Tuesday, January 1, 2013

In review--Galician Ladies Sing Out

Cantigas de Mulleres (Songs of Women)
(Compilation of Galician Songs)

I’ve acquired a small collection of Galician recordings mostly featuring jazz and folkloric music.  The latest CD to come my way is a compilation, Cantigas De Mulleres featuring Galician women musicians such as bigger names Uxía, Cristina Pato, Gaudi Galego and Ugía Pedreira and upcoming talent such as 16-year old Sonia Lebedinsky whose mature vocals defies her youth and a musical elder Señora Carmen, age 86.  While the musicians focus on folkloric songs, the treatment of the songs range from medieval DOA’s Levousa Fremousa (which you can find a video on YouTube) to Celtic pipes (Susana Seivane’s Xoaniã) to ultra-modern (Mercedes Peón’s Derorán).

Marful (Ugiá Pedreira) brings in a warm jazzy element mixed with folkloric elements on the song Tris Tras.  Whereas, SOAS (Cristina Pato and Rosa Cedrón) brings in Celtic piano, lush strings and aching vocals.  Leilía (a group of 6 percussionists-singers) shows a more rousing side of Galician music, as does the women’s collective Malvela on the track, Pola Rua de San Pedro.  Slowing it down, the group Sés performs Fala de Mel with solo vocals and acoustic guitar. It’s the closest the album comes to a singer-songwriter track.  I have enjoyed listening to the acoustic folk or jazz songs and I find the electronic tracks distracting, though I can understand how these songs might reach younger audiences and people searching for the “cool” or hip factor.  I’m just not among that crowd and I prefer folkloric songs performed on original instruments or at least acoustic ones.  Otherwise, I hit the skip button.

This brings up a question that has been scratching my brain lately.  For music audiences outside of a tradition or culture, how do we know which part of the music production comes from the tradition and which part is hybrid? How do music journalists decipher the traditional elements of the music from the more modern sound if we had not heard the traditional music in a pure form? And how can we preserve music traditions if we water them down with other influences?

Granted, musicians have been exchanging songs and musical instruments from the beginning and it is doubtful that the ancient Greeks did not trade musical ideas with ancient Egyptians.  Then there’s the Silk Road to consider where musical ideas were exchanged along the routes.  So in 2013 let these questions guide us on the quest for music preservation.  What exactly are we preserving? And is there any culture on the planet not influenced by another one?  Musical exchange is healthy, in my opinion, but I think we need to be careful when using the word “traditional” especially when many of the traditions (such as types of work, festivities, and lifestyles) behind certain music were lost between the industrial and technological ages.

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