Tag Archives: Castilian folk music

The Inventive Trad Spirit of Tündra

Tündra – Folk Ancestro Sideral (Nada Producciones, 2013)

The title of Tündra‘s Folk Ancestro Sideral gives you a hint of what’s coming. It means ancestral space folk. Tündra is a groundbreaking progressive folk band from Logroño, in the famed wine-making La Rioja region of Spain.

Tündra combines captivating traditional folk tunes and songs from various parts of Castille and other countries such as Macedonia and Finland along with shape-shifting progressive rock and jazz influences, intertwining ancient traditional musical instruments such as zanfona (hurdy gurdy), bowed vihuela (a Spanish instrument from the 1400s), bagpipes and tasteful and edgy electronics and electric guitar.

Tündra – Folk Ancestro Sideral

One of the band members, Daniel Latorre is also a renowned luthier, who handcrafts some of the musical instruments used by Tündra.

The lineup at the time included Jorge Garrido on drums, percussion, psaltery, kanjira, wavedrum and bass; Ignacio Benito on gaita charra (shepherd’s flute from Salamanca), chirula (a small three-holed woodwind instrument from the Basque region of Spain), tamboril (drum), psaltery, transverse flute, cane flute, and Swedish bagpipe; Danuel Latorre on zanfona and bowed vihuela; Francisco González on electric guitar and samples.

More about Tündra.


Artist Profiles: Tündra


Spanish progressive folk band Tündra was formed in Logroño, northern Spain, in late 2008 by four local musicians with backgrounds in folk music, rock and jazz.

The musical influences ranged from Swedish band Hedningarna and Spanish contemporary folk ensemble La Musgaña to progressive rock and jazz.

The early lineup included four multi-instrumentalists from Logroño. In 2012, Tündra won the first prize at the Gota Music competition, which gave them the opportunity to record their debut album titled “Folk Ancestro Sideral.”

One of Tündra’s members, Daniel Latorre is a highly esteemed instrument maker who handcrafts some of the ancient instruments used by the band.

In 2013, Rafa Martín, founder of the renowned folk band La Musgaña joined the band.

Band members in 2019 included Ignacio Benito on flutes, bagpipes, psaltery and drum; Jorge Garrido on drums, percussion and bass; Francisco González on electric guitar and samplers; and Rafa Martín on zanfona (hurdy gurdy) and nyckelharpa.


Folk Ancestro Sideral (Nada Producciones, 2013)
Bastardüs (2017)


Artist Profiles: Manantial Folk

Manantial Folk in 2018

Manantial Folk was born in one of the richest areas of musical folklore in Spain, the villages of the Sierra de los Gredos (La Vera and Valle del Tiétar) in western Spain. The group maintains, since childhood, a close contact with the various manifestations of traditional culture. Since 1982, traditional music has been updated, working on several fronts.

One of the main interests of the group is research. Manantial Folk has collected more than three hundred songs that, rigorously documented and with their corresponding musical notation, are included in their songs. The musicians of Manantial Folk have recovered instruments such as the rabel de una cuerda (one-string rabel or rebec), which had almost disappeared, and they have been teaching classes on indigenous instruments and rhythms at towns throughout the region. They complete this work with conferences, articles in specialized magazines, radio and TV programs, etc.

In their recordings Manantial Folk are renovators, adapting folklore to the current demands always from the natural respect to the essence of each song: melody, rhythm and text. And advances, also from traditional approaches, to new compositions by musicating relevant current poets (Claudio Rodríguez, Jesús A. Martín, José Lahorascala, etc …) who sing to the earth and to men.

Throughout the years Manantial Folk has been gathering an extensive repertoire that is continuously increasing. The songs are decided according to the venue (town squares, theaters, schools, etc.) and the circumstances in which it must be done, combining culture and show perfectly.

The ensemble: Ana Aliseda – harmonica, percussion, and vocals; Cristina Bernal – flutes, percussion, and vocals; Nino Seco – lute, rabel, percussion, and vocals; Rafael Tirado – electric bass, and vocals; Angel Tirado – acoustic guitar, and vocals; and José Luis Rodriguez – Spanish guitar and vocals.


