All posts by World Music Central News Department

World music news from the editors at World Music Central

Cristina Branco Releases Sensus

Cristina Branco - Sensus
Portuguese fado singer extraordinaire Cristina Branco comes out in full bloom with her new release, Sensus. With her sixth release Branco delves deep into her soul to pull out what is indeed one of her most personal and creative albums to date. Be sure to catch Cristina Branco as she performs on a few select dates across the country.

10/01/04 New York Symphony Space

10/02/04 Boston Berklee Performance Center

10/05/04 Washington IDB Cultural Center

10/07/04 Minneapolis Cedar Cultural Center

10/08/04 Milwaukee Pabst Theater

10/09/04 Chicago Old Town School of Folk Music


Various Artists -Paris City Coffee

Paris City Coffee
Paris City Coffee perfectly encapsulates France’s cultural diversity. It gives you access to the creme de la creme of French music over the past 35 years to the present day. The collection provides a sophisticated, cosmopolitan and aromatic flavour of the French music scene – the majestic eclecticism that comes from a Parisian cafe, brassiere or a club is captured and distilled onto this compilation.

It is full of famous artists as Modjo, Cerrone & Kojak, remixes by Air, Thievery Corporation, Francois K and King Britt and new talents such as Emilie Simon, Simon Says, in addition to with contributions from legends like Brigitte Bardot & Elli Medeiros.


Brenda Fassie: 1964-2004

Johannesburg, South Africa – South African diva Brenda Fassie died at Sunninghill Hospital in Johannesburg on the afternoon of May 9. She had been in a coma for some two weeks after suffering an asthma attack on April 26. The attack led to a cardiac arrest, and family members confirmed that Fassie had suffered brain damage afterward. While in a coma, many notable well-wishers paid visits to Fassie, including South African President Thabo Mbeki and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela among others.

Brenda Fassie’s singing career began in 1979, when Fassie was just 16 years old. South African record producer Koloi Lebona heard her sing, and took her to Johannesburg to continue her schooling and pursue a musical career. In 1983 Brenda had a massive hit record with “Weekend Special” with her band Brenda and the Big Dudes. The song is still regarded as a very important song in South African music history.Her career continued to gain momentum in the 80s and 90s, and she toured extensively throughout the world. The 90s, however, also brought some rough times to Fassie. She was divorced from her husband of 2 years in 1991 amid rumors of physical abuse; she was in and out of drug rehab clinics; in 1995 she awoke from a drug binge next to the body of her lesbian lover who had died of an overdose.

She rededicated herself to her music, and scored a big hit in a collaboration with Papa Wemba. In a 2001 article that coincided with a US tour, Time magazine called Fassie “The Madonna of the Townships.” Her new CDs have sold very well, and are selling out in record numbers since the news of her death.

Fassie’s funeral service will be held at the Langa Stadium in Cape Town on May 16.


Brazilian Daniela Mercury Will Perform at Rock in Rio Lisbon

Daniela Mercury – Carnaval Eletronico

Portugal – Brazilian Superstar Daniela Mercury will be one of the stars featured on the World Stage in Rock in Rio Lisbon on June 5th. Daniela Mercury’s fame has extended beyond Brazil to Europe as well. The singer will perform the same night as Black Eyed Peas, Britney Spears, Sugababes, Nuno Norte and Joao Pedro Pais during the large musical event.

The latest release from Daniela Mercury is titled Carnaval Eletronico, a fusion of Drum’n’bass, House, Techno, Lounge, Dub with typical Brazilian rhythms. One of the singles included is “Amor de Carnaval” (Carnival Love). Daniela started her career at the early age of 15, performing in bars in Salvador, Brazil. In 1988 she was background vocals in Gilberto Gil’s band. In 1992 she performed in front of a crowd of 20 thousand in Sao Paulo, one of the historic moments in her career. The songwriter was appointed by UNESCO as an “Artist in favor of Human Rights”.

