“Roma and Flamenco: Myth and Reality” – Ronald Lee

© Ronald Lee, 2003, all rights reserved

Much has been written about Flamenco music and what contribution the Roma have made to its development and continuity. In the past, many authorities whose knowledge of Romani history and that of Spain was peripheral have stated that Flamenco is a mixture of various elements, Spanish, Moorish, Jewish and Romani and that Flamenco evolved through a mixing of these musical traditions over a long period of time. When examined in the light of recorded history, this theory seems to be total mythology as far as the Roma are concerned.

To begin with, the Roma (1) only arrived in Andalusia towards the end of the Moorish period. The first documented record of the appearance of Roma in Spain is a passage of safe conduct issued by Alphonso V of Aragón in 1425 in the city of Zaragoza to a certain Tomás, Count of Little Egypt. The often expounded theory that the Roma reached Spain by way of North Africa is popular mythology that can easily be refuted by the large number of Slavic loan words to be found in the Caló dialect of Romani such as pusca (firearm), beringa (chain), olicha (street) and silno (strong). These and many more Slavic loan words, plus Greek and Rumanian borrowings are the same as in other European-Romani dialects and prove that the Calés of Spain reached Spain by the same route as the European Roma reached the rest of central, eastern and western Europe. The first record of Roma in Andalusia, the home of Flamenco, is dated 1462 when two other Counts of Little Egypt were invited to dine at the palace of Constable Miguel Lucas de Irizano along with the rest of their troupe of over one hundred people and to be his guests for two weeks. Another Romani leader, Count James and his wife Countess Louisa, are recorded as visiting Andújar, in Andalusia in 1470 (2). The last Moorish stronghold in Spain, the City of Granada, was captured by the Spanish in 1492 thus ending the Moorish Caliphate in Spain, the flourishing Arabic musical culture and the University and Music conservatory of Cordova. The Jews were also expelled from Spain in 1492 which does not seem to leave much time from the arrival of the Roma in Spain, to the end of the last Moorish enclave and the expulsion of the Jews for the Moorish and Jewish musical styles to have evolved in combination with that of the Roma and the Spanish Mozarabes (3) in Andalusia to form a new style of music.

Again, Spanish records reveal that the Roma who occupied the caves of the Sacromonte in Granada moved into these caves after the Moors had left. Other reports reveal that Roma helped the Christian army against the Moors by casting cannon balls for the Christian artillery during the siege of Granada in 1492 (4). According to Bernard Leblon (5), those Moors who converted to Christianity were expelled from Spain in 1609, but prior to this, the Muslim religion had been outlawed and the Arabic language, music and culture were suppressed. The Moors who remained in Spain after 1492, led a furtive life as proclaimed “New Christians” whose potential relapse into heresy was closely watched by the Inquisition. The same is true of the Jews who converted to Catholicism. Any contribution either of these banned cultures may have made to Andalusian music after 1492 would have been minimal, if any. We are then left with the musical culture of the Christian Spanish who had lived under Moorish rule, the Mozarabes. Here we would expect a living folk tradition based on the fusion of Moorish, Jewish and Andalusian Spanish music to have developed during the 600 or so years of Moorish rule when religious tolerance was practised and all subjects of the Moorish rulers were free to contribute and to learn from the great musical school in Cordova, and elsewhere, sponsored by the Moors. In other words, the fusion of Spanish, Moorish and Jewish musical styles had to have taken place before the Roma arrived in Andalusia. The question is – what was this music and did it survive and evolve into Flamenco? It was obviously not the classical music of the conservatory of Cordova but folk music performed by the common people which would have been influenced by a fusion of the various musical styles in Andalusia.

