The word copla, originating from the Latin word copula (understood in Spanish as “union” or “link”), is used to refer to a metric structure. The term is used to identify the poetic text organized as a seguidilla and where a romance quatrain or a redondilla can also be seen, among other possibilities. This composition, as you know, usually serves as a model to give content to popular songbooks.
For example: “I have spent the whole night listening to coplas at the bar”, “Doña María drinks a few drinks and begins to sing coplas”, “The town is mentioned in several popular coplas”.
It began to be cultivated during the eighteenth century in Spain and was later spread in various parts of the world, reaching great popularity in Latin America. They are made up of four stanzas that can contain octosyllabic lines, such as the romance (where the second and fourth lines rhyme) or the redondilla (where the first and fourth lines rhyme and so do the second with the third) or episyllabic and pentasyllabic lines. interspersed, like the seguidilla (where the second and fourth lines rhyme).
The metrical structure resembles the copla to romance (one of the most frequent genres of Spanish poetry). Antonio Machado, Rafael Alberti, Luis de Góngora and Federico García Lorca are some of the authors who approached these poetic possibilities.
It should be noted that many couplets were adopted by the towns, losing the name of their authors and becoming part of the popular songbook. The couplets tend to become popular as they appeal to a colloquial and direct language, sometimes with double meaning comments to produce a comic effect.
The Andalusian copla
The type of song that spread in Spain from the 1940s is known as Andalusian copla. It is usually about passion and emotions. Those who interpret them stand out for their powerful voice, with mastery of vibrato, and emphasize the Andalusian accent (although the interpreter has a different origin).
Unfortunately, during Franco’s dictatorship, this art was used as a synonym for national identity and was inevitably associated with the regime, although its origins had little to do with it.
This led to the fact that in the transition period the people were shedding this characteristic music, to express their rebellion with respect to what had happened in the last decades in the country; In this way, the copla was relegated to one side and Anglo-Saxon music came to take its place, stealing all its popularity.
Some of the authors who knew how to stand out the most in this genre were Quiroga, Quintero and León.
During the 1980s, many singer-songwriters recovered their interest in copla, getting many people to do it too. To this day, some authors merge this style with different musical trends. Among the singers who have cultivated it are: Lola Flores, Miguel de Molina, Sara Montiel, Pasión Vega and Pastora Soler.
In this genre passionate, sad and full of feeling stories are narrated; They are characterized by having an absolutely narrative character that is mixed with musicality to express deep experiences of human encounters and disagreements. It consists of a metric structured as follows: ABCB, that is, the second and last stanza have the same number of syllables and similar rhyme.
Over the years, many coplas have gained marked popularity, among them we can mention: “María de la O” by León y Valverde, “Torre de Arena” by Gordillo, Sarmiento y Llabrés, “La Zarzamora” and “La Girl of Fire» by Quintero, León and Quiroga.