The organization Rock in Rio Lisbon presented this week the whole infrastructure built at the Bela Vista Park in Lisbon, Portugal. The space designed for enjoyment and entertainment features more than 200 thousand square meters and will host the biggest musical event in the world, along six days divided in two consecutive weekends, from May 28th to May 30th and from June 4th to 6th.

World Stage confirmed bands:

– Paul McCartney – May 28

– Peter Gabriel, Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, Jet, Gilberto Gil and Rui Veloso – May 29

– Foo Fighters, Evanescence, Kings of Leon, Charlie Brown Jr e Xutos and Pontapés – May 30

– Metallica, Slipknot, Incubus, Sepultura and Moonspell – June 4

– Black Eyed Peas, Britney Spears, Sugababes, Daniela Mercury, Nuno Norte and João Pedro Pais – June 5

– Sting, Alicia Keys, Alejandro Sanz, Ivete Sangalo and Luis Represas – June 6

The Roots Tent will showcase 20 bands and artists representing world music:

– May 28: Daby Toure (Senegal), Ensemble Kabul (Afghanistan), Rão Kyao (Portugal);

– May 29: At-Tambur (Portugal), Havana Abierta (Cuba), Thierry Robin (France ), Manu Dibango & Ray Lema (Cameroon – Congo);

– May 30: Manecas Costa (Guiné-Bissau), Terrakota (Portugal), The Klezmatics (USA), Angelique Kidjo (Benin);

– June 4: Faltriqueira (Spain), Trio Madeira Brasil (Brazil), Javier Ruibal (Spain), Souad Massi (Argelia);

– June 5: Regis Gizavo (Madagascar), Gaiteiros de Lisboa (Portugal), Joyce & Quarteto (Brazil), Nguyên Lê (Vietnam-France);

– June 6: Tucanas (Portugal), Amparanóia (Spain), Trio Curupira & Hamilton de Holanda (Brazil), Mariza (Portugal).

On the Electronic Tent by Smirnoff Experience, 72,000 watts of energy and 15 of the best DJ”s in the world will scratch and make people party all night long.

– May 28: Projecto D.O.J. (Portugal); Gilles Peterson (Switzerland) and David Mancuso (USA);

– May 29 – “House is a Feeling”: Felipe Venâncio (Brazil), José Luís Magoya (Spain), To Ricciardi (Portugal), Miss Barbara Tucker (USA) and Tedd Patterson

– May 30 –“Techno World”: A Paul (Portugal), Angel Molina (Spain), DJ Anderson Noise (Brazil), Jim Masters (UK) and Jeff Mills (USA);

– June 4 – “Electro N’ Bass”: DJ’s Zig Zag Warriors (Portugal), Dj Kitten (Portugal), Adam Freeland (UK) and Dj Patife & Mc Cleveland Watkiss (Brazil/UK);

– June 5 – Carl Cox will play for 3 hours;

– June 6 – “Progressive House”: Felix daCat (Portugal), Desyn Masiello (UK), John Digweed (UK) and Dj Vibe (Portugal)

The Rock in Rio project goes beyond the concept of a music festival. The visitors will not only have the World Stage, the Electronic Tent by Smirnoff Experience and the Roots Tent, but also 14 daily hours of enjoyment, with an area denominated “Radical” , dedicated to sports; debates on the Better World Tent; and other attractions such as a food court and a mini shopping center.

The Social Project

The main focus of Rock in Rio Lisbon’s social project is centered on programs destined to improve the lives of children and youngsters. The Plan Childreach International with over 60 years of existence in 43 countries around the world, will be the benefited organization. With the objective of sponsoring the education and life quality of less fortunate children and their communities, the organization Rock in Rio already donated 250 thousand euros to this institution
and hopes to reach a million euros from ticketing. The SIC Esperanca also compromises to take part of the ticketing proceeds to different initiatives sponsored by the organizers of Rock in Rio Lisbon for benefit institutions recognized by their projects in favor of Portuguese children and youngsters.