Manantial (1982)
Los tapiales (1984)
Extremadura en la mirada (1985)
Vengo de la Vera, vengo (1986)
“…a sol poner” (1987)
Raíz y vuelo, compilation(1988)
Jotas, rondas y rondeñas, compilation(1988)
Del Duero al Guadiana (1990)
Alboreá, rondas de boda, with Cogolla, Niño de la Ribera and José A. Conde (1991)
Canciones Populares (Guía didáctica) (1991)
Tiempos (1992)
América, te nombro (1992)
Del natural (1994)
Pregón XI Festival Acántara (1995)
Esto tan nuestro, compilation (1997)
Jota y rondeña, ronda y romance (1998)
Más que canciones (2000)
Al estilo de mi tierra, compilation (2004)
Paisaje y Canción, compilation (2006)
Cuando las calles cantan, compilation (2009)
La estrella de Gredos (2011)
Sonidos del tiempo, compilation (2013)
La luz de la palabra (2015)


Gente, paisaje y canción (2006)


Artist Profiles: La Bruja Gata

La Bruja Gata

La Bruja Gata was a world music band that performed traditional Spanish folk music with global and innovative sounds. All the musicians had experience in various folk and rock bands Rafa Martín was founder of La Musgaña, in 1987; José Ramón Jiménez was a member of Suburbano; Javier Barrio recorded with La Bazanca (Valladolid) and many other acts, and Javier Palancar had collaborated with La Frontera and is one of the most renowned accordion teachers in the Spanish capital.

La Bruja Gata was founded in Madrid at the end of 1999 and, in a short time of existence, it managed to become an important phenomenon within Spanish folk. The group was selected, among more than 1,100 candidates, for the Strictly World festival that was held in Zaragoza in November 2000. In addition, La Bruja Gata was proclaimed by popular vote “best new band” at the Festival de Ortigueira in 2000.

The first album of the group, Manual de Pociones (Potions manual), included 15 songs (including 11 instrumentals) composed by Javier Palancar and José Ramón Jiménez with the exception of a polka from Julián Romanos.

The members of La Bruja Gata liked to define their music as “stateless folk”, “folk from nowhere” or “folk from their father and mother”, a remarkable variety of styles. “Our sound combines in some way Castilian airs, Balkan rhythms, African percussion, progressive jams and a bit of Celtic vertigo. We are not traditionalists or recreators. We have tried to make La Bruja Gata look just like La Bruja Gata”, explained Palancar.

La Bruja Gata won the Villa de Madrid 2002 award for the best traditional music album for its debut album, Manual de Potions.

The Bruja Gata lineup included: Javier Palancar (Madrid, 1964: accordion, vocals); José Ramón Jiménez (Madrid, 1975: clarinets, flutes); Rafa Martín (El Escorial, 1961: zanfona, lute); Antonio Melero (Madrid, 1974: percussion, drums); Javier Barrio (Segovia, 1960: guitars, guitarrillo, dulzaina); Roberto Ruiz (León, 1965: bass, cello).


Manual de Pociones (La fábrica de ideas, 1999)
Baile de Libélulas (Resistencia, 2004)
Fugaz (La Bruja Gata, 2010)


Artist Profiles: Espliego

Espliego was formed by two singer-songwriters, Pedro Chaparro (Valdepeñas, Ciudad Real) and José Ignacio Cordero (Talavera de la Reina, Toledo) from the Castille-La Mancha region of Spain, the land of Don Quixote. Throughout the years the band grew and added new musicians, featuring three vocalists, two male and one female.

What characterized the group was its interest in the music and poetry of the Cervantes era. Espliego combined Early Music with Manchego folk and folk-rock. The instruments used ranged from traditional Spanish instruments such as guitar, vihuela and flutes, combined with Irish uilleann pipes, world percussion and electric guitar.


Con el tallo de un lirio (2000)
El libro de Juan Alcaide (2001)
Amuleto de estrellas (2003)
Nunca fuera caballero (2004)


Artist Profiles: Eliseo Parra

Eliseo Parra

Eliseo Parra is one Spain’s leading performers and researchers of folk music. He has traveled to small villages to rediscover old songs, musical instruments and learned how to play some instruments in the traditional style. He reconstructs folk music by adding modern elements. His background may seem surprising to some. He began as a rock musician and afterwards became interested in jazz and Caribbean rhythms. Eventually, he ended up rediscovering Spanish folk music.

