would just keep trying and allow it to be fun.

Also, hearing her say that gave me permission to get it wrong.

3. Take breaks and STRETCH.

You’ll be using some muscles you likely don’t often use, so definitely stretch your arm and hand muscles.

One of my favorites that you can do even during a break without needing to remove your castanets is this:

STRETCH: Put your arm out in front of you, letting your hand fall, and press on the back of the hand with the opposite one. Then gently pull your fingers toward your body with the opposite hand. You should feel the stretch in the palm of your hand and the forearm. Next, point your fingers toward the ceiling. Using the oppostie hand gently press them and the palm of your hand toward your body. You should feel the stretch in your lower forearm.

4. Learn the sounds, and say them

If you’re doing an exercise, [read more…]

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CastanetsAs you know I stayed away from castanets for quite some time.

I had my reasons.

Which I’ll share with you today along with the best thing you can do for yourself when starting out.

Let’s begin with my reasons for having avoided castanets for so long

Reason #1: Rebellion.

In part I was rebelling, at least that’s what I told myself.

Rebelling because when I would mention that I danced flamenco it seemed just about every other person would assume I played castanets,

“Ohhhhhh, so you play those things,” making motions with their fingers, “that make the clacking sounds?”

“No, I do not play those things, and actually you don’t need to play those things to do flamenco,” I’d say.

It’s true, one does not have to play castanets to do flamenco, but there was certainly a little bit of defensive me who-didn’t-know-how-to-play-so-don’t-ask-me-that talking.

And then there was Reason #2,

Reason #2:  Maybe later.

With so many other aspects of flamenco to “get down,” who had time to learn castanets? Little did I know that learning castanets would not get in the way of and could actually help me with the “other” things.

But related to that was,

Reason #3: Who to learn from?

I wasn’t sure who to study with in Portland, Oregon.

On my own? How would that even work?

Which brings us to Reason #4,

The real reason I waited so long,

Reason #4: Challenge.

Playing castanets seemed basically impossible.


How one could make such sounds with little pieces of wood strangely tied to the fingers made no sense to me at all. Definitely too hard to do.

So I removed the idea from my mind.

Until 2010

That’s when I told Ricardo I wanted to learn to play castanets.

He brought me a pair from Spain.

He taught a castanets workshop.

And he got me all set up to practice them at home, in front of the mirrored closet doors.

I was to stand, no sitting allowed, with my arms in position, watching myself in the mirror, doing the exercises he’d taught us in the workshop.

… while he sat in the garden living the good life.

I complained. [read more…]


It’s Love | Viernes con una Letra

by Laura on October 18, 2014

Es el amor que sale del corazón

Another estribillo this week.

Es el amor,
que sale del corazón
a veces me hace pensar que todo puede pasar

It is love,
that comes from the heart
sometimes it makes me think that anything is possible

You can hear it below.

Another video of Antonio Canales dancing.

Another estribillo recommended by Ricardo.

Viernes con una Letra

Each week I publish a flamenco song in Spanish and English. [read more…]

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