The Divas of New Fado

Lisbon, Portugal – Portuguese label Difference has released Divas Do Fado Novo, a compilation of female fado singers. It includes famous voices that coexist with others that practically make their debut in this recording: Ana Laíns, Liana and Raquel Peters. Each of the ten singers is represented by two songs. The booklet includes a short biographical summary and a photograph of each artist. Divas Do Fado Novo focuses on the contemporary side of Fado.

José Régio, famous Portuguese poet, once wrote “Fado was born one bad day. (…) as the sad sailor sang.” Those were the 1940s but, as Fado enters the 21st Century, it is not only about sadness, suffering, heartache and homesickness (or saudade, the Portuguese word with no proper translation to any other language). Fado has been absorbing the influences of the world that encircles it. While still paying respect to the tradition of the Portuguese national song, new instruments brought fresh air to its soul. A movement was born, and it became recognized as “Novo Fado.”

Track list:

01. Cristina Branco O Meu Amo”
02. Cristina Branco Assim Que Te Despes
03. Ana Sofia Varela Porque Voltas De Que Lei
04. Ana Sofia Varela Lágrima
05. Mísia Dança De Mágoas
06. Mísia Garras Dos Sentidos
07. Ana Moura Sou Do Fado, Sou Fadista
08. Ana Moura Guarda-me A Vida Na Mão
09. Liana Ternura
10. Liana Partindo-se
11. Ana Maria Sôdade
12. Ana Maria Beijo Da Saudade
13. Margarida Guerreiro Minha Terra É Linda
14. Margarida Guerreiro Irmã Sombra
15. Katia Guerreiro Asas
16. Katia Guerreiro É Noite Na Mouraria
17. Raquel Peters Ó Alma
18. Raquel Peters Lisboa De Encanto
19. Ana Laíns Fado Meu
20. Ana Laíns Gaivota (acapela)


Sounding Out . . . The San Francisco Bay Area

Written by Jeff Kaliss

Lovely, charming, and irrepressible, San Francisco has long extended an enticing embrace to creative wanderers from other parts of the United States, as well as the wider world. The city helped spawn the Beat Generation of the 1950s and the Hippies of the 1960s and ‘70s, along with the jazz and rock with which these seekers celebrated themselves. Some sought roots in their new soil in the form of American
traditional music, and formed bands and venues to explore those roots; German expatriate Chris Strachwitz took that process further by setting up a label, Arhoolie, to preserve roots music, and a store, Down Home Music, across the Bay Bridge in El Cerrito, to sell his and others’ recordings. The spirit and setting of the late ‘60s also attracted international musicians such as Ali Akbar Khan of India, Hamza El Din of the Sudan, and Seiichi Tanaka of Japan, all of who moved here and began teaching students of all ethnicities. Crossover between world, jazz, and rock sounds was inevitable. Since then, the Beats and Hippies have aged, and there’s been no definable generation to take their place. But many of them have retained their region of residence and their musical preferences. And they’ve been supported in these preferences by an influx of new fans, festivals, venues, record labels, and resident world music artists who keep the sound of the San Francisco Bay Area eclectic and exciting.


Alternative weeklies
sprouted in the Flower Power days and have bolstered their ad revenue and
respectability since then, but they remain a good source of information on cool
stuff. Check the music listings in the San Francisco Bay Guardian (online as, San Francisco Weekly, East Bay Express, and the various regional editions of the Metro, including coverage of San Jose, Santa Cruz, and the North Bay. Listings and dollops of world music are heard on KPFA-FM (94.1 MHz), KUSF-FM (90.3MHz),
KALW-FM (91.7MHz), and KPOO-FM (89.5 MHz).


The largest festival of Jewish music in Northern California is
presented in early Spring by the Berkeley Richmond Jewish Community Center, with
which you can connect at
and by phone at +1 510 848-0237. This Jewish Music Festival makes use of a
number of indoor venues around the Bay to showcase Yiddish, Sephardic, klezmer,
and other forms of world and classical music. In April, the Cherry Blossom US
Japan Taiko Festival, for which Seiichi Tanaka serves as Grand Master (see his
school’s site at
), sets its big drums up in the Kabuki Theater, 1881 Post Street in San Francisco’s Japantown neighborhood.