Parra was born in Sardón de Duero (Valladolid). He began his musical career in Barcelona, in the late 1960s, as a drummer in several rock groups.

In 1971, Eliseo Parra recorded his first LP with the group Mi Generación; an album that featured his own songs. During six years Parra combined his work with the rock band with the solfeggio and harmony studies at the Municipal Conservatory of Barcelona. Around 1976 he took part in the then burgeoning Barcelona jazz scene, also known as Movida Zeleste, by joining Catalan jazz Blay tritono and later the Rondalla de la Costa.

In 1979, Parra recorded with Mallorcan diva Maria del Mar Bonet on Saba de Terrer, an album dedicated to traditional Mallorcan tunes. He collaborated with Bonet yet again on her album Gavines and Dragons. That same year he moved to Valencia to join the group AL Tall with which he had already collaborated previously on the albums Cancos de Vi and Taberna. As a new band member, he participated as performer, composer and arranger on the LP La Batalle d’Almansa.

In 1980, Eliseo Parra returned to Barcelona to study harmony at the recently created School of Jazz and Latin Percussion (Aula de Jazz y Percusion Latin) with the unforgettable Pedrito Diaz. Salsa music became huge in Barcelona and Parra, a singer- percussionist, joined several bands, including Sardineta, which had some international success, and other well known Barcelona based bands such as La Sonora Catalana, La Plater?a, and La Negra. Meanwhile, he collaborated as an instrumentalist and composer in the recordings and live performances of Marina Rossell, Ovidi Montllor, Pilfers and Gato P?rez among others.

In 1983, after a tour of the United States and Canada, Eliseo Parra moved to Madrid to create a musical project based in traditional roots with a group called Mosaic. At that time, Madrid began to replace Barcelona as Spain’s most exciting musical melting pot, attracting musicians from other parts of Spain, as well as from Cuba, Argentina, Equatorial Guinea, Sudan, and many other countries.

Eliseo Parra

The first album by Eliseo Parra’s new band came out in 1984. It was a tribute to the great musician and folklorist from Segovia, Agapito Marazuela, with music from his Songbook.

A second album came out in 1985 with original music inspired by Spanish traditional music. The group toured throughout Spain, France, Italy and Denmark until 1987. From 1988 through 1991, Parra performed solo in Spain, Italy and Morocco. He participated in two episodes tof the Spanish TV series “La Copla” and he worked as music advisor for a TVE (Spanish National TV). During that time he worked as a producer, arranger and composer for albums by La Gaira, Elisa Serna, Angel Carril and Maria Salgado.

In 1992, Parra recorded his first solo album, Al-Bedrio. The album came out in 1993 and Eliseo Parra formed a band that toured Spain, Switzerland and Israel.

For Christmas of 1994, a new album, Arraigo, was released, with 17 of the most beautiful songs from the Salamanca tradition performed with electronic equipment almost in its entirety.

During 1995, Parra taught song and traditional percussion. He also composed and recorded the music for the suite Romance for traditional instruments and orchestra, which was performed for the first time by the National Ballet of Spain together with the Symphonic Orchestra of Madrid at the Teatro de la Zarzuela in September of 1996. At the same time, and together with Susana Weich-Shahak and Jose Manuel Fraile Gil, Parra carried out a series of concerts and conferences about Sephardic music. A double CD, Arboleras, came out with these pieces.

Eliseo Parra

In December of 1996, Eliseo Parra represented Spain at the Forum of Mediterranean Culture that took place in Jerusalem.

In 1997, Parra participated as arranger and musician on the album of Sudanese singer Rasha. Tat same year he participated in a landmark album called Tribus Hispanas (Hispanic Tribes) that featured some of Spain’s finest world music artists: Javier Paxariño, Elisea Serna, Jaime Muñoz, Carlos Beceiro, etc.

Eliseo Parra – Tribus Hispanas

During 1998, Parra began to collaborate assiduously with multi-instrumentalists Javier Paxariño and Eduardo Laguillo.

Eliseo Parra is still very popular as a producer and performer. He produced the album Vizcayatik Bizkaiara by Oskorri, the most famous Basque folk band. He also collaborated on the album Lorios by Alboka, featuring Hungarian singer Marta Sebestyen.

