Gurmubé: Canciones de tu memoria negra
This event will have 2 parts; the first one will be a flamenco recital of Federico Garcia Lorca’s poems both singing and declaimed. We will have Guitarist Philip Adie coming from Seville and Daniello Olivera from Cadiz singing and declaiming.
The second part will be the screening of the documentary Gurumbé: canciones de tu memoria negra By Miguel Angel Rosales.
With the commercial exploitation of the American colonies, thousands of Africans are brought to Seville to be sold as slaves. Some are exported to the colonies and others stay in the city. The latter form part of a population of Afro-Andalusians, who over time manage to gain space in a society wrought with racial prejudices, whilst dealing with their situation as slaves. Music and dance will be part of their expression and the most important affirmation of their identity. From the outskirts of cities like Seville and Cadiz they give shape to the popular music of the time, together with other marginalised communities such as the gypsies, moors and Andalusians on the cities’ peripheries. From the XIX century, the black population begins to disappear, partly being assimilated into parts of the community like that of the gypsies. In this same century we start to hear about a new type of music: Flamenco. Since its beginning theorists who have spoken about this art form have completely forgotten the fundamental contribution the Afro-Andalusians made to it.
Spain had slaves. This is not exactly front-page news to anyone who knows a thimble full of Cuba’s colonial history. However, it has been conveniently forgotten on the Iberian Peninsula, where there were also plenty of slaves holding on European soil. In that context, amateur musicologists will not be surprised to learn African music forms helped shape the development of flamenco. Academics and musicians examine the legacy of Spain’s deliberately forgotten slave trade and its resulting cultural impact in M. Angel Rosales’ Gurumbé. Afro-Andalusian Memories.
When historian Aurelia Martín Casares started researching slavery in Spain, she was told it never existed, but she unearthed over 2,500 slave deeds of sale just during the time she was working on her thesis. It turns out there was an extensive slave trade conducted within Spain proper, largely localized within the port cities of Seville and Cadiz, which of course, were major centers of Andalusian society. According to one on-screen expert, Spanish slavery even pre-dates the African trade, trafficking slaves from Caucasia (as in Southeast Europe into Eurasia)—a provocative historical episode that remains under-examined in culture and academia.
Of course, it is easy to hear the influence of African polyrhythms in flamenco, if you listen for it. Viol da gamba virtuoso Fahmi Alqhai takes the discussion a step further, illustrating how traditional African musical forms also inspired the syncopation of baroque music through his catchy arrangement of Gaspar Sanz’s “Canarios.”
There are a number of musical performances in Gurumbé, but the tone of the film is surprisingly measured, authoritative, and at times something close to academic. As a result, it is highly credible and convincing. Rosales and his experts certainly make the case Spain remains in denial with respect to its national history as a slave owning and trading country. Indeed, some commentators parenthetically note with irony how Spain is only too willing to revisit the crimes of the Franco era, yet it refuses to face up to earlier national controversies.
There is some lovely singing and dancing in Gurumbé and a whole lot of awkward truth. Frankly, Rosales is pitching the material at a higher level than causal viewers might expect, but it is a good thing that he refuses to under-estimate his audience. Recommended for those with a serious interest in Andalusian culture and music.