Outdoor events must deal with San Francisco’s unique climate.
Audiences in early May, aboard the venerable sailing ships docked at the
Hyde Street Pier for the Sea Music Festival, (+1 415 561-7100), may find themselves warmer than attendees at the summertime
Stern Grove Festival (19th Avenue & Sloat Boulevard, +1 415 252 6252), who must fortify themselves against possible seasonal fog with sweaters and blankets as well as picnic baskets. And the riotous annual Carnaval {sic} Parade through San Francisco’s Mission District had to be shifted from the days before Lent, when much of the tropical Christian-influenced world celebrates, to the warmer Memorial Day weekend at the end of May, for the comfort of participants scantily clad in the tropical fashions of South America and the Caribbean. For more about Carnaval, which this year reached its 25th anniversary go to, Even more eclectic is the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, which occupies the historic Palace of Fine Arts, 3301 Lyon Street, for three
weekends in June. Locally-based world music ensembles accompany the dancers, and
the array of sounds is as dazzling as the costumes. Several of the dance
programs are presented in partnership with Door Dog Music, which has also put
together the San Francisco World Music Festival at a variety of venues, with a special interest in Middle Eastern musics. In 2003, the Festival is set for the month of September in Yerba Buena Gardens, with entrances near Mission and Third Streets in downtown San Francisco.


A pair of places in Berkeley, in the East Bay, stand as survivors of
the halcyon ‘60s and ‘70s. The Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse (1111 Addison
Street, +1 510 548-1761,
) hosts traditional and new-crafted American folk music with a bit of ethnic
stuff from elsewhere. The latter is better represented at Ashkenaz (1317 San
Pablo Avenue, +1 510 525-5054,
), where you can not only hear live African, American roots, Balkan, Caribbean,
Celtic, Cajun/Zydeco, and Middle Eastern bands but also learn how to dance to
them before the sets begin. La Pena Cultural Center, also in Berkeley (3105
Shattuck Avenue, (+1 510 849 2568,
), favors Caribbean, Latin American, and politically progressive acts.

The University of California’s Berkeley campus is the location of
the headquarters and halls where Cal Performances (+1 510 642-9988,
) includes such world artists as Ravi Shankar, Cesaria Evora, Paco de Lucia, and
Baaba Maal in its 2003/2004 season. A more specialized learning institution, the
Ali Akbar College of Music ( )
, is located north of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Rafael, not far from the San
Anselmo offices of Moment Records (
), founded by the College’s former head of percussion, Zakir Hussain. Both Hussain and College founder and sarodist Ali Akbar Khan were early pioneers in the sort of fusion of world music with jazz and rock which is still active in the Bay Area, but the College also produces concerts of North Indian classical music at various local venues.

For fans who don’t mind staying up late in a party setting, there are several smaller San Francisco clubs, including the Elbo Room (salsa, samba, reggae, newgrass, and world groove, 647 Valencia Street, +1 415 552-7788, ). Earlier in the evening, and at Sunday brunches, you can drink and dine on South American specialities at Peña PachaMama (1630 Powell Street, near the historic North Beach center of the Beat culture, +1 415 646-0018. Sukay, the Andean recording artists who established this combined eatery and performance space, perform during and after meals, as do other Andean and world musicians.


The unassuming building at 10341 San Pablo Avenue, in El Cerrito,
north of Berkeley, is something of a world music factory. Upstairs are the
offices of Flower Films, from which Les Blank has produced a bouquet of
documentaries showcasing Cajun, Zydeco, Tex-Mex, and blues artists and their
lifestyles. Out back is Chris Strachwitz’s Arhoolie, which continues to issue
valuable recordings of these and other genres. And for fans eager to peruse and
purchase Strachwitz’s and Blank’s output and other albums, books, and
hard-to-find magazines, there’s Down Home Music (+1 510 525-2129,

), the retail spin-off store front opened by Strachwitz in 1976. Savvy staff
will guide you though new and used cd’s and vinyl, and give you time in the
listening booths.

