La Música de Al-Andalus


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La Música de Al-Andalus
La Nuba Garnatí de Tlemecen (Argelia)

Ensemble Awtar-Tilimsem

Touchia h'sine.

Mceder  "NassimErraoudi"

Btayhi  "KoumDir Zouyaydj"

Derdj  "Ya Laimi Kouf ek Manam"


Insiraf 1  "MinAhwa Fouadi"

Insiraf 2  "Saraqua el Ghousnou"

Khlass I  "Laquad Safat Dounia"

Khlass 2  "Charibna wa Tab"

Touchiat El Kamal H'sine

Duración total: 70'57"













There is a very significant fragment of the poem written by Ismá'il b. Bard when he asked 'Abd al-Hamid b. Basil for a lute, and was given an old instrument:


You were very generous to send me a lute

that belonged to the family of al-Waid.

Generation after generation

mended it with their hands.

It is Co me like a lute of mosaic.

The spiders wove over it

for they thought it a vestige

of a building in ruins.

This lute is like effaced lines,

like the remains of the ink of beautiful calligraphy.


(AI-Kattáni (1029): Kitab al-tasbihiát min as’ar ahl al-Andalus, ed. 'Abbás Ibsan, Beirut, 1966, p. 110).


The music of al-Andalus has been preserved through oral tradition in the Near East (mainly in repertoires of muwassahas); in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia in North Africa (especially the nubas of al-Andalus and of the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada); and in the different customs of the Andalusi culture of the Curve of the Niger, conquered in 1591 by the Morisco (a Moslem convert to Christianity) from the Kingdom of Granada, Yuder Pachá. The musical culture of al-Andalus generated its own musical and poetic forms. It developed musical theory, and boasted many narrative and literary sources. Ibn Hazm of Cordoba (1064) took part in the philosophical and theological debates surrounding the permissibility of music; Ibn Bassám (1147), al-Saqundi (1231), and ibn Sa'id al-Magribi (1282) all left writings about life and anecdotes on the music and musicians of al-Andalus; al-Tifasi (1253), a friend of ibn Sa'id, compares poetic metre with musical rhythm in an interesting treatise; and Ibn al-Jatib, the Vizier of Granada (1374), Ibn Jaldún (1406) and al-Maqqari (1631) are just some of the essential sources of references.

The music of al-Andalus developed out of different musical cultures: the Mozarabic musical tradition (Christian, with elements of Romanisation, influences from the Barbarian peoples and Visigoth and Byzantine rites), Hebrew, Berber and Arabic music, (Muslim music from the Middle and Near East).

Arabic music, and music in general, was highly appreciated in the courts of al-Andalus, 'Abd al-Rahmán I bought a woman singer called al-'Ayfa', who, like Fadl and 'Alam, had sung in Medina. He also bought a Basque singer, among others. Al-Hakam I himself chose the poems that his singers were to interpret. 'Abd al Rahmán II showered honours and rewards on Ziryab, who made the court at Cordoba the artistic and cultural avant-garde of the time, creating a genuine school of music. In the Taifa kingdoms, singing slave women carne to be valued at fabulous sums of money, with the numbers in the service of a single lord rising considerably. The importance of music and the royal patronage it attracted is demonstrated by the fact that al-Rasid, the son of King al-Mu'tamid of Seville, was a highly accomplished lute player. Patronage was not the preserve of Kings and Caliphs, but also of the great merchants and the higher officers of the administration and the army. Ibn Bassám relates how Ibn al-Kattani taught the future women slave singers grammar, literature and writing. The school for singers of Ibn Báyya (Avempace), philosopher, music theoretician and practical musician, in Zaragoza was enormously important, as were the musical theories of Ibn Rusd (Averroes).

As regards musical institutions, the Alcaide de juglaras e juglares (iGovernor of Minstrelsi) of the Nasrid Kingdom in Granada is of singular significance. The General Archive of Simancas (General Registry of the Seal, dated 13 February 1492, Granada, folio 18) contains a Carta de merced del oficio de alcaide de las juglaras y juglares de Granada a favor de Ayaya Fisteli, conforme usaron tal cargo los alcaides nombrados por los reyes moros (iLicence to exercise as Governor of Minstrels of Granada in favour of Ayaya Fisteli, as the post was used by the Governors named by the Moorish kingsi), with jurisdictional, control and finance functions, and responsibility for the collection of the tarcon, a tax which was paid on zambra and leila dances. (In the Morisco period, Ayaya Fisteli was known as Fernando Morales el Fisteli).

Awtar Tilimsen are an exponent of the most genuine oral tradition of the nuba garnati (Granadan) of Tlemecen (Algeria). Three schools can be identified in the Algerian repertoire: Tlemecen, where the legacy of al-Andalus has been preserved, the repertoire being known as garnati; Constantina, which, as in Tunisia and Libya, is known as málúf, and has Bedouin influences; and Algiers, the political centre, with influences from Turkey and from the two aforementioned schools, where it is known as sana'a. The nuba is a long structure. In general, it has an instrumental prelude which brings together the different themes which come later in the nuba, different vocal fragments with instrumental interludes, together with other elements that bring coherence, such as the rhythm, which progresses gradually from lento to prestissimo at the end. The Algerian nuba of the Granadan tradition has an introduction and two parts, with five vocal cycles (three in the first part and two in the second). The nubas, together with the muwassahas and zéjeles, are the most representative creations of the music of al-Andalus.


Reynaldo Fernández Manzano