Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ramadan Kareem

I know it's a bit late, but even so. Both of us thought we heard the call to prayer this evening, and looked round to see the sun three-quarters of the way over the horizon, so perhaps we did. Iftar - time to break fast. But we're out of earshot of the big mosque in Tetuán. We were out of earshot when we lived in Tetuán!

And also, although the first impression was islamic (in the same way that Gregorian chant is specifically Christian, not just European) it developed into something more Spanish, in this case, specifically andalucían.
Al-Andalus was of course the centre of Islam in Spain for centuries, and the West owes an incalculable debt to successive caliphs in Cordoba for the preservation in translation of the heritage of Ancient Greece and Rome.
But Granada, and Toledo were both known for convivencia, basically the ability of Muslims, Jews and Christians to get on with their lives, and follow their faiths, without bothering each other. Until Isabel (la Católica) of Castile set out on la Reconquísta, to reclaim Spain for Christianity under a centralised authority i.e. herself and her husband Fernando (Ferdinand) of Aragon.

Still, you can hear the legacy of that time in flamenco music in Spain, and, in the Jewish world, in Sephardic music - the music of the Spanish Jews, who took it to North Africa, when they also were expelled as part of la Reconquista. The other day, I was introduced to the music of the Israeli jazz musician Avishai Cohen, and the first actual song I heard was this, sung in Ladino, the Spanish-Hebrew dialect of the andalucían Jews in the days of convivencia.
In the comments that follow this YouTube video, I read that some Jewish communities still speak Ladino, and that a Ladino speaker understood just fine when addressed in Spanish. Not bad after five centuries!

Anyway, if there is such a thing as a flamenco hymn of joy to the beauty of a summer evening and the sun setting over the mountains, that's what I think we heard. If I'm right, then somewhere not very far away, on a terrace facing away from Mecca (as it happens) a man was singing his heart out as the sun went down.

I can't make head or tail of most of this song, beyond the fact that the rejected lover has decided to take poison and die - but it sounds pretty cheerful to me, and starts off like someone standing on a balcony as the sun goes down.....

And in the spirit of convivencia, here's Chris August, and some serious sunsets.

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