Three kinds of stringed instruments are mentioned from this period, but unfortunately surviving specimens only date from the period after the Moorish kingdom of Granada had been conquered. Among the Moors, the classical instrument was the oud, or lute as it became known in Europe. The original Moorish lute was unfretted but a fretted version evolved in Spain which rapidly spread to Italy and elsewhere, and by the 13th century had become popular throughout Europe. Versions of this instrument with and without frets were also brought to the Balkans by the Turks and probably by Romani musicians since the word lavuta, which now means violin in Romani, originally meant lute (6). A related instrument which vanished from Andalusian and European music was the Perso-Arab long lute (tanbur), as exemplified today by the Turkish saz or the Greek bouzouki. A long-extinct Italian version was called colascione and was popular in the 16th century. The classical Spanish stringed instrument was the vihuela, a large guitar-type instrument with a much shallower body and shorter neck than a modern classical guitar, with five double strings and one single and highly decorated. Four. “Spanishe vialles,” also called “guittarons” are listed in the inventories of Henry VIII of England and a surviving Spanish guitar dated 17th century has five double strings. The earliest surviving specimen of a Spanish vihuela is dated as 16th century, but it is mentioned much earlier as a classical or court instrument in Spain that fulfilled the role of the lute in courtly music in the rest of western Europe. The third stringed instrument was the qitar/khitar from Arabic, a small guitar-type instrument with a flat back and four sets of double strings. This became a folk instrument and the ancestor of the modern Flamenco guitar. Clay and metal drums were also a feature of Arabic and Moorish music, but disappeared after the Christian conquest, when music in general and especially folk drums were outlawed by the Church as sinful. The modern Spanish castanets appear to have their origin in a related wooden folk version of the Arab metal zills or finger cymbals or from some type of wooden clacker. The Romans had brass castanets and during the Roman era, dancers in Cadiz are mentioned as using brass castanets. The word castanet (castaña) comes from Spanish for “chestnut,” the wood from which castanets are traditionally made. The tambourine or def, which is shown in old illustrations of Spanish Romani musicians in Spain, was also a feature of Arab music, and this survived after the expulsion of the Moors. Other Moorish classical and folk instruments such as the kanoun (a type of dulcimer), rabab (violin), nai (flute) and others vanished completely from the Andalusian music scene after the conquest of Granada along with the fretted lute.

In 1499 King Fredinand V and Isabella I created the first anti-Romani law in Spain. In this edict, the Roma were given 60 days in which to cease their nomadism, settle, follow a trade or hire themselves to employers as servants. Those who continued to wander were given another 60 days to leave Spain or receive one hundred lashes and perpetual exile. For those who settled and later had a relapse to nomadism, their ears were to be slit and they were to be bound in chains for 60 days. If they continued to wander, they would then become slaves for life of whoever could capture them (7). This edict seems to have been generally ignored for some time In 1539, Carlos I issued another edict this time condemning nomadic Roma to the galleys for six years (few survived this long at the oars). Women found wearing traditional Romani clothes were also condemned to be whipped and banished from Spain for life. More severe laws followed, much like those in the rest of western Europe and Austro-Hungary under Empress Maria Theresa, which stripped the Spanish Roma of their inflected Romani language and much of their culture, and forced them to settle in gitanerías (Gypsy quarters) in the cities and towns throughout Spain.

What is important in the history of Flamenco is that some Romani families did settle voluntarily in Andalusia. Because some young Romani men had joined the Spanish army and distinguished themselves in the wars in the Spanish Netherlands in the 16th century and during the Moorish revolt (1569-70) their families were allowed to settle in Andalusia. Romani soldiers also assisted the Spanish in their defence of Cádiz and Gibraltar when these cities were attacked by the English and the Dutch. Others supplied grain to the Spanish armies in the field, much like their relatives the Banjara in India supplied grain, salt and water to Indian armies. Because of these services to the State, this select group of Roma were welcomed and allowed to settle in towns and villages in Andalusia where they took over the trades like blacksmithing which had formerly been done by the Moors. Among those who received such privileges in 1602 were families with names that evoke Flamenco such as Flores and Montoya. These select Roma now became Old Castilians and were allowed to settle in such places as Alcalá la Real, Jaén Province, Andalusia. These ex-soldiers who had served in the army in Flanders against the Flemings then gained the nickname of Flemings (Flamencos) by the surrounding Spanish population (8). This appears to be the most plausible origin of the term Flamenco, a Spanish war veteran of Romani ethnicity. Later, the term was applied to the music played by the descendants of these original Romani settlers. Attempts to connect Flamenco with Arabic words do not stand up to analysis since the term Flamenco appeared long after the end of the Moorish rule in Spain and the expulsion of the Moors. Most students of Flamenco agree that it was the sedentary Roma who developed Flamenco rather than the nomadic Roma. By the time Flamenco became popular outside of Andalusia there were very few nomadic Roma left in Spain.

We must now address the fusion of music which took place in Andalusia between the Romani newcomers and the long-established folk music culture of Andalusia. It has been established that the Roma left India in the 11th century AD as a result of the repeated invasions from Afghanistan under the leadership of Mahmud Ghazni. One or more Rajput armies with their accompanying camp followers, wives and families, fled North into the Upper Indus Valley and from there, were again pressured by the Ghaznavids and left India altogether. They then followed the Silk Road and passed the Caspian Sea to the Armenian kingdom of Trebizond and the eastern end of the Byzantine Empire on the Black Sea. Here they remained for a considerable length of time, during which their original Rajput military lingua franca developed into Romani (9). In this area, they picked up the Byzantine folk music. Later, under Seljuk rule, they also became exposed to the Perso-Arab maquam musical structure, since many Roma were professional musicians. They obviously added all of this to their original Indian music, which itself was closely-related to Persian music. When the Roma later entered the Balkans and moved North, once they left the area of the Ottoman Empire, they encountered European music which did not have this Middle-Eastern musical structure. In Andalusia, however, they found a folk music with much of the same Middle-Eastern influence and were thus able to fuse this with their existing Middle-Eastern music. The Middle-Eastern musical structure later became lost in western, central and eastern Europe. It remained in the Balkans, including Walachia and Moldavia, because of the Ottoman and Greek musical influence in Balkan folk music. Roma appeared in Europe North of Romania in the early 15th century and by 1450 they were in Spain. This was not long enough for them to have lost their knowledge of Middle-Eastern music. How this music got to Spain before the arrival of the Roma is where the confusion arises.

Under Moorish rule, the Spanish city of Cordova became a great centre of music and science. Scholars, musicians, poets, artisans and craftsmen, including many from Baghdad and other centres of Arab culture elsewhere in the Muslim world, went there to study or to teach, as did scholars from Europe. This established a direct cultural link between Moorish Spain and the Arab centres of learning in the Middle East and North Africa. When the Arabs conquered Persia, they adopted the Persian maquam musical structure and built on it. This music was brought to Moorish Spain. It is again recorded that musicians from India, notably Sindh, were popular in Baghdad and the Middle East and that they brought their Indian musical structure with them (10). Thus, the same Indian and Perso-Arab influence that is in Romani music was also brought to Cordova and elsewhere in Moorish Spain to eventually fuse with the local music. The great music teacher and musician, Ali b. Nafi, more popularly known as “Ziryab”, who was born in the latter 8th century AD, went to Cordova from Baghdad in the early 9th century after a sojourn in North Africa and taught the Eastern music tradition in Moorish Spain. It is suggested on convincing evidence that Ziryab himself was a member of the Indian Sindhi community in Baghdad which had been long-established by the 8th century AD (11). In Baghdad, Ziryab modified the old four-string oud (four sets of two), the classical instrument of the period, by adding a fifth course (12). His oud was also lighter. It is believed that he was influenced by the fact that the tambur of the Indus Valley in India also had five strings. In Cordoba, Ziryab is also said to have added a fifth string to the qitar, the four-stringed ancestor of the modern Spanish guitar (13). This is generally contradicted by modern music historians, who claim the fifth string was added in the 17th century. The sixth string was added in the 18th century, and the now familiar figure-of-eight body shape did not appear until the early 19th century. These questions concerning the number of strings may never be settled because there are no surviving specimens of many of the regional variants of the evolving guitar. The gittern or cittern, which is attributed to the Moors, is sometimes claimed to be a lute-like instrument with four single strings. A surviving specimen from Elizabethan England has only four single strings. Far from resembling a lute, it has a flat back and looks more like a violin with F-shaped sound holes and a large opening in the deep, solid neck like a handle, not unlike a carpenter’s hand sander (14). Like most surviving citterns, it has metal strings. However, in the 15th century, the European gittern became longer and three double strings and one single string which is at odds with the later Elizabethan specimen. The Spanish vihuela on the other hand had five double and one single string, in other words, a six-string guitar-type instrument which existed long before the modern six-string guitar which appeared only in the 18th century. A small Spanish guitar which looks like a diminutive relative of the vihuela is dated 1581 and has holes for ten tuning pegs in the flat head which would indicate five double strings (15). It is thus possible that a regional guitar ancestor had five double strings in Andalusia at a much earlier date and that no specimens have survived. Regional folk instruments were not always recorded or described by contemporary writers who were more concerned with court, church and classical music. Again, the definitive history of the evolution of the modern guitar is not clear especially the regional variations which have become extinct or modified since the period of the Moors in Spain when its original ancestor appeared. Modern books on the history of musical instruments with photos of surviving specimens show a wide variety of guitar-like instruments dating from the past which left no modern descendants (16).

Originally, the guitar strings were double or a mixture of double and single. The Moorish technique was to pluck the strings of the lute with a pick or plectrum. The Mozarabe technique was to strum the guitar in the rasgueado technique with the fingers. Modern Flamenco uses both techniques, the rasgueado strumming and the punteado or plucking individual strings with the thumb and fingers. The Flamenco guitar is also lighter and more fragile in construction than the classical guitar, but is louder at the expense of tonal quality. Purists insist that wooden tuning pegs should be used with the Flamenco guitar instead of metal tuning screws. It is thus obvious that the instrument and the style of playing the Mozarabe folk guitar were both established before the arrival of the Roma in Andalusia. The original guitar, however, was a far cry from the modern Flamenco guitar. It was smaller, oval shaped and had gut frets and strings. It was designed to accompany singers and dancers. It was in the 19th and early 20th centuries that the true Spanish guitar developed with its modern body shape, six single strings, metal frets and internal radiating bracing which enabled it to emerge in the 20th century as a virtuoso instrument on the concert stage in the hands of tocaores such as Carlos Montoya and others. This masterpiece of craftsmanship was then converted to a lump of solid wood with built in electronic gadgets, knobs and levers to be plugged into an ear-shattering sound system by 20th century popular rock musicians catering to whatever current fad was in vogue at the moment. Hopefully, the acoustic guitar will remain among classical, folk and Flamenco guitarists. Acoustic guitars need to be amplified on stage in a concert hall or night club and the electric bass is a useful addition to any band or group but non-acoustic noise-makers can hardly be considered to be musical instruments.

So far, we have discussed only the origins of Flamenco music. What of the dance? Did the Roma bring the Flamenco dance style to Spain? Indian temple Kathak dancing is so similar to Flamenco that the coincidence cannot be accidental. Did the Moors also bring dancers from Middle East to Spain? This seems very likely and if so, Kathak dancers from Sindh who were brought to Baghdad could easily have come to Cordova along with the musicians to teach their dance. It is recorded that some Kathak dancers left the temples of India and travelled around entertaining the public to earn their living. Whether the Roma already had a dance style resembling Kathak when they reached Andalusia or whether they encountered it there as a modified folk dance is unknown, but the style would have been familiar to them. Kathak dancers dance barefoot and have ankle bells, but the movements and footwork are so similar that Flamenco must have been influenced by Kathak dance style. However, it is in the Flamenco song that the obvious connection with India appears. The scales and modes are so similar that Romani Flamenco artists can jam with Rajasthani musicians from India in total improvisation. I have seen this happen more than once. It is thus obvious to me, at least, as a Romani musician, that the basic ingredients of Indian, Moorish, Spanish and Jewish musical traditions developed in Spain under the Moors because of their cultural connections with Baghdad and other centres of music in the Middle East before the Roma arrived and later, the Roma, whose own musical traditions contained most of the same elements, simply built on this Andalusian folk music and created their own unique style of music which we now call Flamenco.