In March of 2002, BOA Records released Eliseo Parra’s album Viva quien sabe querer. That same year, Parra composed the soundtrack for Peribañez y el Comendador de Ocaña, staged by the Compañia Nacional de Teatro Clasico (National classical theater Company), where he participated as an actor, musician and singer throughout 2002.

Eliseo Parra: Nunca perseguí la gloria

In 2017, the book and CD Eliseo Parra: Nunca perseguí la gloria, was released. It is the first authorized biography of Eliseo Parra

The book and disc combo, written by Rafael Alba and prefaced by Fernando Neira, was published by Editorial Canela. The work narrates the passionate vital and artistic history of the key artist in the modernization of Spanish folk music and the renewal of the traditional Iberian music scene.

The CD that accompanies the book provides a global vision of the five decades of work by Eliseo Parra and highlights his contribution to genres as disparate as psychedelic rock, salsa and singer-songwriter compositions

Eliseo has researched traditional Iberian music, has rescued rhythms and instruments and has revitalized the popular legacy to ensure its future viability. The book gives an account of the efforts of this unique artist to remain faithful to his personal and musical principles for more than five decades, in an environment of constant change, hit by changing fashions, the crisis of the cultural industry and the habitual contempt of the mainstream media for Iberian roots music.


Al-Bedrío (Radio Nacional de España, 1992)
Arraigo (Centro de Cultura Tradicional. Dip. De Salamanca, 1993)
La boda estorbada (Música Sin Fin, 1995)
Arboleras, canciones sefardíes, with Susana Weich-Shahak and José Manuel Fraile Gil (SAGA, 1996)
Tribus hispanas (Música Sin Fin, 1998)
Viva quien sabe querer (Boa Music, 2002)
De ayer mañana (World Village – Harmonia Mundi, 2005)
Diez (Producciones Mirmidón, 2009)
Contradición (Producciones Mirmidón, 2011)
Canciones tradicionales riojanas (Espiral Folk, 2012)
El Man Sur (Karonte, 2015)
Nunca perseguí la gloria (2017)


Artist Profiles: Aljibe


Aljibe plays contemporary folk based on the traditional music of Castile, La Mancha and other parts of Spain.

Aljibe has been working since 1985, investigating and reworking traditional songs to make them attractive to all types of audiences.

This veteran group has the classical instrumentation of Castilian groups, supported by contemporary instruments and influences from other cultures as well. The style has evolved over the years, pure compilation to developing new material based on traditional forms such as seguidillas, fandangos, torrás.

To celebrate its 20th anniversary, Aljibe released a live CD and DVD recorded live titled “Al lado del mediodía” (Next to noon). Nearly 80 minutes of music featuring the best cuts from the previous 7 albums. The matetial includes original compositions, arrangements of traditional songs from Castille-Leon and Castille-La Mancha, as well as Sephardic and Galician songs.


Juan Rodríguez Tembleco: Solo voice, accordion, bagpipes, charro bagpipes, saxophone, bandurria and lute. Founder of Azada y Aljibe. He has collaborated with Paco Díez and La Bazanca. He also participated in other groups such as the Captain Street Big Band and the Municipal Band Joaquín Rodrigo de Aranjuez.

Luis Ramón Martín: Bandurria, lute and Spanish guitar. He began with the group La Picota de Yepes and later joined Aljibe. He is one of the best plectrum musicians of Castilian music.

José Manuel Rodríguez Tembleco: Voice, bandurria, lute, electric bass and percussion. A member of Aljibe since the very beginning, he stands out for his enormous rhythmic capacity in Spanish and Arabic percussion. Sound technician of the group.

Domingo Martínez: Spanish and acoustic guitar, manchego guitar. Started in music in the Orquesta de Plectro y Púa Vicente Aleixandre. He has performed with several jazz, classical, and country acts always as a string player, playing lute and banjo.

Luis Miguel Novas: Flutes, clarinet, dulzaina and bagpipes. He completed the recorder flute degree with Professor Álvaro Marías at the Royal Conservatory of Music of Madrid, obtaining an graduated with honorable mention. He has worked and collaborated in bands such as the Real Capilla de Madrid and La Bazanca.

