History of Flamenco:
The following article is from Flamenco World, which is in English and Español.
The roots of flamenco have evolved in southern Spain from many sources: Morocco, Egypt, India, Pakistan, Greece, and other parts of the Near and Far East. How exactly they came together as flamenco is a subject of great debate and a very interesting story...
Gypsies from the south of Spain have created this music since their arrival in Spain in the 15th century. It is widely accepted that they came from Sind, a northern region of India, (now Pakistan). They they left in several waves because of invasion and wars with foreign conquers. The tribes of Sind moved to Egypt until they were thrown out. They then left for Czechoslovakia, but they knew that they were not going to be welcomed anywhere because of their numbers so they decided to divide themselves in three groups that moved to different parts of Europe. The first document to register the arrival of gypsies to Spain is from 1447.
Those known as Gypsies called themselves "Ruma -Calk", (it means man from the plains or runner from the plains) and spoke "Calo" (from the Indian dialect Maharata); they used to be nomads, craftsmen and shepherds.
The gypsies have always lived as a nomad culture and take the local music and make their own versions from it. Music is very important in their celebrations and everyday life. All they need to start to make music is a voice, and they soon start to add rhythms with their hands and feet. They have always liked embellishments, improvisation and virtuosity and in Andaluca they found a rich ground for their musicality, fertilized by hundreds of years of high culture, where not only Moorish, but also Judish, Catholic and local musical influences mixed.
The Moores had occupied Spain, and particularly the south, for about 800 years, science, economy and culture flourished in a rich mixture of cultures. During this time the predecessor of the flamenco guitar was introduced and developed. It is believed that the word "flamenco" is a mis-pronunciation of the Arabic words "felag" (peasant) and "mengu" (fugitive). It is known that flamenco began to be used as a synonymous for "Andalucian gypsy" in the 18th century.
What is "Flamenco?"
Although flamenco music is now recognised as a marvellous and unique art form, this was not always so, as is demonstrated by the origin of the name itself. Flamenco, in fact, means... Flemish!
The story goes that when Felipe II's soldiers returned from their military occupation of the Netherlands, some Andalucians among them were one night heard singing and dancing and playing the guitar, and someone assumed that they must have picked it all up in Flanders, contemptuously dubbing the genre "Flemish music". The fact that no one ever bothered to rectify this absurdity is a measure of the disregard in which it was held - just like "jazz" (originally a synonym for sexual intercourse), before the genre was dignified in Chicago.
As for its origins, there is no reason to believe that flamenco is any more exclusively "gypsy" than is the violin music of Hungary or Russia - wherever they went, the gypsy people made their living telling fortunes, fixing pots and chairs, trading and playing the local music which people wanted to hear. As for the Arab influence, there are undoubted similarities in the singing style, but the eastern influence in European music was generally much more prevalent in the Middle Ages and did not have to specifically stem from them. In fact, the origins of flamenco are much older than the arrival of the gypsies in the 15th century, going back even earlier than the invasion of the Moors in the 8th.
Musicologists currently believe that flamenco singing was, in the beginning, a profane version of early Christian liturgical "plain song" (Roman, Byzantine, Mozarabic), the direct descendant of which is what we now call "Gregorian chant". Of course, in a melting pot like Andalucia, every new race or tribe added its particular seasoning to the dish, and the gypsies, originating from northwestern India, did not fail to contribute the intricate rhythms of their native ragas. At best, flamenco is an incongruous patchwork of musical genres which is most accurately described as "the music which is played in southern Spain"...
Differences between a Flamenco guitar and a conventional classical guitar:
By Derek Hasted
"Many of the larger builders offer Classical and Flamenco Guitars. Flamenco Guitars often have a slightly smaller body so that they can be sat higher on the lap. They tend to have a teardrop scratch plate for the golpe and other percussive strokes. They tend to have a more percussive tone, in which the energy you put into the instrument strings comes out louder, over a shorter period. This allows better articulation of the rasgueado and rhythmic strokes, together with a high degree of clarity when playing quickly."
"In contrast, the Classical guitar often has a larger soundbox - many now call themselves Concert Guitars. The sustain is better and the sound more mellow. But they can be a little woolly when playing Spanish music. It is often good to try your guitar alongside others in the same environment.
Guitarist.com - They have a section dedicated to Flamenco guitars
Flamenco World - Available in English and español. The roots of flamenco have evolved in southern Spain from many sources: Morocco, Egypt, India, Pakistan, Greece, and other parts of the Near and Far East. How exactly they came together as flamenco is a subject of great debate and a very interesting story...
Flamenco World Online flamenco's guitar didactic handbook - 80 pages (tablure and standard notation ). Includes 60 min. cd with audio examples. Bilingual edition Spanish/English. This didactic method is opening new ways to the diffusion of the flamenco guitar. It is the only pedagogic book of flamenco made in Spain delivered with CD.
Flamenco Guitar Websites