Right near the heart of the hamlet of Mill Valley in the North Bay,
Village Music (9 East Blithedale Avenue, +1 415 388-7400) offers customers a
similarly knowledgeable approach to reggae, Cuban, and Hawaiian music and
collector-quality European lp’s, as well as the rhythm-and-blues for which the
store is best known. Look for seasonal discounts and displays of music

Much Middle Eastern music on cd and cassette is sold alongside
exotic videos, publications, spices, and foodstuffs at Semiramis (2990 Mission
Street, +1 415 824-6555) in San Francisco’s Mission District. San Francisco
stores with a wider selection of world music range from the neighborhoody
Streetlight (3979 24th Street, +1 415 282-3550,

) in Noe Valley and the Record Finder (258 Noe Street, +1 415 431-4443,
) in the Castro to the spacious Amoeba Records (1855 Haight Street, +1 415

) in the Haight-Ashbury, where wizened and would-be Hippies are still in
evidence. All these shops sell used as well as new recordings, as does the
well-stocked Rasputin (2401 Telegraph Avenue, +1 510 848-9004,

) in Berkeley.

For a deeper and geographically broader look at the fertile world
music scene in Northern California, e-mail the writer, Jeff Kaliss, at


World Music Grammy Nominees Announced

The World Music Grammy nominees for have been announced. The award ceremony is 8 February. For more information, see the Grammy Web site.

Best Traditional World Music Album:

  • Kassi Kasse – Kasse Mady Diabate
  • Jibaro Hasta El Hueso: Mountain Music Of Puerto Rico
    – Ecos De Borinquen
  • The Rain – Ghazal
  • Capoeira Angola 2 – Brincando Na Roda – Grupo de Capoeira Angola Pelourinho
  • Without You – Masters of Persian Music
  • Sacred Tibetan Chant – The Monks of Sherab Ling Monastery

Best Contemporary World Music Album:

  • Voz D’ Amor – Cesaria Evora
  • The Intercontinentals – Bill Frisell
  • Nothing’s In Vain – Youssou N’Dour
  • Specialist In All Styles – Orchestra Baobab
  • Live In Bahia – Caetano Veloso


Yusef Lateef & Adam Rudolph Continue their 15-Year Collaboration with release of "In the Garden"

Yusef Lateef and Adam Rudolph - In the Garden
Yusef Lateef and Adam Rudolph – In the Garden
New Jersey, USA – Artistic director Adam Rudolph reunites with his longtime collaborator and mentor Yusef Lateef in the live 2-cd concert recording In the Garden, performed by the Go: Organic Orchestra, jointly released on the artists’ own Meta and Yal labels (distribution by City Hall & North Country). Since 1988, hand percussion innovator Adam Rudolph and the legendary multi reed master Dr. Yusef Lateef (ex-Dizzy Gillespie/ Charles Mingus/ Cannonball Adderly) have developed a process of composing collaboratively, and have recorded 12 albums together.

Their long history of exploring and creating innovative means of composing together fully ripens in In the Garden, the third concert recording of Adam Rudolph’s Go: Organic Orchestra.In the Garden was recorded live in concert on March 1 & 2 of 2003 at the Electric Lodge in Venice, California. Rudolph improvisationally conducts the 22-member Go: Organic Orchestra, utilizing themes and cues which he and Lateef composed. This large woodwind and percussion ensemble includes elder master artists Bennie Maupin, Alex Cline, Munyungo Jackson and Ralph Jones, as well as musicians from classical, improvising and world music backgrounds. Percussion and woodwind instruments from around the world are orchestrated with Western clarinets, flutes and saxophones. In the Garden was created using unique compositional approaches including Rudolph’s concept of “Cyclic Verticalism,” and Lateef’s concepts of “Clustonics” and triple diminished and hexatonic scales. The pieces were composed with traditional Western notation as well as graphic scores and grids, and conducted with a series of hand signals developed by Rudolph.

