Flamenco purists may carp at Paco de Lucía’s incorporation of classical, Afro-Cuban, and jazz elements into his music, but no one can deny his prodigious knowledge of flamenco’s traditions or his ability to perform it like no other guitarist before him.
He insisted that all of his musical explorations and innovations are based on a solid commitment to flamenco tradition. “Everything I have heard has influenced me as a musician. But I have been careful about putting it in the music—my flamenco is not a fusion. I have always been careful that it doesn’t lose the essence and the roots and the traditions of flamenco. I have incorporated other styles, but they have not altered the philosophy of my music.”
This according to “Flamenco buena: Paco de Lucia’s guitar sings” by Felix Contreras (JazzTimes XXXIV/6 [July–August 2004] p. 44).
Today would have been Paco de Lucía’s 70th birthday! Below, performing in Carlos Saura’s Flamenco, flamenco (2010).
Initially the Ottoman Empire lacked the important ceremonial symbol of a Western-style national anthem, and each sultan from Mahmud II onwards commissioned a march for that purpose. Accordingly, the imperial march of Abdülhamid II was Hamidiye marşı (or Ey velinimet-i âlem, the first words of the text). Before the annexation of Bosnia Hamidiye marşı was of marked political importance there, and the march’s symbolic value made it an integral part of the musical program of various Bosnian Muslim entertainments.
Another frequently performed Ottoman march was Cezayir marşı (Turkish Cezayir “Algiers, Algeria”, or Dezair, as it was known in Bosnia). This march is often attributed to Giuseppe Donizetti (Gaetano’s brother, above); the reference to Algeria is probably due to the French invasion of that Ottoman province in 1830.
This according to “Ottoman music in Habsburg Bosnia-Herzegovina (1878–1918)” by Risto Pekka Pennanen, an essay included in 6. međunarodni simpozij “Muzika u Društvu”: Zbornik radova/6th international symposium “Music in Society”: Collection of papers (Sarajevo: Muzikološko Društvo BiH, 2009, pp. 81–91).
Below, the two marches in question.
Ilmari Krohn was the founder of the Finnish school of ethnomusicology, and he was one of the first to develop lexicographical methods for the classification and study of traditional music.
Krohn derived support and inspiration from the Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, which pioneered the collection of Finnish folklore and the publication of Kalevala, the Finnish national epic. He was also influenced by the historic-geographic method in folklore, originated by his father Julius and his older brother Kaarle.
The main focus of Krohn’s approach was on the collection, classification, and publication of traditional songs, not ethnography or the musicians themselves. The principles Krohn laid were later adopted by Bartók and Kodály, and then spread to a number of European countries.
This according to “History, geography, and diffusion: Ilmari Krohn’s early influence on the study of European folk music” by Erkki Pekkilä (Ethnomusicology L/2 [spring–summer 2006] pp. 353–59).
Today is Krohn’s 150th birthday! Below, a 1977 recording of his Rukous (Prayer).
On this first day of May, let’s look at a vivid depiction of Dublin May Day customs from a ballad that was first published in 1843, though it was already flourishing at least 60 years earlier.
De May Bush takes place amid a longstanding feud between the Liberty and Ormond factions—weavers and butchers, respectively—and revolves around the tradition of selecting, cutting, and guarding a handsome May Bush throughout the night before May Day. The vigil involved much revelry and drinking, and on this particular occasion the butchers fell asleep and the weavers stole their May Bush. The butchers’ leader exacted revenge in the form of driving a bull into the heart of the weavers’ turf to wreak havoc and create mayhem.
Like the song itself, the action depicted is a performance genre; the theft of the bush resembles the recurrent motif of the abduction of a bride. The butchers and the weavers were just as capable of manipulating multivalent social language as they were of ribald, full-bodied expression in song—complementary performance genres that meet around the May Bush.
This according to “May Day and mayhem: Portraits of a holiday in eighteenth-century Dublin ballads” by Cozette Griffin-Kremer, an essay included in The flowering thorn: International ballad studies (Logan: Utah State University, 2003, pp. 101–27).
Above, an Irish hawthorn, a popular choice for the May Bush; below, a tourist video shows decorated May Bushes in Galway.
The young Scottish traditional singer Jean Redpath shared a New York apartment with Bob Dylan in the early 1960s; she went on to make more than 40 recordings, not least the astonishing project she embarked upon with the American composer Serge Hovey, to record all of the songs composed and collected by Robert Burns.
Hovey arranged 323 Burns songs for her, matching them to their original melodies, often with imaginative contemporary orchestral arrangements. Redpath recorded seven albums of these arrangements, which were critically acclaimed, and went on to make other Burns albums as well.
This according to “Jean Redpath, MBE” by Jim Gilchrist (The Scotsman, 23 August 2014).
