Duende is a very profound idea at the heart of a very serious artform—Flamenco.

The world knows and well-recognizes the particular sights and sounds of this Andalusian gypsy music—the thrumming guitar, the swirling skirt and percussive feet, the unearthly vocalization of life's heights and depths.

But there is Something More within the performance: The Reason. The Soul. The Spirit. The Unspeakable. The Barely Thinkable.


Gypsies being gypsies, they'll put us payos off the scent by never mentioning the term. If pressed—and if they are in the mood—they may translate duende as "the elf, " as if the unknowable unspeakable soul of their great art were kin to Don Juan's Mescalito and might be found on an accidental visit to a magician's campfire.

But to know duende we must not seek it.

To find duende we dare not speak it.

One night in Spain—with the last of the wine on our lips and the dancer too tired to smile, right before the stars are gone and the sun is come—we just won't care any more. The singer may barely moan the verse por soleares. Or the guitar will weep por siguiriyas. An 80 year-old great grandmother will tilt her head and be once again sixteen.

And Duende will find us.

And we will know because the hair on the back of our neck will rise.

And we will know.

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