Playlist: Music of Andalusia
On April 15, 2016, Simon Shaheen brings to life the Arab music of Al-Andalus and blends it with the ubiquitous art of flamenco in Zafir, a program of instrumental and vocal music and dance that renews a relationship with music from a thousand years ago. Zafir explores the commonalities of music born in the cultural centers of Iraq and Syria that blew like the wind (zafir) across the waters of the Mediterranean to Al-Andalus. There it blended with elements of Spanish music and was brought back across the seas to North Africa, where it flourished in the cities of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia.
To offer a small taste of the music inspiring Zafir, we have compiled a playlist of music from Andalusia, the Middle East, and North Africa. While the performance will blend these three regions and show off the similarities, we’ll separate the three musical styles out here, so that you can hear how these styles have evolved and changed. Take a listen below!
People might think that dance is the essence of flamenco, but in truth, the heart of flamenco is the song (cante). The Arab roots of flamenco run deep, and although much of the history is obscured, it is clear that flamenco grew out of the unique culture in Andalusia. Scholars believe the word flamenco is derived from colloquial Arabic felag mangu, meaning “fugitive peasant.” The word was first used in the 14th century to refer to Andalusian Gypsies, who were called gitanos or flamencos. Soon, the term flamenco came to be applied to their music.
We’ve compiled a playlist of top flamenco musicians in the past century, which includes Camarón de la Isla, Tomatito, Paco de Lucía, La Niña de los Peines, and Carmen Linares.
Israel, Palestine, Egypt
Simon Shaheen, who will be playing in Zafir, is a virtuosic Palestinian-American violinist and ‘oud player who grew up in Israel. Until the early 1990s, Arab music from this region did not have wide distribution, so the focus was on international stars such as Umm Kulthum, Fairuz, and Farid al-Atrash.
The playlist we’ve created includes the musicians listed above.
Sonia M’barek, the vocalist performing for Zafir, is one of Tunisia’s most renowned singers. Her music centers on malouf, a Tunisian style of music that is based on an old Arabic type of poetry called qasidah. It features violins, drums, ‘oud, flutes, and a solo vocalist. The most important structural element of malouf, is the nuba, which was introduced to North Africa by Andalusian Muslims who were forced to leave Spain in the 14th Century.
Here is a playlist of top Tunisian musicians in the past century, which includes El Azifet, Hedi Jouini, Ali Riahi, and Anouar Brahem.
What will you listen for at the performance? Which musical thread interests you most? Share your comments below.
Zafir is at Michigan Theater on April 15, 2016.
- Tunisia, The Jewel of the Mediterranean. (n.d.) Tunisian Music. Retrieved July 29, 2015 from http://tunisia.oi-dev.co.uk/about-tunisia/culture/tunisian-music
- Noakes, Greg. (1994) Exploring Flamenco’s Arab Roots. Aramco World. Retrieved July 29, 2015 from https://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/199406/exploring.flamenco.s.arab.roots.htm
- Smadhi. Asma (2013) Seven Classic Tunisian Songs. Tunisialive. Retrieved July 29, 2015 from http://www.tunisia-live.net/2013/10/18/seven-classic-tunisian-songs/#sthash.GNvElBIV.dpuf
- New World Encyclopedia. (2013) Flamenco. Retrieved July 29, 2015 from http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Flamenco
- Pareles, Jon. (2013). Tradition Performed with a Twist. The New York Times. Retrieved July 29, 2015 from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/08/arts/music/sonia-mbarek-at-the-french-institute-alliance-francaise.html
- La Nuvola Bianca. (2015). Malouf, Traditional Tunisian Music. Retrieved July 29, 2015 from http://lanuvolabianca.com/2015/01/10/malouf-traditional-tunisian-music/
- Corrigan, Damian. (2015) Top Five Flamenco Artists. About Travel. Retrieved July 29, 2015 from http://gospain.about.com/od/music/tp/top5artists.htm
[LISTENING GUIDE] Flamenco is a Living Art: Your Guide
On November 5th UMS will be presenting Diego el Cigala: one of today’s most exciting flamenco singers and musicians.