Manuel Marcos: Voice, piano, keyboards, guitar and percussion. He studied piano at the Royal Conservatory of Music of Madrid with José Luis Fajardo. He has been a member of the Dioptrías Blues Band, and the group Algarabía. He has collaborated in recordings such as Mañana de Navidad, with the group La Berza.

Teodomiro Rodríguez: Electric bass, flutes and percussion. Founder of the Nueva Castilla group and later, of Aljibe, he left the group twice to work in Warsaw and Prague at the Cervantes Institute.

Teresa García: Voice, violin and percussion. Classically-trained, she collaborated with several Galician bands before joining Aljibe.


Temas Infantiles Tradicionales de la Comunidad de Madrid (Saga, 1987)
Surco arriba, surco abajo (Saga, 1987)
Felices Nusotros (Tecnosaga, 1989)
Gañanes, gancheros y otras faenas (Several Records, 1991)
La Marca del Oricuerno (Several Records, 1997)
El Motín de Aranjuez (Several Records, 1998)
Penas y Alegrías (Sonifolk, 2002)
Al lado del Mediodía (Galileo, 2002)
Enea (self-released, 2011)
Agua. Músicas Tradicionales de la cuenca del Tajo (Doce Calles, 2018)


Spanish Folk Music Band Vigüela Tops the October 2018 Transglobal World Music Chart

A Tiempo Real – A New Take on Spanish Tradition (ARC Music), the double album by Spanish folk music band Vigüela is the number one album of the the October 2018 Transglobal World Music Chart.

Vigüela has captured the essence of Spanish folk music as performed in village homes, festivities and celebrations in the province of Castilla-La Mancha and beyond. The group performs their materials on folk instruments and kitchen utensils such as guitarros manchegos (small guitars from Castile-La Mancha), castanets, frame drums, the zambomba friction drum, folk guitars, triangles, the bowed 1-stringed rabal, lutes, jars, bottles, mortar and frying pans.

The rest of the chart:

2. SANS – Kulku – Cloud Valley
3. Ammar 808 – Maghreb United – Glitterbeat
4. Samba Touré – Wande – Glitterbeat
5. Anandi Bhattacharya – Joys Abound – Riverboat / World Music Network
6. Fatoumata Diawara – Fenfo – Montuno / Shanachie / Wagram
7. Minyeshu – Daa Dee – ARC Music
8. Baul Meets Saz – Namaz – Seyir Muzik
9. Grupo Mono Blanco – ¡Fandango! Sones Jarochos de Veracruz – Smithsonian Folkways
10. V.A. – Two Niles To Sing a Melody: The Violins & Synths of Sudan – Ostinato

11. Chancha Vía Circuito – Bienaventuranza – Wonderwheel
12. Angelique Kidjo – Remain in Light – Kravenworks
13. Yossi Fine & Ben Aylon – Blue Desert – Blue Desert
14. Arat Kilo, Mamani Keïta, Mike Ladd – Visions of Selam – Accords Croisés
15. The Turbans – The Turbans – Six Degrees
16. Cimbalom Brothers – Testvériség / Brotherhood – Fonó Budai Zeneház
17. Marta Gómez – La Alegría y el Canto – Aluna
18. Eliades Ochoa & Alejandro Almenares – Dos Gigantes de la Música Cubana – Tumi
19. Harouna Samake – Kamale Blues – One World
20. Stella Chiweshe – Kasahwa: Early Singles – Glitterbeat

21. Sväng – Sväng Plays Tango – Galileo Music
22. Sekou Bah – Soukabbè Mali – Clermont Music
23. Cemîl Qoçgîrî & Manuel Lohnes – Bêdawîtî – Ahenk Müzik
24. Opium Moon – Opium Moon – Be Why Music
25. Red Baraat – Sound the People – Rhyme & Reason
26. Bombino – Deran – Partisan
27. Hermeto Pascoal – Hermeto Pascoal e sua Visão Original do Forró – Scubidu
28. Riccardo Tesi & Banditaliana – Argento – Visage
29. Small Island Big Song – Small Island Big Song – Small Island Big Song
30. Dur-Dur Band – Dur-Dur of Somalia: Volume 1, Volume 2 & Previously Unreleased Tracks – Analog Africa