Surprisingly, there are many elements in Romani folk music outside of Spain that show strong similarities with Flamenco. There are two forms of Romani music in Europe. One is what professional Romani musicians play for the general public to earn a living and in this category we can place the Hungarian Romani music with cimbalom, bass, violins, etc. This music is Hungarian and shows no evidence of an historic Romani origin. This, however, is perhaps the most widely-known “Gypsy music.” Again, “Gypsy Jazz” as performed by the famous Django Reinhardt and his school is popular jazz and while unique, is not historic. It is in the Romani folk music, virtually unknown to the outside world until the advent of Kalyi Jag, Romani Rota, Ternipé and other folk groups who have produced cassette tapes and now CDs, that the connection with Flamenco can be observed. To these we must add elements of some of the folk music of Roma in the Balkans. Leblon has already made a detailed study of the folk music of Vlach-Roma (17) and its similarity to Flamenco song. (pp. 75-80) where he compares the “slow song” or loki gilí of the Vlach Roma in Hungary with short lyrical stanzas resembling Andalusian coplas and narrative ballads reminiscent of the romances. There is also a type of vocal accompaniment to dances which resembles Indian bol syllables in the rhythmic part of Indian dhrupad music. These show a link with certain jaleo techniques in Flamenco. Again, removing all possible European influences, a common Romani element can be found in the free style (called rubato by European musicians) which appears in Vlach-Romani, Flamenco and other Romani folk music that is not shared by any European musical tradition. Other comparisons are also made, especially that the oldest surviving examples of Flamenco are closest to the musical style of the Vlach Roma. Another similarity I have noticed is the relationship between the Flamenco quejío, the cry or lament and the kalí gilí (tragic song) of the Vlach-Roma, often unaccompanied by music, where the singer tells of his or her agony and suffering in an improvised song. An example is the Hungarian Vlach-Romani song, Lulugyansa ando Shantso (With the Flowers in the Gutter) which tells of the poverty and suffering of rural Hungarian Vlach Roma who travel to Budapest to do menial work for low pay and end up spending their meagre earnings in taverns to get drunk and forget their misery.

“Oh, my wife, help me,
I have fallen into the gutter with the flowers
Help me, wife, help me to get out,
I can’t help you, my husband,
Because I am in the gutter with you…”

There are other similarities which can only really be seen by interacting with Romani musicians from other countries, which I have been able to do because of the arrival of over 10,000 Romani refugees to Canada since the end of Communism. While professional Romani musicians who play in bands usually own steel-string guitars or even electric guitars, many Romani folk musicians play the classical guitar with nylon strings and some have even bought Flamenco guitars in Hungary or elsewhere in Europe. They also have a technique of playing like the rasgueado, either strumming fast chords with the fingernail of the index finger or with all the fingers in sequence starting with the little finger. Unlike Flamenco guitarists, they seldom use the capo, most don’t even own one. The finger-picking style of Flamenco is also used in folk songs and to play introductions. The free style with flexible structure is common to both Vlach-Romani music and Flamenco, as is the peculiar meter. Some Romani music groups in Europe have listened to tapes of Romani music from other countries and have picked this music up and then begun to play it in their style. There are tapes and CDs by artists such as Thierry Robbins who have combined Flamenco with other Romani musical styles, and even with Indian music played by Indian musicians, where it merges in without any problems. Finally, there is the school of Flamenco called Flamenco de Arabe, as recorded by Ishtar y Los Niños de Sarah, which has re-introduced the darabuka and darbeki drums and the Arab lute (oud). To put all of this in perspective what we have is a Romani folk music with roots in India and the Middle East. In Rumania and down through the Balkans, this element was preserved because of the influence of the Ottoman Empire and the local musical traditions which incorporated Middle-Eastern musical influence. In Andalusia, the Roma encountered a local folk music inherited from the Moorish period that had much of the same musical input as their own, which they then built on.

