SPAIN: AT BREAKING POINT? A political and economic analysis for 2013 IBERIANS OF THE YEAR: The most influential people and groups of 2012


| Category: Iberoblog, Featured, Music, IberoArts | |

The Outsiders!

The music of Iberia has the strongest of identities, yet it has absorbed many influences over the decades - and become a powerful influence itself.


Fado: mournful simplicity.

Music doesn’t generally create history, but accompanies it for better or for worse. Same tides, same flow: rising with human comeuppance, or descending alongside a collective human crash.

And the human race itself is like water: slowly flowing to the lowest point, changing its composition to rise to the top, only to fall down again.

So that music is like water, we can’t live without it but it also celebrates our funerals.

Horace Silver and Paul Gonsalves were two Portuguese Cape Verdeans, who made an enormous contribution to American Jazz by creating beautiful rhythmic flow, just ask Duke Ellington.

I’m not a Fadista so I don’t know if there were any outside influences on the Fado, other than supposedly having transatlantic Brazilian roots, which I find hard to believe because of the complex exuberance of the latter versus the mournful simplicity of the first. My intuition sides with the Fado’s possible Phoenician origins, but then what do I know?

Intrinsic Hispanic sounds get composed and recorded as much outside Spain as inside it, flowing in both directions. The Spanish classical musical menu offering far more than De Falla, Albéniz and Rodrigo: it includes the work of many world class composers deeply inspired by Spain’s history, its people and its regional cultures. Think Scarlatti, Rossini, Bizet, Ravel, and in the latter’s case the easy connection through his Spanish mother, but what about that unlikely Russian nationalist and naval officer Rimsky-Korsakov? Unless he jumped ship in Vigo or in Cádiz, it’s a mystery to me where he, a man tucked well away in the Baltic zone, found the musical references to the Asturian Alborada and Fandango or those Gypsy cadenzas for his Capriccio Espagnol, half a century before the gramophone, let alone the radio.

Scarlatti was appointed to the Spanish Royal Court, Rossini pointed in the right direction by Beaumarchais, Bizet by Mérimée, yet Ravel, despite that lovely mother of his, going the other way and like that other Frenchman introducing the rhythms of the Habanera even though these clearly originated in Cuba, as the name would indicate. But what I really find fault with is that his Bolero is nothing of the sort, the product of his brain tumour, poor bloke. For the bolero is that sensuous slow trot of hooves, full of romantic tension and expectation, not the hypnotic frenzy good old Maurice late in life cooked up. Still, music following both Slavery and Napoleon Bonaparte.

Of course we’re getting closer now to Flamenco and its ties to faraway India. Its clapping, its tapping, its manipulation of dress, foot and hands as beak, wings and feathers or by feigned cape and matching sounds, all clearly relating to the peacock enticing to mate or else that more recent sensuous, sexual bull to macho dominate or to be received, prostrate. The Peacock and the Bull -not a British pub- were represented in a beautiful Tablao, very well taught as it happens, to my astonishment, in modern Japan. Though I’ve never meaningfully listened to Cante Jondo anywhere but in southern Spain through inspired cantaores like Camarón de la Isla (no, not the current British PM), El Lebrijano or people like La Paquera de Jerez.

The sounds of Spain finding their way into the world of Opera, Ballet, Cinema, Theatre, and Symphony is no mean feat and a huge mark of distinction, but only by receiving as much from the outside. In the fashion that the best black sounds in America were composed by a gifted Russian Jew: Summertime…

And the good news is that despite Afro-Asian strains going back thousands of years, both Fado and Flamenco today are barely two hundred years old, and  Louisiana Jazz or the Argentinian Tango for that matter are barely a century young. So that things are looking up, but I recommend you forget effete, sugary Julio Iglesias, or even worse, all exponents of Spanish rock. I did warn you, there are more than cherries in this bowl, like the case of Wagner and his subsequent but evil buddy, Onkel Wolf*!

*Wolf is short for Adolf, in German. An endearment for uncle Hitler, by Goebbels’ children…

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Published: Dec 7 2011
Category: Iberoblog, Featured, Music, IberoArts
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
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