The carol has its origin in the well-known “chant of peasants,” referring to the popular song sung in the streets, of a pastoral nature and during the Christmas season. In the past, it was the “Christmas Eve rounds” that were responsible for including in their repertoire romances and serialized songs, as well as more secular compositions but inspired by biblical passages about the Nativity. The form of these songs is the traditional stanza and chorus, reserving the first for the narrative part and the second for the praise part.
Popularly, the native of Jerez, Rafael Ramos Antúnez, known as Niño Gloria (1893-1954), has been considered the first to sing traditional carols to the rhythm of bulerías. In fact, his stage name is directly related to this matter. However, despite some flamenco history books stating that this singer was the first to record flamenco carols, it is evident that it was not the case. Documented archives remind us that it was Antonio Grau who, between 1907 and 1909, recorded in Paris with Enrique el Negrete the album titled “Chuflas. Ditera,” the first two letters of which constitute a carol.
It was in 1915 when La Niña de los Peines recorded bulerías titled “Pastorcito, ¿por qué lloras?,” including three Christmas verses, including the two that Antonio Grau had previously recorded. In 1924, Amalia Molina, who recorded in the United States with the orchestra of Maestro Lacalle, recorded “Bulerías gitanas,” which included the same carol (“Pastorcito porque lloras” and “Ya vienen los reyes”).
In 1929, El Gloria recorded, to the rhythm of bulerías, carols such as “Los caminos se hicieron,” “Pastores que apastoráis,” “Cuando llegamos a Belén,” and the “Romance de la virgen y el ciego.”
Up to our days
Looking at our present days, numerous figures have followed in the footsteps of these pioneers, embracing the genre. Among them are Manuel Vallejo, Pepe Marchena, Antonio Mairena, Fosforito, La Paquera, Manolo Vargas, Manuel Sordera, Pericón de Cádiz, Bernardo de los Lobitos, Pepe Pinto, La Perla, Camarón, José Menese, José Mercé, Chano Lobato, Rocío Jurado, María Vargas, La Macanita, Fernando de la Morena, Remedios Amaya, etc. Even prominent composers have written carols for flamenco singers, such as Antonio Gallardo, Ríos Ruiz, Manolo Sanlúcar, Manuel Garrido, Parrilla himself, Fernando Terremoto, Luis de Perikín, Antonio el Farruco, José Quevedo, etc.
Así canta nuestra tierra en Navidad
In the Christmas of 1982, the Savings Bank of Jerez de la Frontera (now under the umbrella of Caixa and Fundación Cajasol) started the musical collection “Así canta nuestra tierra en Navidad” with the intention of recovering the rich heritage of carols, verses, and romances that, through oral transmission, had been preserved, although by then, the cherished home gatherings where families, neighbors, and friends used to sing them on Christmas Eve had almost disappeared, while preparing the festive meals. On December 19th, the 40th anniversary of this date will be celebrated, along with the traditional concert that marks the definitive start of this festive season.
The flame of flamenco carols continues to burn brightly in the voices of contemporary artists, demonstrating that this amalgamation of sounds is not only a tribute to Christmas but also a celebration of creativity and musical diversity. In each chord, the living history of a tradition resonates, far from extinguishing, still vibrating with intensity, reminding us that music has the power to unite cultures and times, creating something truly unique and eternal.