I’m Joseph Pratt. For 20 years I’ve performed flamenco and classical guitar at the Amadeus Restaurant in Ann Arbor and I’m delighted to be your guide to this extraordinary music. Though I grew up in Maine and was first introduced to flamenco through television and recordings—my initial exposure was on an episode of Captain Kangaroo–the music left a lasting impression.
Flamenco is a living art form with enigmatic antecedents. This means that while it has roots with Gypsies and other ethnic groups from Andalusia, the area of southern Spain that abuts the Mediterranean, the palette of flamenco has been enriched by hundreds of musicians and dancers from many ethnic origins. This distinctive music has been the soundtrack for the complex and often violent history of the Andalusian underclass. Also, this compelling art form will sound to the listener as though two different times or eras were superimposed: a rich cultural past inspiring a dynamic, fast changing present. Flamenco musicians have learned from the traditions of their cultural past and use those rhythms and voices in their outreach to other musical forms. Where and with whom did this all start?
During the years Spain gorged itself on Aztec gold, an underclass of Arabs, Jews, Roma, North Africans and South Americans poured into the ghettos of Seville bringing with them each their own musical heritage. Not invited to partake of their host country’s riches, the oppressed sang and danced their sorrow in the same spirit as African slaves in the New World. There was a strong current of fatalism in the people who made this music. They generally had no political recourse and were limited in the choices they could make about their own lives. Sorrow, anger, and frustration came out through the music of flamenco: a collective autobiography of hated despots, hopeful lovers, broken men, and distressed women. All the while flamenco incorporates beautiful costumes and cunning virtuosos in it’s juxtaposition of good and evil, just and outlaw which makes flamenco a compelling dynamic experience—one that never fails to raise hairs on the back of my neck.
In many ways then, flamenco was a ‘world music’ before critics coined that term for sounds that bridge form and culture. In recent years Diego el Cigala, an artist originally born in Madrid has added more twists.
Diego el Cigala is particularly good at interpreting what is known as the ‘solea:’ a form of song that expresses the feelings of deep spiritual hardship and is thought to derive from Romani songs carried over generations, from the Indian subcontinent. In a New York Times interview El Cigala says: “Flamenco has to be suffered” and this is very much the tradition of the solea song form. This is not called as ‘cante jundo’ or ‘deep song’ for nothing! While listening, notice his raspy style of singing which is a characteristic flamenco vocal sound known as the ‘voz afilla’. Some would say that voz afilla is the sound of the ripping and tearing of the soul of the singer.
Did you notice how he occasionally claps his hands? Flamenco is a music very rich with rhythm and it has a unique system of accents and beats that can sound unusual to ears conditioned to hearing the music typically played in North America.
Listen to this next video of a song called Flamenco por Lorca . This type of song is called a ‘bulerias’ and is rhythmically similar to the solea but is played at a greater tempo. Take in the floating aural sensation of the flamenco beat. The percussion instrument that that looks like a box is called a ‘ cajon’ which is Peruvian in origin. It was discovered by the great flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia in the 1970s when he was given a cajon as a gift while on tour in Peru. Paco de Lucia is hailed to be the greatest living flamenco guitarist and has given several UMS sponsored concerts. He liked the sound of the percussion instrument so much that he incorporated it into his own music. The appreciation of the cajon caught on and is now part of the sound of contemporary flamenco. Notice, also, that many hands clap out rhythms called ‘palmas’ and additionally notice the percussive effects played out on the guitar.
Now to Diego el Cigala’s new contribution to the fusion of flamenco where he explores tango. In this video, El Cigala applies voz afilla to the chords and beat of Argentinian tango. While the sound is beautiful to listen to, purists would find this selection not to be authentically Andalusian. Still, its spirit maintains a heat and passion for the flamenco singer to identify in his soul.
Currents of time and history will decide if the tango form will become intertwined with the genre of flamenco. In that spirit, the November 5 performance, which promotes the artist’s new album (Cigala & Tango) may act as a catalyst for an entirely new arm of flamenco – yet another twist in the continuity of a spectacular sound.