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Journal 18 - Soul Music from Two Shores
April 9, 2006
A series of classical concerts is part of the annual cultural agenda for Lent in C·diz. They include strings, vocal ensembles and choruses, bands, and perhaps the most unique but not most popular, saetas. The saetas come from the world of flamenco, and carry the same energy and passion, but are also a different genre with their melody, rhythm, and of course content. Instead of traditional flamenco material which deals with love or lack of love, family or cultural identity or the land and such, the saetas are songs of faith.
Iím told that saetas used to be a larger part of the Semana Santa here, but as society has continued secularizing, it has ended up like a lot of Catholic tradition in the category of cultural folklore that is nice to preserve. What continues is a competition, where singers present their saetas in different flamenco clubs, and then the best are selected to sing in a final presentation in the Santo ¡ngel Church.
I was able to be at the church last Friday to hear the finalistsí music. The concert was opened by a few solemn numbers by a band, and then a designated speaker introduced the eveningís feature with fluffy praise about saetas.
Singing solo and unaccompanied by guitar or clapping, the music carries even more intensity than most flamenco. The saetas deal with confession and crucifixion, themes that we would hear on a Good Friday service. They have few verses, but the singer holds out words or phrases as he or she improvises around the melody. The songs' improvised trails have obvious Arabic influence, a mark of how this music has come up from between two cultures.
The first man seemed moved after his presentation, and I was impressed to see that something of soul remains in the music. After the remaining two singers, the band concluded the evening with a few more songs and we were dismissed.
Last evening I had another opportunity to hear a different, but not far removed kind of music. I went for the first time to the Central Lechera, which used to be a building for milk processing and has been turned into a simple concert hall a similar to but a little bigger than EMUís black box theater. The title the artists gave the show was ìM™sicas del Mundo: M™sica entre dos orillas del MediterranÈo,î World Music: Music between two shores of the Mediterranean. As the title suggests, Fathi Benyakob and Nono Quevedo come from opposite sides of the strait and they music they perform brings together these worlds.
Benyakob plays violin and Quevedo accompanies with cello to perform music that comes from Morocco, but certainly has great influence from Europe and other parts as well. The music mostly had a darker side to it, with melodies in a similar vein as the saetas, but there were also moments with a more driving rhythm. Through the whole concert, the two demonstrated amazing ability with their instruments with their speed, clarity and the variety of sounds and melodies that they could perform.
Between the two shows it was interesting to hear the similarities in these ways of expressing two different kinds of music. In both concerts the performers were clearly deeply invested in their music, making for an impressive show and a chance to learn something about the music from this corner of the world.