31. Alba Griot Ensemble – The Darkness Between the Leaves – Riverboat / World Music Network
32. Jaune Toujours – Europeana – Choux de Bruxelles
33. Mehdi Rostami & Adib Rostami – Melodic Circles – ARC Music
34. Catarina Dos Santos – Rádio Kriola – ARC Music
35. Ann O’aro – Ann O’aro – Buda Musique
36. Okonkolo – Cantos – Big Crown
37. Markus & Shahzad – Tumba ! – Dionysiac Tour
38. Monsieur Doumani – Angathin – Monsieur Doumani
39. Nancy Vieira – Manhã Florida – Lusafrica
40. Bokanté + Metropole Orkest – What Heat – Real World


A Tiempo Real, An Exceptional Collection of Folk Songs from Castilla-La Mancha

Vigüela – A Tiempo Real – A New Take on Spanish Tradition (ARC Music, 2018)

A Tiempo Real – A New Take on Spanish Tradition is an extensive collection of folk songs from the Castilla-La Mancha region in central Spain. The songs were assembled by Vigüela, a group of multi-instrumentalists, singers and folk music researchers who are based in a town called El Carpio de Tajo, in Toledo province.

The massive project is featured in a 2-CD set. The songs include diverse traditional music styles from Castilla-La Mancha and nearby regions like jota, alborada, fandango, Christmas songs, seguidilla, ronda, wedding songs and more. These songs came from village elders, Don Manuel García Matos and Alan Lomax, and various other sources.

The four artists use a wide-range of folk music instruments, including the guitarro manchego (a small guitar), lutes, frame drums, zambomba (friction drum); and kitchen utensils used as percussion such as jars, bottles, mortar and frying pans.

Vigüela includes Carmen Torres Delgado on vocals, castanets, tambourines, mortars, cauldron, cane, clapping, and triangle; María del Rosario Nieto Palomo on vocals, mortars, frying pan, tambourines, clapping; Juan Antonio Torres Delgado on vocals, rebec, guitar, zambomba, frame drum, mortars, bottle, triangle, jar; Luis García Valera on vocals, guitar, guitarro manchego, lutes, tambourines, mortar, triangle; Javier Gómez García on vocals, lutes, guitarro manchego, guitar, castanets and tambourines; and Eduardo Gómez-Olmedo Moreno on vocals, guitar and lutes.

The liner notes are in Spanish and English and describe each song. Lyrics are available as a download.

A Tiempo Real – A New Take on Spanish Tradition is an extraordinary collection of traditional songs from inland Spain that reflect the customs of villagers and farmers during celebrations, religious traditions and other activities.

Buy A Tiempo Real – A New Take on Spanish Tradition


Interview with Spanish Folk Music Band Aljibe about Agua, the Music of the Tagus River Basin

Spanish folk music band Aljibe has released a remarkable album titled Agua, Músicas tradicionales de la cuenca del Tajo (Water, the Music of the Tagus River Basin) that consists of an audio CD and a 144-page book. Aljibe has 33 years of experience in the Spanish traditional music scene.

The project highlights the value of the traditions that have developed around the Tagus (Tajo in Spanish), the most extensive river in the Iberian Peninsula. Aguat is a collective work that praises all that the Tagus River has contributed from different points of view: historical, artistic, literary, anthropological, musical.

Aljibe – Agua, Músicas tradicionales de la Cuenca del Tajo

Aljibe uses a combination of traditional Spanish musical instruments like the guitar and zanfona (hurdy gurdy) as well other instruments from other traditions. Regional instruments used by the band include the guitarro manchego, a small guitar from the La Mancha region of Spain; pito castellano, a high pitched Castilian flute; and the pandero cuadrado, a square frame drum from western Spain.

The lineup on Agua includes Teresa García Sierra on vocals, violin and nyckelharpa; Manuel Marcos Bardera on vocals, zanfona and keyboards; Luis Ramón Martín-Fuentes Palacios on guitar, guitarro manchego and Spanish lute; Domingo Martínez Martínez on acoustic and electric guitars and bouzouki; Luis Miguel Novas Morera on flute, pito castellano and clarinet; Pablo Rodríguez-Tembleco Guilabert on drums; Juan Rodríguez-Tembleco Yepes on vocals, pandero cuadrado, bottle and accordion; and José Manuel Rodríguez-Tembleco Yepes on bass, frying pan, guiro, horn and vocals.