While the word Flamenco only appeared in print in English in the 19th century, historical records show that Roma were performing music in Spain soon after they arrived. As early as the 16th century Romani musicians were already performing in popular and religious festivals. In Granada, they are recorded as performing as early as 1607, by which date the converted Moors were forbidden to perform at festivals. Cervantes also describes the travels of La Gitanilla with her musical troupe from village to village to perform at festivals. What this music was is unknown but may well have been proto-Flamenco. This Romani music became popular among the non-Romani population and even appeared on the theatre stage performed by Spanish imitators, until a law passed by Philip IV banned them in 1633. Old illustrations show Roma performing in mixed groups, men playing small guitars and dancing and women playing tambourines or dancing. These tambourines or panderos are Spanish and larger than the Arab def. What we can assume is that classical Flamenco as performed by highly-trained groups is far removed from what Flamenco must have been in its formative years when it was limited to the Roma. Like the blues in America or rembetiko music in Greece, it began as the esoteric music of the ghetto, slums or gitanerías, then travelled to the local honky-tonk frequented by its marginalized sub-culture of outcast creators, then to the cafés of the aficionados or fans who had suddenly discovered it, and finally to the concert stage. There it was stripped of its raw folk origin when adopted by the genteel sophisticates, stylised and made more acceptable to those who had never known the pain of rejection, jails, hunger and persecution. Performers now needed extensive musical education and training and the music was no longer ethnic or limited to an hereditary group of performers performing in the pure folk tradition. Flamenco puro remained only among the gitanos, especially in the caves of Sacro Monte.

While it is impossible to really define what the Roma contributed to Flamenco, we might ask: would Flamenco have ever existed if the Roma had never gone to Spain in the 15th century? Probably not as we know it today. In Spain, it is commonly believed that while Flamenco was created in Cordova, it was preserved and developed in Granada and elsewhere in Andalusia by the original family groups of Roma. From Andalusia it spread outward to the rest of Spain where it soon became the folk music of the Gitanos. From the local taverns in the gitanerías and the villages it moved to the cafés cantantes which flourished between 1860 and 1915 and from there to the concert stage. Originally, it was the cantaor or singer who reigned supreme accompanied by hand clapping or rapping on the table. Then the dancers became popular. It was only in the 20th century that the guitarist emerged from his subservient role as accompanist to be recognised as a virtuoso in his own right. Now there is a vast difference between a group of Gitanos playing Flamenco in Granada and a Flamenco production on the concert stage. There are probably more Flamenco guitarists and dancers outside of Spain than in Spain itself. The cantaor (singer), however, remains indigenous to Andalusia. One requirement is that Flamenco be sung in Andalusian Spanish and (apparently) that it be incomprehensible to foreigners who speak fluent Castilian Spanish. From Flamenco Puro to Flamenco Rumba, Flamenco Pop, Flamenco Arabe and The Gypsy Kings, Flamenco has diverged in the latter 20th century into many different forms and will obviously continue to develop, perhaps into Flamenco Rap. Its roots are evident, its development unknown and its future unpredictable but there is no denying its popularity and appeal. From Madrid to Paris, London, New York and Tokyo it still captivates audiences the world over.


(1) Most writers refer to the Gypsies of Spain as Gitanos a word, which like English Gypsy was imposed by outsiders and which many Romani people cannot accept. A more acceptable term is Calé or Calés which comes from the Romani word “kalo” and means the dark-skinned people.. Some Spanish Roma refer to themselves as Romani Calé. Another ascriptive term is Los Flamencos. However, the Spanish Calés do have the word Rom, meaning a male member of the group, Romí as a female member and Roma as a plural in their Caló vocabulary as recorded as late as the 1970s by Merril McLane in his book Proud Outcasts (1987) and also listed in the Calo vocabulary of George Borrow in The Zincali (1841).

