I'm not quite in time for the feast of the epiphany, but I figure the wise men are loafing around awestruck for a few days anyway, so this will give them (and you) something nice to listen to.
Though consistently captivating I regret to say that the music of southern Spain is one of those things that I haven't yet put forth the effort to learn much about. For me it's still in the realm of things that sound strange and enthralling, and this record was one of those finds that was too good to pass up. Somber, reverent, and passionately intense throughout, with no other clues at all you can recognize this as religious music. In the liner notes I even detect an uneasiness with the fact that this particular music was likely religious before the conversion of Spanish gypsies to Islam, let alone Catholicism.
A quick wikipedia search reveals that the guitarist (Pepe Martinez) was considered one of the finest of his generation, and his performance here does not disappoint. "Rerre de los Palacios," the cantaor here, recorded more than 40 albums, and wrote the lyrics to many of them himself. If you read Spanish you can check out his obituary here. The choir is great, and they're no slouches with the percussion either.
[Original Liner Notes]
Hymns in praise of God, Our Lord and Creator, have been composed in every language of the earth, yet the Divine Sacrifice of the Passion of Jesus Christ, revived for us every day upon the altar, has been interpreted according to a host of different styles, even within the same language. The map of Spain offers such a variety of traditional customs and contrasting features of pronunciation, that one could easily classify them into Masses reflecting the characteristics of each region, considering that the liturgical chants used in the different areas have their own particular intonation and cadence, although remaining perfectly orthodox in their basic form. In Andalusia, for example, we have the endless chain of Masses, celebrated from early on Whit Sunday morning in the Shrine of the Virgin del Rocio, in which each of the gypsy pilgrim brotherhoods plays a part, represented by its most genuine songs and "coplas", adorned with fervent twists of their own, which however extra-liturgical they may be, nevertheless express deep and sincere religious devotion. It was in fact this circumstance which led us to make a recording of the Andalusian Mass, here described as "Gypsy", precisely because authentic gypsy musicians and artists have been responsible for the integral execution of all its different parts. So long as we may be certain of having aroused the spiritual devotion of those for whom this makes it easier to come into contact with God and raised their minds to praise Our Creator, then it is more than sufficient reward for the efforts that went into the completion of this recording.
Words: ANTONIO RODRIGUEZ-BUZON
Singer: "EL RERRE DE LOS PALACIOS"
Guitar: PEPE MARTINEZ
Choir: "VIRGEN DE LOS REYES DE SAN JUAN DE AZNALFARACHE"
Artistic Director: MAESTRO CISNEROS