In 1952, Alan Lomax traveled Spain to document the country's many-stranded folk song traditions. This release includes field recordings from Andalusia, Asturias, Cantabria, Castile, Extremadura, Galicia, León, Murcia, Navarre, Valencia and the Balearics. Originally part of the Columbia series (The World Library of Folk and Primitive Music), this reissue stands as a prescient foray into "world music," long before the concept gained its present cachet.
Triangulating between Hemingway, Hollywood and The Rough Guide to World Music, the reader could be forgiven for assuming that Spanish folk song begins and ends with cante jondo ("deep song") or flamenco. But as this title illustrates, from the Roman imperial era forward, Spanish music has undergone a sustained but locally diverse process of blending between Iberian folk traditions and their Sephardic Jewish, gypsy (Rom), and Islamic North African counterparts. Yet the geographic divisions enforced by a mountainous terrain also preserved evident regional stylistic distinctions. These song traditions reflect the concerns of everyday economic pursuits, social and romantic diversions and sacred festival cycles geared to the rhythms of agricultural and herding economies. They range from the Celtic strains of Galicia's bagpipe-accompanied choruses to the romances (ballads) and dances of central Spain, the bulerías, fandangos and sevillanas of Andalusia, Valencia's orchestral jota, Mallorca's boleros, work tunes and religious songs, and Basque music. This varied documentary collection serves to correct the popular misconception of flamenco as the last word in Spanish folk expression. - Michael Stone