Tag Archives: Castilian folk music

The Captivating Folk Music of the Tagus River Basin

Aljibe – Agua, Músicas tradicionales de la Cuenca del Tajo (Aljibe, 2018)

Innovative Spanish folk music band Aljibe has released a new album titled Agua, Músicas tradicionales de la Cuenca del Tajo. The CD comes along with a beautifully-packaged 144-page hard cover book. The set focuses on the traditional folk music of the Tagus (Tajo in Spanish) River basin. The Tagus is the lengthiest river in the Iberian Peninsula.

On Agua, Aljibe delivers lively traditional songs that are recreated using a mix of local and regional instruments together with instruments incorporated from other traditions. The arrangements are respectful to tradition and updated foro modern times.

The album begins with a spoken word introduction by Richard del Olmo based on a text by Góngora, one of Spain’s most famous writers from the late 1500s and early 1600s. The song selection includes: “Mazurca de Albarracin”, a September mazurka “tight dance” from the town of Albarracin in Teruel province; “La peregrina, a pilgrim song from Villaconejos de Trabaque in Cuenca“; and “Mar de Espigas” a harvest song from La Frontera in Cuenca.

Other songs include “Jotas de Guadalajara” from Guadalajara province, the jota is a very popular dance widely extended throughout Spain; “Rogativas de Valdelaguna,” a water prayer from the town of Valdelaguna in the Madrid region; “Gancheros,” a song about the men who transported logs from the Cuenca mountains on the Tagus river to the mills in Aranjuez (Madrid region); “Me ice la gente,” a Sephardic song from Toledo (Spain) and Rhodes (Greece); and “Tickchbila,” a wine test song to demonstrate conversion to Christianity from Toledo and Morocco.

The rest of the album includes “Llámale majo al toro,” a bullfighting and bull run song that combines versions from Lagartera in Toledo province and Candedela and Pedro Bernardo in Avila province; “Quita y pon” from Montehermoso and Plasencia in Cáceres; “Qué linda falúa,” a Portuguese children’s song about the boat men that connected both sides of the Tagus river mouth; and “Barco Negro,” a Brazilian song that became popular in Portugal.



The album ends with spoken word by Mércedes Cepeda who recites a poem by famed writer Garcilaso de la Vega, from the 1500s.

The lineup on the album includes Teresa García Sierra on vocals and violin; Manuel Marcos Bardera on vocals and keyboards; Luis Ramón Martín-Fuentes Palacios on guitar and Spanish lute; Domingo Martínez Martínez on guitars and bouzouki; Luis Miguel Novas Morera on flute and clarinet; Pablo Rodríguez-Tembleco Guilabert on drums; Juan Rodríguez-Tembleco Yepes on vocals and accordion; and José Manuel Rodríguez-Tembleco Yepes on bass and vocals.

The book includes descriptions of the songs, photos of the artists and insightful essays and rare, vintage photos describing the history and wildlife of the region.

Agua, Músicas tradicionales de la Cuenca del Tajo is masterful set that brings together the most beautiful melodies from the Tagus basin along with literature and photography.


Artist Profiles: La Musgaña

La Musgaña in 2015

Renowned Spanish folk group La Musgaña began as a street band in Madrid. For years, La Musgaña has developed an idiosyncratic style of performing traditional Castilian music. It stayed away from the stereotypical rondalla arrangements used by many artists who lacked the imagination to renovate Castilian roots music.

The first recording by the group was El Diablo Cojuelo (The Lame Devil), released in 1988 by the Sonifolk label. It was an instrumental album except for the ballad (romance) “Un soldado menos.”

That same year, La Musgaña participated at the Muestra Nacional de Folk para jovenes interpretes (National Folk Music Showcase for young performers), which took place in Santiago of Compostela. The group won the first prize for contemporary folk music. La Musgaña’s performance was videotaped by TVE (Spanish National TV). Thanks to this award, the group was given the opportunity to record another album, this time for RTVE’s label. El Paso de la Estantigua was the group’s first recording released in CD format.