“Nanna” is an improvised duet with Rudolph on handrumset and Lateef on tenor sax. “Morphic Resonance” features a viola/ flute/ percussion quartet composed by Lateef, alongside a flute quintet and a viola solo composed by Rudolph, which contextualize improvisational solos by Yusef Lateef on flute and Bennie Maupin on bass clarinet. The theme to “Lobelia, Euphorbia, Rock” was composed by Rudolph; it has a melody for three clarinets and a flute composed by Lateef; and it features solos by Bennie Maupin (bass clarinet), David Philipson (North Indian bansuri flute) and Pablo Calogero (bass flute). The eleven minute “Amanita,” composed and performed by Rudolph in a 63 beat rhythm cycle, features solos by Lateef on flutes & tenor sax.

Unprecedented and uncategorizable, the music on In the Garden draws from sophisticated 20th century European compositional techniques, as well as African and Asian scales and instruments. These enchanting sonic environments are rooted in the creative American improvisational tradition, which Dr. Lateef has termed “autophysiopsychic,” meaning music which derives from the physical, spiritual and mental self. This ambitious and powerful project achieves an extraordinary freedom and unity, brought about through discipline and diversity.

Collaborations of Yusef Lateef & Adam Rudolph have fascinated and delighted audiences throughout North America and Europe with performances at the Northsea, San Francisco and Montreal Jazz Festivals. “Double Concerto” premiered at Symphony Space in New York City in 1988 with the Eternal Wind ensemble. “Double Concerto #2,” for 20 musicians, was performed at the California Institute of the Arts in 1989. “The World at Peace,” for 12 musicians, was commissioned in 1995 with a grant from the Meet the Composer/ Rockefeller Foundation/ AT&T Program in partnership with the National Endowment of the Arts. “Beyond the Sky,” for 8 musicians, premiered in 2000 at Lincoln Center in New York in honor of Dr. Lateef’s 60 years of performing.


The Gerard Edery Sephardic Song Book

The Gerard Edery Sephardic Song Book
New York, USA – The Gerard Edery Sephardic Song Book is now available. The highly anticipated song book by Sephardic singer/composer/guitarist, Gerard Edery, contains 40 musical gems from the Sephardic oral tradition. It includes ballads, songs of courtship, love and marriage, as well as liturgical pieces honoring Elijah the Prophet, Abraham and Moses, among others.

The song book also includes a 17 track accompanying CD, Ladino pronunciation guide, lyrics and translations, and a forward by renowned author/storyteller, Peninnah Schram. The songs are arranged in an easily readable format that highlights melody and guitar chords with suggested accompaniments. The collection includes both familiar and lesser known pieces such as Montañas Altas, Shalom Alechem Señores, La Roza Linda, Cuando El Rey Nimrod, La Comida La Mañana, Eli Eliyahu, Tus Cavellos Seda Son, Dúrmite Mi Alma and many more.

To order, go to: The Gerard Edery Sephardic Songbook: for Voice and Guitar


Exploring Flamenco’s Arab Roots

By Greg Noakes

Flamenco music was born, and still lives, among the scenic green hills of Andalusia in southern Spain.

In recent years, however, some performers have moved beyond both the geographical and the stylistic boundaries of traditional flamenco to incorporate
a variety of new styles into their work. Paco de Lucía and Madrid’s Ketama have garnered critical praise – and the wrath of purists – with their jazz-influenced
recordings, while the Gipsy Kings have wedded pop to flamenco to win fans worldwide. Other performers have turned inward, searching for the obscure origins of flamenco, in hope of inspiration. What they have found are pervasive Arab influences, touching everything from the style of performance to the very
rhythms and scales of the songs themselves. And what they have produced as a result is a fusion of Spanish and Arab traditions that is both interesting and

The Arab roots of flamenco run deep. Though some scholars believe the word flamenco means “Flemish,” others think it is a corruption of the colloquial
Arabic felag mangu, meaning “fugitive peasant” and derived from a root meaning “to flee.” The term came into use in the 14th century, and was first applied to
the Andalusian Gypsies themselves, who were called either gitanos or flamencos.

