Joglaresa conjures up Andalusian songs [Archives:2006/938/Culture]

April 17 2006

One might imagine being at the court of one of the prosperous Muslim states in Andalusia, which was an outstanding melting pot of cultures. It was amazing to listen to a host of songs from those bygone ages and more amazingly, to hear them sung by a British band lisping luscious Arabic words.

Also featuring old English, French, Spanish and Italian songs, the concert took place at the Sana'a-based Cultural Center Tuesday, April 11 in collaboration with the British Council. A previous concert by the band Joglaresa took place in Aden city April 8, 2005. Both functions were attended by large audiences.

They sung such famous muwashahah as those written by Ibn Al-Khatib, who was born in Loja in 1313. A famous line reads: “May abundant rain pour over you, O time of loving union in Al-Andalus.”

As Europe struggled to emerge from its Dark Ages, the Arabian Empire was enjoying a golden age. Its westernmost territory, Al-Andalus (now Spain) was in a state of affluence. There was great flourishing of philosophy, mathematics, science, architecture, decoration, craftsmanship, the arts, fashion, attention to diet and hygiene, etiquette, diplomacy, international communications and free trade.

Poetry and music also experienced development and experimentation. Muwashahah and zajal (a strophic verse-form song with refrain) were a crucial innovation of that time, written in classical Arabic and in an Andalusian dialect of Arabic. European writers from Spain, France and Italy adopted these poetic idioms. The zajal, in particular, shares many aspects of musical structures with songs like the Spanish cantiga.

In performing these songs, Joglaresa depended on writings of the time to identify the instruments that were in use. They resorted to writings of Arab scholars like Tunisia's Al-Tifashi.

The band consists of five members: Jennie Cassidy, Hugh Webb, Stuart Hall, Paul Clarvis and Belinda Sykes. They play traditional string and percussion instruments such as the lute (oud), vielle, violin, guitar, harp and frame-drum.

Joglaresa are leaders in their repertoire's improvisational and cross-cultural fields. They are critically acclaimed in the UK for their infectious enthusiasm, expression and passion, combined with peerless skill, musicianship and scholarly research.