LifestylePersona February, 8th 2011 by


Flamenco Dancers

Speaking to a friend now living in Spain. I said, “that I had not heard the sound of castanets for years”
What I should  have said, was that I had forgotten to listen for them.
I remember as a small child leaving with my brother and parents for a holiday in Spain.
We boarded the ferry to cross the English channel where my father left his precious Rover chained, and in the hands of strangers.
Our hotel in Spain was  white and very tall with a court yard in the centre, and tonight we were going there for a Spanish”Fiesta.”
I wore my favourite dress and my brother wore long trousers.
There was so much food my brothers eyes were as big as saucers.
My Mother had lots of odd things on her plate she said they were mussels, claws,and tentacles!
She enjoyed them very much and my father went back for seconds.
After my brother and I had finished the biggest serve of ice cream,
the lights went bright, the chatter stopped, and in came the Spanish dancers.
Arms, legs,and petticoats, the music bounced around the court yard walls.
His arm held her round the waist, the other, he tossed above his head.
Her fingers trembled over her castanets as he gazed deeply into her beautiful face.
Glued to the spot, I was completely mesmerized by the talking clicking castanets.
They clicked across  to the xylophone and under the guitar strings.
I remember thinking that my brother looked very handsome that night.
To my Mother’s horror he stood with his hands in his pockets trying to keep his trouser creases straight.
I remember wishing he was older and taller than myself, and I bent my knees trying to shrink a little bit.
( He never did reach my height, but he did grow up very handsome).
In the morning my Mother bought some castanets. They were made of wood. Mine were painted red;
they were in two pieces held together with a piece of string.
I slipped my thumb under the string holding them against my palm. I tried to make them click.
It was very hard, but I did the best I could.

After re-kindling the light of my love affair with castanets I wondered about their history.
I cherry picked some information which I found very interesting.
I thought you might like to share what I discovered with me.
They are centuries-old. Their earliest recorded history dated to over 1000 B.C.
Castanets are considered perhaps the most sophisticated of percussion instruments.
They thrived in the countries surrounding the basin of the Mediterranean: Greece,
Turkey, Italy,and Spain. Over the cause of history Spain has conversed and developed their use,
and they are now considered the national instrument of the country.
They consist of two pairs of cup shaped pieces of special wood, chestnut is commonly used.
They are drilled to receive a cord, which is looped round the thumb.
They usually differ slightly in pitch the lower (male) and higher (female).
The cups hang downwards in the hand and are manipulated by the fingers.
Each instrument is hand crafted and moulded to fit the size of the hand of its user.
I read that there were only 4,( how amazing is  this?) or less professional castanet players in the world!
and that in an orchestral selling a castanet machine, although their sound is slightly different, is often used.
The castanets are secured by elastic to a central piece of wood ending in a handle which is held and shaken.
Not as romantic as Spanish dancing! Castanets help to capture the Spanish character, experienced by me as a small child.
They inspire romance and atmosphere to the music, and Spanish dancing under the warm Mediterranean skies.
I still have my castanets, maybe one day I will return to Spain and relive my childhood memories.


Writer Dianna Collen who lives in Australia, is a lover of all things Spanish and a regular visitor to the Marbella Marbella site. She has generously submitted her charming article “Castanets” for us to enjoy and share!

Disclaimer: The views, opinions and positions expressed within this guest article are those of the author alone and do not represent those of the Marbella Marbella website. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with the author.


What did you think of this article?

  • Susan Revell

    I enjoyed your article Dianna. I hope that you do return to Spain and once again fall under the magic spell of clicking castanets and again enjoy the swirling skirts of the dancers. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Dianna Collen

      Hi Sue,
      I am pleased you enjoyed my story. I hope to return to Spain soon. Dianna.

  • Reading this took me to a place I wish i could go; the words make the castanets dance .. a simple sound has such a history, and centuries of drama… Lovely!

    • Eliot
      I’m glad you liked Dianna’s story “Castanets”
      It’s her first work published here, but we hope she will send others that you can also enjoy. Thanks for visiting the site.

    • Dianna Collen

      Thank you Eliot for your kind words.I am delighted you enjoyed my story. Dianna.

  • mary and Kevin.

    Loved your story Dianna. Spanish music has always been a favourite of ours.
    mary s

    • Dianna Collen

      G-day Mary & Kevin.
      I love Spanish music too. Dianna

  • Loris Balding

    Hi Dianna, I thoroughly enjoyed your article and the picture it envoked. Keep up the good work. Loris and Neville

  • Dianna Collen

    Hi Loris & Neville,
    I am very happy you enjoyed "Castanets" Thank you for your support.Dianna

  • Wendy Law

    I know this comes from Dianna's heart having known her from childhood. It is not hard to understand her feeling so sentimental about her childhood holidays and Spanish dancers are quite captivating as they make the casanets part of their rythym.

    • Dianna Collen

      Many thanks Wendy, I find castanets captivating not only do they add rythem to Spanish dancering they talk!

  • Wonderful, Dianna !…Your "Castanets" really evoke the feel of the real thing. David & I can't wait to see you, and for you to have the chance to return here and see/hear the glorious Flamenco with those castanets, once again. Oh ! and please keep writing ! Your poetic words are so expressive…..ENCORE !:-)

    • Dianna Collen

      Hi Roberta & David,
      Thank you I am so pleased you enjoyed my story.
      I would love to see you when I return to Spain
      which I hope will be soon.

  • We have long realised that Dianna is a romantic , and this captivating story of her love affair with all things Spanish is a tiny window to her special ''persona''.

  • Dianna Collen

    Hi Bryan and Loel,Many thanks, I am pleased you enjoyed "Castanets" Dianna.

  • Suzanne Davies

    Bravo Dianna! – your piece has awakened many thoughts and memories of my own childhood when I had a 'fling' with a boy who was a Spanish dancer. Castanets is a great piece of prose as you related your own memories from that time. Most enjoyable and from your heart! Castanets and flamenco dancers conjure up the romance and emotions of Spain.


      Sounds fun Sue! I am pleased you enjoyed "Castanets" and that it has awakened your childhood memories too. Thank you for your support.
      I wish you all the luck in the world for your new venture.Dianna

  • Geoffrey Walls

    Wonderfull,have never been to Spain but while reading your story could hear the sounds and taste the tastes of the culture you obviously love.

  • Dianna Collen

    Thanks for reading my story Geoffrey I am pleased you enjoyed "Castanets" maybe one day you will visit Spain.Dianna

  • Gladys

    I am 91 years old. The first time I became aware of castanets was when my Mother (borne in 1892) was teaching my daughter to play them. I was fasinated to hear the sounds made by 2 pieces of shaped wood. It is thrilling that today they still entrance audiences with such delight.

  • Dianna Collen

    Dearest Gladys, Enjoy your memories they are so precious to have.

  • Faye Rowe

    Very Good Story, Hope you go back to Spain so you can re-live your memories of the Castanets.

    Faye Rowe.

  • Dianna Collen

    Thanks for reading my story Faye, I am pleased you enjoyed it. Dianna

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