Today would have been Redpath’s 80th birthday! Above, a portrait by Alexander Fraser commissioned by the Glenrothes Burns Club; below, Redpath’s recording of Burns’s Green grow the rashes.
On New Year’s Eve men and boys in Urnäsch, Switzerland, disguise themselves in various costumes and, bearing harnesses with heavy bells, walk in groups from house to house; at each house they sing wordless yodels. The custom is called Silvesterklausen, and the men and boys are known as Silvesterchläus.
At the crack of dawn they march off in single file. Arriving at a house, they shake their bells rhythmically to announce their presence. The inhabitants are expecting them, and the husband and wife step out to greet them; the wife bears a tray with a bottle and glasses.
The Silvesterchläusen then form a circle and sing polyphonic yodels, which are received with great favor by the household. Each visitor is offered a drink; the yodelers accept their drinks, shake hands with their hosts, and march off to the next house.
This according to Progress and nostalgia. Silvesterklausen in Urnäsch, Switzerland by Regina Bendix (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1985). Below, Silvesterklausen in 2013.
The kolijani-koleda event on Krk, which takes place in the Christmas and New Year period, is marked by processions moving from house to house expressing good wishes, together with a choosing-the-king custom. Through changes and innovations this ritual has ensured its firm entrenchment in the consciousness of the people.
The symbolic presentation of village unity moves from the secular to the religious sphere; their mutual permeation is constant and inseparable, and the performance of the ritual is the present expression of collective identity and feelings. The dialectical relationship between tradition and revival is confirmed in the interweaving of the old pre-Christian symbols (although they are expressed with new meaning or just repeated as a rule) with the most contemporary expressions of identity.
This according to “The kolijani ritual event on the island of Krk, Croatia: Continuity or revival?” by Tvrtko Zebec (Yearbook for traditional music XXXVIII  pp. 97–107). This issue of Yearbook for traditional music, along with many others, is covered in our new RILM Abstracts of Music Literature with Full Text collection.
Above and below, excerpts from a 1989 documentary on kolijani in Dubašnica.
BONUS: The season in 1972.
Filed under Dance, Europe
The drumming style among Protestant bands of Northern Ireland known as blood and thunder evolved as a result of working-class bands both imitating military practices and adapting them to their changing tastes.
This unique tradition developed through working-class musicians’ endeavors to emulate the musical practices of the dominant military power without access to the tuition techniques and facilities on which that style depends. A transformation taking place in blood and thunder drumming is characterized by an added element of aesthetic deliberation, which is considered by many to be an artistic advancement.
This according to “Blood, thunder, and drums: Style and changing aesthetics of drumming in Northern Ireland Protestant bands” by Ray Casserly (Yearbook for traditional music XLV  pp. 142–163). This issue of Yearbook for traditional music, along with many others, is covered in our new RILM Abstracts of Music Literature with Full Text collection.
Above and below, the Ballynahinch Protestant Boys, a group featured in the article.
Happy Boxing Day! On this day in 1899 Cecil Sharp witnessed a performance by the Headington Quarry Morris Dancers at the home of his mother-in-law. Intrigued by the tunes, he invited William Kimber, the group’s concertina player, to return the next day so that Sharp could notate them.
Sharp did not begin his folk song collecting until four years later, and in 1905 Mary Neal, an organizer at the Espérance Club for girls, asked Sharp if there were any dances to go with the tunes he had collected. Sharp referred her to Kimber, who traveled to the club to teach the dances, thus beginning the revival of traditional dance in England.
This according to “Absolutely classic” by Derek Schofield (English dance and song LXI/2 [summer 1999] pp. 8–9). Above, the Headington Quarry Morris Dancers in 1916, With Kimber and his concertina front and center. Below, Kimber plays Getting upstairs in 1946.
BONUS: The Headington Quarry team in 2008.
Filed under Dance, Europe
The Faroese people sing a lot. The fact that young people from the Faroe Islands are extremely successful in the multitude of popular singing contests on television is not accidental.
The Faroese have always been diligent singers, especially regarding the various genres of traditional singing, which for centuries have formed an important part of Faroese culture. With the increasingly globalized everyday life of the past 50 years or so, music from all over the world has permeated everywhere, including the Faroe Islands; nevertheless, traditional Faroese singing and dancing are still alive and well in the 21st century.
Following in the wake of four separate volumes of Faroese traditional music, a new edition, Føroya ljóð í kvæðum, vísum, sálmum og skjaldrum/Sound of the Faroes: Traditional songs and hymns (Hoyvik: Stiðin, 2014) is a single volume covering all of the topics. Part I is on Faroese dance with melodies for both kvæði and Danish ballads, part II is on spiritual singing and Kingo singing, and part III is on skjaldur. Each part describes the genres in question and offers a comprehensive selection of melody examples with an accompanying CD.
Below, the celebrated Faroese chain dance after the total solar eclipse on 20 March 2015.