Flamenco music dates back to the Middle Ages, a time of turmoil in the Iberian peninsula. The once-mighty Muslim kingdoms of al-Andalus were in a state
of slow but steady decline, while the Catholic powers of central and northern Spain steadily pushed south. The borderlands between the Muslim and Christian
realms were the scene of vibrant cultural exchange and artistic cross-pollination. Flamenco was born in these marches where Arabs, Jews, Christians and gitanos mixed freely.

The cante flamenco, or “flamenco song,” is characterized by lyric vocals, improvised dance and strongly rhythmic accompaniment. Although lighter forms
later developed, classic cantes jondos (“profound songs”) explore themes of sadness, pain and death. The cantes originally featured purely rhythmic
instruments or were sung a cappella, but the guitar came to be the principal flamenco instrument during the 19th century, when gitanos began to sing and
dance professionally in cafés and bodegas.

It was during this period that the term flamenco came to be applied to the gitanos’ music, and the rules and forms of the classical flamenco were established. Some 60 standard cantes from this period survive today, encompassing a variety of moods and themes.

Over time, however, a split developed between “classical” flamenco and the folk gitano style. Master musicians like Sabicas and Carlos Montoya raised
classical flamenco to a true art from with their expressive virtuosity, but less gifted singers and guitarists often sacrificed emotion for technical precision.
Carefully choreographed flamenco “spectacles” also narrowed the opportunity for improvised musical solos and dancing, leading some aficionados to charge that
flamenco, as an art form, was stagnant.

In reaction, many turned to the gitano tradition. Looser, less polished and more open to change than their classical flamenco counterparts, gitano artists
expressed the passion that is central to flamenco. Their style included fiery guitar improvisation, jaleo – complex rhythms hand-clapping, guitar-slapping,
finger-snapping and vocal outbursts – and the tradition of duende, the deep emotional participation of the performer.

As flamenco artists and critics began to explore the elements of gitano performance, they rediscovered the rich Arab influence in flamenco. The artform’s basic building blocs – sung poetry and music – were borrowed from the Arabs and Berbers who ruled al-Andalus from 711 to 4192, when the Moors were
expelled from Spain. T.B. Irving notes in his book The World of Islam, “Gypsy music and cante jondo go back to the zajal [sung Arabic lyric poetry] and
the five-tone scale.” The percussive elements of jaleo are still found in the folk music of North Africa and its reliance on drums, tambourines and
hand-clapping. The vocal conventions of flamenco can also be traced back to Arab precursors. For example, the vocalizations “Ay-ay-ay!” and “Ay-li-li!” are found
throughout gitano performance, usually in introductory or transitional passages, and come from the traditional refrains of blind Arab mendicants, “Ya ‘ain!” (O
eye!) and “Ya lail!” (“O night!”) respectively.

Indeed, cultural historian Lois Lamya’ al-Faruqi found few elements of flamenco untouched by Arab music. “The ornamental melodic style, the improvisatory rhythmic freedom, the sometimes ‘strange’ (to Western ears) intervals, the segmental structure, and the repeated excursions from and returns to a tonal center are some of the features that indicate Arab influence on cante flamenco,” according to al-Faruqi.