(2) McLane, Merril, Proud Outcasts: The Gypsies of Spain, 1987, Cabin John, Maryland, p. 103

(3) Mozarabes, Spanish Christians who lived under Moorish rule prior to the reconquest of Spain by the Christian kingdoms of Aragon and Castile.

(4) McLane, Merril, 1987, p. 150

(5) Leblon, Bernard, Gypsies and Flamenco: The emergence of the art of flamenco in Andalusia, 1995, Hatfield, University of Hertfordshire Press,

(6) It is claimed by authorities on the history of musical instruments that the original Moorish oud had four double courses. European lutes also had four double courses but a fifth was added in the 15th century, a sixth by 1600 and by 1630, as many as 12. A modern oud usually has five double courses and one single base string. Regional varieties can have as few as four double courses or four double and one single base string. A modern lute has five double strings and one single. Variations can have twelve double or more. A Canadian variation created by a Quebec luthier in 1998 called an oud-lute (oudaluta), is a hybrid between an oud and a lute. My example has 12 double classical guitar strings and ten fixed gut frets. This is an example of a variation that may never be recorded officially in textbooks unless it becomes widely used by a large number of musicians. Another existing lute variant that seldom gets any mention in books on musical instruments, despite its widespread use in Greece and Crete in folk music, is the laghuto, with steel frets and four pairs of steel strings. It is usually played as accompaniment to the Cretan liraki (at type of ancient fiddle).

(7) Leblon, Bernard, 1987, p. 28

(8) Ibid pp. 51-2

(9) Hancock, Ian, We Are The Romani People, 2002, Hatfield, University of Hertfordshire Press, pp. 1-16

(10) Baloch, Aziz, Spanish Cante Jondo and Its Origin In Sindhi Music, 1968, Hyderabad, Pakistan

(11) Ibid. pp. 43-4

(12) The mention of numbers of strings is confusing. When describing instruments, musicologists generally speak of the number of courses which can be sets of two or more strings tuned in unison or an octave apart for the lower, thicker strings, one thin and one thicker. In the Middle East this form of tuning is called Chifteteli (double strings). This double-stringing is typical of Middle-Eastern such as the oud, saz, bouzouki, etc., and was probably the case in Moorish Spain. Illustrations of surviving specimens of lutes and early guitars in Spain and elsewhere in Europe show double strings, sometimes triple and double combined or double and single strings. Thus a “four stringed” instrument could have eight strings, four pairs tuned in unison. Other instruments could have had some other double string combination like a modern mandolin, lute or twelve-string guitar. Written descriptions of historical instruments do not always make it clear whether the strings were double or single or made of steel or gut. Ouds and lutes always had and still have gut or nylon strings and gut frets. Early guitars usually had gut strings and gut frets. Gitterns (citterns) usually had steel strings and metal or gut frets. A surviving instrument may be missing its strings, bridge, nut and attachment points for the strings. The holes in the neck or the number of tuning pegs cannot tell us how its original courses were arranged.

(13) Serrano, Juan, & Elgorriaga, Jose, Flamenco, Body and Soul, 1990, Fresno, The Press, California State University, p. 133.

(14) Matthews, Max Wade, The World Guide to Musical Instruments, London, 2001, Anness Publishing Limited, p. 28.

(15) Baines, Anthony, European & American Musical Instruments, 1966, New York, Viking Press, p. 47 note 283, 284 and photos 283 & 284.

(16) Baines, Anthony, 1966 is a good source among others.

(17) Vlach-Roma. This means Roma who have lived for a long period in Moldavia and Walachia in what is now Rumania but are now widely distributed all over the world. Vlach means Wallach or Walachian.