Manuel Marcos Bardera

Teresa García Sierra – Photo by Paco Gómez

Guests musicians Benito Cabrera on timple (small guitar from the Canary Islands); Eliseo Parra on vocals and percussion; Miguel Afonso on accordion; Jamal el Auraoui on darbuka, bendir and karkebs;  Juan Manuel Sayán on palmas (flamenco handclap percussion), castanets; and Spain-based Argentine tango ensemble La Porteña Tango Trío: Alejandro Picciano on electric guitar, Federico Peuvrel on piano, and Matías Picciano on bandoneon.

The book features essays about the Tagus from writers José Luis Sampedro and Olga Lucas; history and legend by Almudena Cencerrado; nature and poetry by Joaquín Araújo; and the current state of the Tagus with the narration of José Ángel Gracía-Redondo.

Interview with Manuel Marcos Bardera:

How did the project of making a book and album about the music of the Tagus River Basin come about?

When we speak of traditional or roots music we usually limit it to that belonging to a country or a place, but we forget that the music moved with the people, being a common heritage of large areas. We think that the rivers and their valleys have always been the easiest roads for this communication, and we came up with the idea of ​​looking for and rescuing melodies along the basin of this great river that runs through Spain and Portugal.


How long did the development period last, from the idea to the final product?

Seven years have passed since our ninth album “Enea,”  and since then we  started working on new songs but it was approximately four years ago when we defined the idea that it was a work framed in the Tagus River and released in the form of a CD-book.

Who contributed to the 144-page book as writers?

There was much to tell, because the Tagus has seen through its shores the extensive history of the Iberian Peninsula and because the longest river in Spain at present is subject to serious problems like lack of water and pollution. That’s why we contacted the writer Olga Lucas, who gave us an unpublished text by the writer and philosopher José Luis Sampedro, author of the well-known bestseller “El río que nos lleva” (The river that takes us).

The naturalist Joaquín Araújo also collaborated. He was recognized with the Global 500 prize granted by the UN to the people who have done the most for the defense of the environment on the planet.

We also have texts by Almudena Cencerrado, president of the Association of Professional Tourism Guides of Spain and José Ángel García-Redondo, forestry engineer and member of the Tajo Research Group of the University of Castilla-La Mancha.

Casa Diamantista in Toledo 1922. The house was owned in the 1800s by Don José Navarro, jeweler and royal crown maker. Currently, it’s used as a hotel

The book has many fascinating historical photos. How did you get the material?

The truth is that it took a long time to contact so many friends who have collaborated in this project. Starting with Agustín Tomico, who provided us with many photos of the whole riverbed and through the Doce Calles publishing house, we had to look for the first historical photos of Talavera de la Reina thanks to Miguel Méndez-Cabezas, or old photos of Jean Laurent or by Otto Wunderlich, facilitated by Eduardo Sánchez Butragueño.

In terms of the photos of Aranjuez we mainly have the photos of Guirao Girada from the Doce Calles archive and vintage engravings from the Museo del Prado.

The book is very beautiful, with a hard cover. How was the project financed?

Like all Aljibe projects, it started being self-financed by the group itself. However, we called on many doors of institutions because we thought it was a beautiful and exciting project to defend the river through music and culture.

Fortunately, several institutions responded affirmatively and have supported us with the purchase of copies, facilitating the dissemination of the project. These institutions are the Junta de Castilla-La Mancha, the Diputación de Toledo and the municipalities of Aranjuez, Yepes, Madridejos, Chinchón and Toledo as well as private companies such as Anber-Fenienergía and El Rana Verde.

View of the Tagus from the castle in Monfragüe in the province of Cáceres.

Regarding the music, the Tagus basin includes several regions. How was the investigation process?

Well, through many sources, starting with a review of the songs that we recorded ourselves from villagers in the area, as well as reviewing other recordings in different archives, such as those made in Spain in the 50s of the last century by Allan Lomax or those of Kurt Schindler, Manuel García Matos and José Manuel Fraile Gil.

And how were the final songs chosen?

The songs have been chosen mainly for their musicality, their instrumentation and for their relationship with work or work related to the river, as well as geographically represent all the provinces and countries of the basin. So we can find the rogativas (prayers) of Valdelaguna, which is still sung in that town in Madrid to ask for rain in the dry season, or the Gancheros de Aranjuez, that tell us about the work of the men who came with the trunks down the river from the sierras of Guadalajara and Cuenca until arriving to Aranjuez.

