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Homegrown Plus Premiere: Vigüela’s Traditional Song and Music from Central Spain

In this picture of Vigüela, three men and two women hold musical instruments. Photo is accompanied by the Homegrown 2022 logo, which includes the words "Library of Congress American Folklife Center Homegrown 2022 Concert Series, "Homegrown at Home." Vigüela

We’re continuing the Homegrown Plus Premiere series with Vigüela, a a traditional folk quintet with a commitment to the rural musical traditions of central Spain. As is usual for the series, this blog post includes an embedded concert video, an interview video, and a set of related links to explore!

Vigüela was established in the mid-1980s, after the Franco regime, by young people who looked to folk culture for a way to channel their creative desires while staying rooted in their local communities. Grounded in this history, the band members value their tradition and perform it with accuracy and energy, as a living music, full of joy. They play traditional Spanish music, including jotas, seguidillas, fandangos, and sones, using the centuries-old singing styles, dialects, and instruments of their region. That region is Castilla-La Mancha, the southern part of the Iberian plateau, sometimes called “the heart of Spain,” or “Don Quixote country.”

The band’s name comes from the traditional Spanish vihuela, a Renaissance model of the guitar. They also play lute, mandolin, guitarro manchego, and medieval fiddle or rebec, along with traditional percussion instruments such as friction drums, castanets, spoons, and tambourines. They have been performing internationally for 30 years, and have recorded eight albums, bringing the music of their homeland to the global world music scene.

By now, I’ll bet you’re ready to see the concert. Watch it in the player below!

 

In the interview, I spoke with Juan Antonio Torres and Araceli Tzigane Sánchez of Vigüela. We talked about a wide range of topic including how young Spanish people came to play and sing traditional music; the impact of the end of the Franco era on young musicians; the instruments and techniques of their region’s music; their work as a band and collaborations with other artists; and the surprising ways in which they have combined traditional music and cuisine in some of their presentations. We also spoke about Juan Antonio Torres’s work with the Spanish recordings in AFC’s Alan Lomax collection, and research he did with Judith Cohen on the people who sang and played for Lomax in the 1950s. The interview is mostly in Spanish, and we are waiting for a transcription…once it’s transcribed I will try to create a translation for another blog post.  In the meantime, if your Spanish is good, the interview is in the player below!

 

[Transcript of interview coming soon!]

After the premiere, you’ll be able to find both these videos with more bibliographic information at this link on the Library of Congress website. You’ll also find them on the Library of Congress YouTube Channel.

Also, make sure to visit Vigüela’s website, at this link.

Collection Connections

If you enjoyed the concert and interview, check out the Collection Connections below. You’ll find links to archival collections, guides, and other materials related to Spanish folklife.

Field Collections Online

Extensive Collection from Spain

Alan Lomax’s Spanish field recordings, made in 1952 during the Franco regime, bear witness to a time in Spanish cultural history which remains relatively obscure. Made in cooperation with the BBC, the collection was recorded with the assistance of Jeanette “Pip” Bell, and with the collaboration of Eduardo Turner, Juan Uria Riu, Julio Caro Baroja, Antonio Mari, Walter Starkie, and Radio Nacional. It samples the folk music of Andalusia, Aragon, Asturias, Castile, Catalonia, Extremadura, Galicia, Mallorca and Ibiza, Murcia, Navarro, the Pais Vasco, and Santander, and includes vaqueiradas, albaes, desafios, and pig castrators’ panpipe melodies.

In 1952 Alan Lomax acquired a used Leica and shot over 700 black and white photos to accompany his audio recordings in Spain. This Spanish collection represents Lomax’s first serious attempt to put photography at the center of the documentation process. The collection portrays styles of traditional Spanish folk music and dance with images of performers, instruments, dance styles, and traditional dress, and many in-depth portraits as well. Scenes of agriculture, domestic work, village marketplaces and streets, child-rearing and family life, town-scapes and architecture, and regional customs reveal much about the “lost decades” in Spanish history, obliterated in the fear and silence of the Franco regime during the 1940s and ’50s.

Find the recordings and photos online at the Association for Cultural Equity.

Jon B. Lovelace Fellow Ascensión Mazuela-Anguita prepared a Story Map visual guide to the collection, which you can find at this link!

Field Collections from the U.S.

AFC recorded interviews with Spanish descendants in New Mexico for the New Mexico Folklife Project.

Juan B. Rael recorded songs, music, and interviews with Spanish descendants in New Mexico and Colorado in 1940.

Sidney Robertson Cowell recorded Spanish speakers, including Spanish-Americans and Puerto Rican Americans, in California in 1939.

Event Videos

A special concert took place in the Library’s Coolidge Auditorium on August 19, 2014.  Carlos Núñez, one of the leading figures in the Spanish folk music of Galicia, played with his band, and focused on material collected by Alan Lomax in Galicia in 1952. The Carlos Núñez band featured Carlos Núñez, Pancho Álvarez, Stephanie Cadman, and Xurxo Núñez. The concert also featured guests Alberto Avendaño, Judith Cohen, Jennifer Cutting, and Stephen Winick. (Me!) Find the concert in the blog post at this link.

AFC has also featured Flamenco, another Spanish folk music style, in the Homegrown series. Find a concert by guitarist Torcuato Zamora with Dancers from Furia Flamenco at this link.

In 2019, singer and ethnomusicologist Judith Cohen performed in AFC’s Archive Challenge at the Folk Alliance International meeting in Montreal. At this link, find her performance of the song “No Canto Porque Bien Canto” from a field recording of Delores Fernandez Geijo, recorded by Alan Lomax in Val de San Lorenzo in Castilla y Leon, Spain in 1952.

Thanks for watching, listening, and reading! The American Folklife Center’s Homegrown Concert Series brings music, dance, and spoken arts from across the country, and some from further afield, to the Library of Congress. For several years, we’ve been presenting the concerts here on the blog with related interviews and links, in the series Homegrown Plus. (Find the whole series here!) For information on current concerts, visit the Folklife Concerts page at Concerts from the Library of Congress. For past concerts, including links to webcasts and other information, visit the Homegrown Concerts Online Archive.

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