various artists,
The Spanish Recordings - Mallorca: The Balearic Islands
(Rounder, 2006)

Another in the lengthy series of field recordings released from Alan Lomax's collection, these are from Mallorca in the Balearic Islands. Lomax's efforts were incredible, spanning a planned 150-plus-disc collection of world music.

As usual, these are to be listened to less for enjoyment and pleasure than by specialists as historic documents and, perhaps, as potential source material for musicians wanting to learn and interpret the tradition.

On this particular recording, more than 46 tracks by a variety of artists were recorded in 1952. Francisco Franco, the dictator, ruled a Spain that was emerging from the bitter Civil War and was then much poorer than even a battered Europe. On the plus side, many folk traditions were still alive.

The music on this disc includes a number of local elements, such as the xeriemies (bagpipe), the flabiol (a flute) and the ximbomba (a friction drum made with a clay pot and a stick fixed in the centre.) Almost all singing is in Catalan, the traditional language of the Balearic Islands since at least the Middle Ages.

Songs include gloses (verse improvisations), work songs, life and seasonal cycle songs, and a fragment of the Song of the Sybil, an ancient Catalan theatre piece.

As is typical with field recordings, the music varies in quality of performance; pieces of songs are missing, and so on. But the passion and authenticity heard in these recordings of local folk performers is irreplaceable.

This series provides excellent explanatory notes, photos, lyrics and translations for each disc. This one is no exception.

review by
David Cox

26 January 2008

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