Andalusia’s Alhambra

To explain the origin of the Arabo-Andalusian style and the rise of Andalusian music, we must go back to the dawn of the Muslim era when the Visigoth-Hispanic music combined with the simplicity of bedouin song. This style was simple stringed accompaniment without the complicated chording of current instrumentation.

Since the ninth century and thanks to the presence of Ziryab, a great musician of Baghdad, a substantial transformation occurred as a result of his knowledge of the oriental classical school. Additionally, his talent for and sensitivity to opening new paths in music was exceptional for the time.

The Nuba, the most prominent musical expression of that moment, appears to us as a musical suite. It is a long vocal and instrumental symphony which Ziryab lauded, demanding care with balancing harmony, rhythm and melody, thus providing a new and profound orientation.

Nuba, a construct of the medieval times, combines both vocal preludes and instrumental parts. When sung, it consists of verses of varying lengths, which combine and develop melodies, recitatives, instrumental parts, etc. These accelerate in a planned and with an orderly pace, to their final denouement. The instrumentals combine with the song and dance, accentuating the syncopated rhythm of words and music for extended periods of time.

Some genres of flamenco are related to the musical structure that Ziryab once created: polyrhythms, polymetric, the presence of verses and short lines, interruptions and invocations, melismatic and modal character. These forms exceed the more ancient poetic formulation of classical casida, the poetic canon of Muslim Andalusia.

This creates the musical body which makes this genre feel close to some flamenco, especially when interpreted in classic modes. These are certainly clear ancestors of flamenco, establishing one of its deepest roots and yet insufficiently studied.

On the basis of classical Arabic poetic casida, Andalusian Nuba represents a substantial innovation with the subsequent invention of the following styles: moaxajas, zejels and jarchas. In general, they link eastern Arab music, Andalusian music and native Spanish popular music.

Nuba is also certainly the core link in the peninsular lyric of the hybridized Romanesque-Visigothic genre. Its romance substrate was followed by hebraic and andalusí genres, the latter of which was a seed element ultimately matched with the great medieval Spanish poetry.

The influence became widespread, as explained by both Emilio Garcia Gomez and S. Stern of Andalusia. Muslim lyrical and Romanesque reached France, following in the wake of the jarchas and zejels. European troubadours, the Cantigas of Alfonso X, and Portuguese galaico poems, among others, were to create additional pollinations and flowerings.

The muwassaha, which extended from the Nuba, was created by a Muqadam Ben Al  Mucafa Al Qabri, “The Blind of Cabra” (847-920). He was a poet who combined his knowledge of Arabic poetry and informed by an indigenous cultural base. His work spread with great success in Spain in the 11th and 12th centuries throughout the Iberian peninsula and along the Mediterranean coast.

This style was a love song with several sections of short lines. With a fixed rhythmic organization, clear and regular measures lead to recognizable time segments. Finally, these andalusíes poems, together with some Hebrew compositions, are also mixed with two other styles: moaxajas and the famous jarchas. These small medieval pieces are written in several styles in romantic, Hebrew, and Arabic dialect and sung as ditties in the vernacular of the times, as shown by D. Emilio García Gómez.

The evolution of jarcha, another branch of the muwassaha trunk, shows the same metrics, characters and styles of flamenco structures. Muwassaha forms are also reflected in Spanish ballads and medieval songbooks, with results also seen in Christian carols, etc.

The context in which all medieval Spanish poetry was born manifested between the confluence of three peoples: Hispanic-Muslim and Hispanic-Christian and Jewish elements. Additional influences were constituted by a cultural mosaic of and symbiosis with the Berbers. Without going into the order and flow of their full histories, we witness deep flamenco roots that would prosper for centuries, in a way similar to how Spanish and Romanesque poetry evolved.

Flamenco derived much of its meaning and methods from its source in Andalusian music and, over time, other musical styles and influences. The evolution of zejels and jarchas are an indisputable mixture of musical cultures given to a micro-composition model (following verses) and strophic (groups of text) flamenco.

Another important aspect in the relationship between other influential forms of music and “flamenco andalusi,” is the primary role given to text. In principle, the mode of sung poetry of the Greek-Byzantine time and later with  medieval influences, placed the poem above musicality.

Transmission of the modal elements of verse and music are similar in emotionality, expressiveness and orality that comes with subtle variations to this day, with shared stylistic dimensions at their base. A prime example of this was the music emanating from the Arabic world.

After their expulsion from Spain, Moorish oppression was expressed through tragic feelings and social resentments in couplets and romances. This deep and emotive tone was also assimilated by flamenco performers and composers, via the oppressed working classes, in general, and the Roma people in particular.