We also remember the different cultures that inhabited our country with the inclusion of a Sephardic song, “Me dice la gente,” and of another song, “Tikchbila,” which talks about the expulsion of the Moriscos and that is still sung throughout the Maghreb.

The gancheros (river log drivers) of Aranjuez in 1900

A reenacting of the gancheros in 2016

What’s the situation of the traditional music of the Tagus basin?

Traditional music is gradually being claimed not only by veteran groups such as Aljibe but also by new groups that are coming up.

Tagus River, La Escaruela waterfall in Zaorejas, Guadalajara

What are the current environmental threats that the Tagus River is experiencing?

The main one, without a doubt, is the existence of the Tajo-Segura transfer that collects the water in the marshes of the headwaters of the river and, through its capture in the Bolarque reservoir, carries the water 300 kilometers away to the Segura River.

Up to 650 cubic meters per year can be extracted from the Tagus River, which logically means that the river lacks a large part of its natural flow with the damage that this causes to its flora and fauna. Additionally, it is also under pressure from the waters , better or worse filtered, poured into the Tagus by the  more than 10,000,000 people throughout its watershed and countless industries, including mines, nuclear power plants or paper mills.

Tagus River, Poveda waterfall in Guadalajara

How has Aljibe’s sound evolved since its inception?

We are now 33 years old and logically it would not make sense to sound like in our beginnings where the instrumentation was based on guitar, lute, bandurria and vocals. Little by little some musicians left the group and others joined. At the moment, Aljibe is made up of eight musicians from different origins as instrumentalists but with the bond of love for roots music.

In addition to using Spanish instruments, you also use the Greek bouzouki and the jembe of West Africa. What other instruments do you use or would like to use?

As we do not consider ourselves a “purist” group of research and exact interpretation of the music of our ancestors but a group that recreates these songs that allows us total freedom at the time of the instrumentation. That is why we combine traditional Spanish instruments such as the Spanish pito, the three-hole flute, the hurdy-gurdy, the guitar, the lute, the square tambourine … with others such as the bendir, the tar, the karkebs, the jembe, the ney, the bouzouki or the Swedish nyckelharpa.

Much of what is broadcast on the radio, internet and movies is pop and hip hop. How do you divulge your music?

Thanks to the publisher of the CD-book we have managed to spread the album better because they have a communication department that has allowed us to reach more radio and television stations. On the other hand we are also visible through the main virtual stores such as spotify, itunes, amazon prime music …

Is there any effort on your part to make folk or traditional music known to children and young people?

Most of the members of the group are music teachers in primary and secondary schools, which is why we have always spread this music among our students, as well as holding concert conferences about traditional instruments and music. In addition, even Aljibe’s first album was a collective work on Traditional Children’s Songs of Madrid.

If you could gather musicians or musical groups to collaborate, who would you call?

Well, we have been lucky enough to call them and they have come, because in Agua nine excellent musicians collaborate, starting with the great singer and percussionist Eliseo Parra, or the best timple player in the world, Benito Cabrera, or the accordionist Miguel Afonso, in addition to the three members of the prestigious group La Porteña Tango: Alejandro Picciano, Matías Picciano and Federico Peuvrel. Jamal el Auraoui, Josemi García and Juan Manuel Sayans have also helped us with the Arabic and Spanish percussion.

Are you preparing any new project?

At Aljibe we are always thinking about new topics for new projects, but before we expect this “Water” to flow for a long time.


Temas Infantiles Tradicionales de la Comunidad de Madrid (Saga, 1987)
Surco arriba, surco abajo (Saga, 1987)
Felices Nusotros (Tecnosaga, 1989)
Gañanes, gancheros y otras faenas (Several Records, 1991)
La Marca del Oricuerno (Several Records, 1997)
El Motín de Aranjuez (Several Records, 1998)
Penas y Alegrías (Sonifolk, 2002)
Al lado del Mediodía (Galileo, 2002)
Enea (self-released, 2011)
Agua. Músicas Tradicionales de la cuenca del Tajo (Doce Calles. 2018)

More about Aljibe: www.aljibefolk.org