Exploration of flamenco’s Arab ancestry was reinforced by the rise over the last six decades of andalucismo, or Andalusian cultural nationalism. The 1930’s
saw the beginning of a re-evaluation of al-Andalus and the place of Arabs and Muslims in Spanish history and culture, as well as of Spanish ties to the Maghrib. “Previously, southern Spain had turned its back on North Africa,” according to Khalid Duran of the Free University of Berlin. “Those few [Spaniards] who had an idea of the greatness of Islamic Spain liked to believe that it was due to some very special kind of noble Arab from somewhere in the East, perhaps Damascus. Moroccans [they believed ] were nothing but uncouth tribals revolting against Spanish civilization.” Andalucismo grew steadily during the long dictatorship of Francisco Franco and truly blossomed after his death in 1975. Since that time, Spaniards have come to a new appreciation of al-Andalus and of Arab and Islamic culture.

The search for the sources of flamenco, and the rise of Andalucismo, bore fruit in the 1980’s and 1990’s with a series of stunning musical collaborations
between Spanish and Moroccan artists. Most of the Spanish participants are individual performers, including some of the most prominent singers and
guitarists working in the gitano style.

The Moroccans are mostly musical groups, principally the orquestas andalusi of northern Morocco. Like flamenco, Andalusi music had both classical and folk
traditions. Classical Andalusi music, whose forms were set down in 11th-century Cordoba, came to North Africa with the exiles of al-Andalus, and is
characterized by the nawba, a suite of music in a single melodic mode which grows progressively faster and includes sung poems. While Andalusi orchestras
are grounded in the classical nawbat, they also have been influenced heavily by Arab and Berber folk music, and often move easily between these “great” and
“little” musical traditions.

Musicians from both sides of the Straits of Gibraltar find in these joint performances a way to discover their musical roots, remember their cultures’ past triumphs and tragedies and explore their common heritage. The resulting Hispano-Arab music is extraordinary. Sinewy flamenco guitars lines weave between
the plaintive tones of the kamanjeh, a kind of Moroccan violin, underpinned by the frenetic clatter of castanets and a bedrock of darabukkahas, or Arab hand
drums. Lyrics are sung in both Spanish and Arabic, occasionally overlaid in a melding of languages and styles. For their selections, the artists have drawn on
both the flamenco and Andalusi repertoires, and play cantes flamencos and traditional Maghribi folk songs with equal dexterity. Attempts at musical
“fusion” often result in mere cacophony, but the roots common to flamenco and Andalusi music – and the abilities of the musicians involved – have allowed
these Hispano-Arab crossover efforts to attain majestic heights.

While much of this cross-cultural exploration has been done in informal sessions or live performances, several flamenco-Andalusi recordings have been
produced. Among the best are the collaborations of José Heredia Maya and Enrique Morente with the Orquesta Andalusi de Tetuan and Juan Peña El Lebrijano’s
powerful work with the Orquesta Andalusi de Tanger. All three recording exhibit the beauty and passion that can flower when top artists meet to exchange musical ideas and inspiration.

While much ground remains to be covered within the Arabo-flamenco tradition, some folk musicians are striking out on a different tack. The Valencian folk
group Al Tall has teamed up with the ensemble Muluk El-Hwa from Marrakech to explore the music of al-Andalus itself. The two groups have set Arabic and
Catalonian poetry from the 11th to 13th centuries to the rhythms, melodies and instruments of the western Mediterranean to produce appealing and inventive

Hispano-Arab musical collaborations are both an attempt to revivify existing art forms and a reassertion of Andalusian-Arab Mediterranean traditions. Vincent
Torrent of Al Tall declares, “There is a special kind of Mediterranean sensibility and aesthetics. We believe…that a place must be found for this mode
of expression, particularly since we’re subjected to a veritable invasion by other aesthetics and sensibilities.”

Though flamenco performers and Andalusi musicians began their collaboration as a way to explore their own artistic pasts, they also have charted a path to
an exciting musical future. Along the way they have produced some outstanding music, broken down long-standing cultural and historical barriers and
demonstrated – in an era where some see only a “clash of civilizations” between Islam and the West – that there is room for cooperation and creativity.

[From Saudi Aramco magazine, November/December 1994 issue. Reproduced courtesy of Saudi Aramco Magazine.

Read more about flamenco:

What is Flamenco?

An Introduction to Flamenco Cante