Subsequently, the primitive Nuba emigrated from the hands of the expelled Moriscos, north Africa and the Middle East. It is particularly interesting now to reference and integrate our understanding of those distant origins while tracing Andalusia’s current music and singing.

Separate chapters deserve the study of musical instruments and their subsequent evolution. Stringed and percussive instruments have been maintained as integral to musical expression, all the while evolving and adapting to current sensibilities.

For instance, in “verdiales malagueños” groups, the evolution of flamenco guitar itself and the recovery of percussion instruments in current flamenco examples, are visible.

Added to this brief explanation is the importance of preserving this treasure of oral transmission that is flamenco. Born of the substrate of original peninsular musical forms, it retains a valuable example of lyrical, musical, sentimental and emotional changes over time. A people, whose rich cultural heritage through invisible yet influential pores, has preserved, revitalized and evolved an inherited treasure of our ancestors and kept it prodigiously alive.


New avenues to explore the ancient roots of flamenco with an ancient instrument.

New avenues to explore the ancient roots of flamenco with an ancient instrument.

Our concerts present a rapprochement between current flamenco and Andalusian music lyrics, recovering poets of differing times. We look for shared connections and influences, together with time’s natural evolution, in order to illustrate this deep and rich culture of music and song.

Additionally, we introduce traditional formats in a new genre: audiovisual materials.

As musicians, we seek to illustrate the vitality of these poems that once made our ancestors vibrate! This past orientation became so critical to their cultural identity that it led them to perpetuate the manuscripts that survive  until today.


1) Isacio Rodriguez Martinez: Director – Secretos de Granada

2) Cristina Cruces: “Flamenco and Andalusian Music”; Ed. Carena.

3) Christian Poached, “Arab-Andalusian Music”;

Ed. Akal.

4) Reinaldo Fernandez Manzano; “The Music of Alandalus in Its Disciplinary Framework”

5) Luis Delgado. “As-Sirr”; Emilio Paniagua.

6) Emilio García Gómez, “Arabo-Andalusian Poems”; S. Stern, Manuel de Falla and others.



She was so beautiful that

if they had asked the moon,

“What do you moon?”

The moon would answer:

“A flash of her.”


Since I heard her voice

I lost peace and judgment

And her sweet ditty

Left me only sorrow

and anxiety about her.

I never got to see it,

My mind was alive and

from her voice I fell in love.

My heart captive

for her song, I left.


Ask the glinting lightning

When the night is quiet

If you have made me remember my lover’s midnight

As it has once again made my heart beat,

She has filled my eyes with rain that flooded my cheeks.


I see a green oasis where the time has come to harvest

But I do not see the gardener tending his hand to collect the fruits;

What a pity

uselessly youth fades,

And it has left me alone, that which I dare not name.


I fuck this olive,

beautiful olive.

Green and tender outside;

And within – timber

Hard and importunate fruit!

Oh fortune,

I fuck this olive!

Maturing to fruit takes so long

Without seasoning: sour;

And while a gathered load is full

It is mine to take only one

Oh fortune,

I fuck this olive!

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Metamorphic Transformation

Observing metamorphic transformations in nature allows us to extrapolate that method to humans and the arts. That is to say, the foundational substance becomes a supporting substance retained in the new identity. These essential elements are absorbed, now invisible to the observer, while the transformed form creates a stunning awareness of the new.

Likewise, our compositions make use of a similar pattern of creative mutation, if you will. We begin with folk songs that poet Federico Garcia Lorca chose, rescued from oblivion, transcribed for the piano and performed in various venues. Following a trajectory of revealing hidden elements, we submit them to an unexpected metamorphic process. The melodic essences of the old songs are those that give musical meaning to different poems that Lorca wrote.

Additionally, in his short life, he created diverse artistic works, including poetry, music, and literature. He also created formidable works for the theater, while also embracing other mediums such as painting. His contemporaries and artistic collaborators included Joan Miro and Salvador Dali.

“Lorca in the Keys of Hands and Voice,” a concert conceived and presented by Adam Kent and Fernando Barros, is a musical innovation inspired by Lorca’s example. Lorca collected melodies from the Spanish folklore repertoire and transcribed them for the piano using two different concepts: 1) adapting the old melodies to various of his poem, as for example, ANDA JALEO to the poem “Preciosa y el Aire”; and 2) singing the old songs using the expressive, emotive characteristics inherent in flamenco music.

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Email: barroslirola@gmail.com