In spite of having two albums, making a living with the group was a struggle. La Musgaña had to combine its few paid live performances with busking in the streets. The band played frequently at Madrid’s famous Retiro Park to make some extra money. At the same time, La Musgaña carried out some international tours, especially through Great Britain, where they performed at numerous clubs and festivals.

The decision of professionalizing the group’s career motivated some changes in the line-up. José Maria Climent and Rafa Martin did not want to become full time musicians and left the group. They were replaced by two veterans of Madrid’s folk and world music scene: Luis Delgado and Cuco Perez.

By then, a third album had been recorded and it was released in 1991 by a small label called Lady Alicia Records. Its title human was Lubican, a tribute to the Iberian lynx. The album featured the original line-up with Luis Delgado as a guest on one piece. There were also other well known guests, on vocals, Manuel Luna and Javier Bergia. However, when the album was released, the line-up had changed and the back cover photo included Cuco Perez and Luis Delgado as members of the group.

The next recording was for TVE, which dedicated one episode of its series Arte y artistas (Art and Artists) to the band. In 1992 La Musgaña recorded three new pieces destined to be included as a bonus in the reissue in CD of their first album, El Diablo Cojuelo.

In 1993, the band participated in a collective CD dedicated to the Camino de Santiago (Santiago Route). The title of the album was Hek Sant Jakez, released by the Shamrock label (now owned by Schott Music). In addition to La Musgaña, the album featured Breton band Bleizi Ruz, Desi Wilkinson (Ireland), Laurent Jouin (Brittany, France) and Leilia, a Spanish group from Galicia.

During that time, La Musgaña kept touring abroad, sometimes accompanied by Javier Bergia. One of the best known international Celtic labels, Green Linnet Records, became interested in La Musgaña and offered the band a contract for several albums. It began by re-releasing Lubican. After Cuco Perez left, Xenophile (Green Linnet’s world music imprint) released La Musgaña’s new album. Titled Las Seis Tentaciones (The Six Temptations), the album was an intoxicating homage to traditional Castilian music, originally meant for weddings, street parties and religious ceremonies. It was performed with an interesting mixture of traditional and modern instruments. Las Seis Tentaciones was completely instrumental. This made it easier to market internationally. The album featured Basque accordionist Kepa Junkera as a guest.

For its 10th anniversary, the basic trio of La Musgaña celebrated a decade of work with some concerts in which many of the group’s friends participated as guests. There were former band members on stage, such as Rafael Martin, Cuco Perez and Luis Delgado. There were also great instrumentalists like Kepa Junkera, Javier Paxariño; singers Amancio Prada and Manuel Luna; several members of Radio Tarifa and Scottish fiddler Johnny Cunningham. A live album, La Musgaña en Concierto was later released.

Friday, August 13, 2004, was a sad day for La Musgaña. During a sound check in Cardedeu (Eastern Spain), Quique (Enrique) Almendros, flautist and piper, suffered a brain hemorrhage. His fellow band members and a doctor aided him. Despite the quick ride to the hospital, he entered into a deep coma.


La Musgaña in 2009


The lineup changed throughout the years. In 2015, the band added Sebastián Rubio on drums and percussion, Antonio Toledo on classical guitar and Marta de la Aldea as lead singer.



* El Diablo Cojuelo (Sonifolk, 1988)
* El Paso de la Estantigua (RTVE Música, 1989)
* Lubicán (Lady Alicia Records/Green Linnet, 1993)
* Las Seis Estaciones (Green Linnet/Xenophile, 1995)
* La Musgaña en Concierto (Resistencia, 1997)
* Temas profanos (Lubican Records, 2003)
* 20 (Mad River, 2007)
* Idas y venidas (Lubican Records, 2009)
* Entre dos (2013)
* Si supiera que cantando (2015)

Web Site: www.lamusgana.net