The art of improvisation
Joglaresa perform most of the songs here with only one pitched instrument (vielle or oud) and add only voices or percussion. With this instrumentation, we not only get as close as possible to the descriptions of professional slave-girl performers, but also achieve the improvisational spontaneity so crucial to music of this period. Music performed with large ensembles of pitched instruments requires an 'arrangement' that Joglaresa feels contradicts all that we know about the improvisational spirit of medieval and traditional music.Belinda Sykes, who directs medieval band Joglaresa (photo below), and is professor of medieval song at Trinity College London, issues a challenge to string-centric early music ensembles in the sleeve notes of her new CD.
Dreams of Andalusia is a programme of the Jewish, Arabic and Christian songs that were performed by the professional singinging girls known as joglaresas or qaynay in Muslim Spain between the 8th and 15th centuries. Accompanying the voices of Belinda Sykes and Naziha Azzouz are oud, tar, vielle, bendir, Andalusian tar, darabuka, shawm and bagpipes. Joglaresa may be musicological purists, but they also describe themselves as 'sounding more like a street carnival band than a solemn early music group' and Dreams of Andalusia explains why. Early music with a strong percussive content always sounds well on disc, and this excellent recording, which was made in the splendid acoustics of East Woodhay Church, Berkshire, is no exception. There are MP3 samples here.
But there is one mystery: the otherwise very informative sleeve notes do not explain why the recording was made in January 2000 but has only just been released on the independent Metronome label, or why it is missing from the label's website. I suppose with music that old another nine years doesn't make much difference. So both sides of the debate get an airing, here is a disc of arrangements of music from Arab-Andalusia, which I have to admit to also enjoying greatly.
Dreams of Andalusia was bought from Prelude Records in Norwich. I notice that Joglaresa are performing at the ever-innovative venue of the King of Hearts in Norwich on 18th December. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk