Much has been written about bulerias, but it is really difficult to know when and how this popular cante began to be what it is today. According to Anselmo González Climent, a writer on flamenco themes, he described bulerías as “the touchstone of flamenco”, going so far as to say that “perhaps it is the only cante that needs to be assimilated completely throughout the remainder of the flamenco catalog”. Gonzalez Climent’s opinion, in the sense that he has expressed it, is not unique, specifically the opposite, among the specialists the predominant criterion is to give the enormous prize and the difficulty of this cante.
Nowadays, bulerías can be heard in practically any flamenco center in Spain and even in Madrid. It can be assured that it is one of the best-known flamenco “palos” and this is due to its beauty and joy. It transmits a sensation and an atmosphere of excitement.
There are several hypotheses about the etymology of the bulería. For Manuel Rios Ruiz bulería wants to express “bullería”, considering it a scandalous song already as it has been explained before for what it transmits and for its light rhythm, arguing that if it is said bulería instead of “bullería” possibly it obeys to the difficulty of the Andalusian place and, mainly, of the gypsy – Andalusian people, to use some consonants.
Ricardo Molina’s opinion, on the contrary, is that the bulería comes from the voice with “bolería”, which comes from “bolero”, and could have been dedicated to any song to dance. This author does not agree with the argument of the cited end of “burla”, “burlería”, “bulo”, based, according to his opinion, on the fact that the primitive samples of this “cante”, due to its limpidity, mercy, and freedom, are not very serious.
This declaration by Ricardo Molina goes against the most generalized appreciation that he defends that the criterion that bulería comes from “burlería” because it is supposed to be a joke “cante”. This theory has been supported by Rodríguez Marín, Blas Vega, and other well-known flamenco scholars.
On the other hand, it is almost unanimous the evaluation that bulerías were born from the soleares or, more precisely, from the verse or tail with which the soleares used to end and, more specifically, to the vertex with which the Jerez cantaor “Loco Mateo” finished the soleares. Jerez is recognized as the source of bulerías and, more specifically according to Blas Vega, they began to be sung by the residents of the Nueva and Cantarería roads in the Jerezano neighborhood de Santiago.
It is affirmed by the majority of the wise men of flamenco that bulerías did not appear until the second half of the 19th century. Manuel Ríos Ruíz tells us that there is no written record of the bulería throughout the 19th century and refers to “Demófilo” and his text “Coleccón de Cantes Flamencos”, which was written in 1881, to mark that bulerías did not exist in the previous cantes. However, I do know that they began to be known in the book “a succession of little tunes called alegrias and juguetillos”, which were considered to be within the scope of flamenco singing.
Reinforcing what any connoisseur of flamenco says, the bulería was born in Jerez, Manuel Ríos Ruíz refers to the first bulería tape that appeared, with the name of “Bulerías Jerezanas”, this was made more or less in the year 1910, however, these bulerias were not recorded by a Jerezan, but by the trianero Pepe el de la Matrona.
The bulería is a cante with a tonada, usually of three or four octosyllable poems. It is often used as the apex or verse of other styles, generally the soleá. Given its flexibility, as we have now stated, any flamenco lyrics enter into bulerias; therefore its repertoire can be inexhaustible.