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The Judeo-Spanish repertoire

 Romancero, Coplas and Cancionero: Typology of the Judeo-Spanish repertoire

By Dr. Susana Weich-Shahak

 

Part Three

The Cancionero
The songs of the Cancionero are called canticas or cantigas by the Eastern (Ottoman-Balkan) Sephardim, and cantares or cantes by the Moroccan Sephardim. They have in common with the Coplas repertoire the great versatility of texts and music, their deep influenc by the local styles of the cultures among whom they dwelt, and the great changing rate of their styles. They even share linguistic characteristics in lexicon, phonology, morphology and syntaxes, at least in the cases of the later coplas and their coetaneous lyric songs. Obviously further interdisciplinary work on the linguistic aspect is necessary.
 
Some Sephardic songs are known (and documented in my field work by Sephardic informants) to be translations or adaptations, or even parodies of Turkish songs. In contrast with the Romancero, from the diachronical aspect the cancionero is mostly a new repertoire; but nevertheless, some songs have been proven to have similarities of formulation with Medieval Hispanic lyric poems, as well as with much later Spanish poetical creations.
 
The differences between the songs of the Cancionero, and the two other genres - Romances and Coplas – are reflected in all the parameters stated earlier: in the textual and musical structures they have less strictly defined forms, they are structured mostly as quartets of a-b-a-b rhyme or with only the 2nd and 4th verses rhyming, very often with a refrain repeated after each strophe. The music is also in a strophic formal structure, often with a different tune for the refrain. Performance is mostly in group singing, often accompanied by instruments, especially the "pandero" tambourin.
 
In contrast with the Romances and Coplas, the songs of the Cancionero (except the very specific repertoire of serial songs) have no fixed continuity of text, neither by narrative nor by any other means, and their subject is mostly lyric. Some Sephardic songs are known (and documented in my field work by Sephardic informants) to be translations, adaptations or even parodies of Turkish songs. In contrast with the Romancero, from the diachronical aspect, the cancionero is mostly a new repertoire. Nevertheless, some songs have been proven to have similarities of formulation with Medieval Hispanic lyric poems, as well as with much later Spanish poetical creations. ֺֺ
 
Most of the wide repertoire of wedding songs belongs to the Cancionero. For instance, our next example is a lyric song about the brunette, Morena, morenica, following perhaps the figure from the Song of Songs, the brunette whose skin has been darkened by the sun - in fact a poetic figure that is common to old Spanish poetry.
 
Ex.9.
Morenica (The call of the brunette)
Malka Dayán-Mayish (Izmir, Turkey)
recorded in Yahud, 3.1.2010 - NSA Y7940/13
 
Morenica a mi me llaman
blanca yo nací:
el sol del enverano
m'hizo a mi ansí.
Morenica, graciosica sos.
Morenica y graciosica y mavra matiamu.
 
Ya se viste la morena
y de yul yagi
la nave ya sta 'n vela,
que ya va a partir.
Morenica...
 
Morenica me llaman
los marineros,
si otra vez me llaman
me vo con ellos.
Morenica...
 
Morenica a mí me llama
el hijo del rey,
si otra vez me llama
yo me vo con él.
Morenica...
 

 

 

The Cancionero's social function is not only as love songs expressing the feelings of the individual, but some of its components are included in the functional repertoire related to the life cycle, especially to the wedding repertoire.

 
A Sephardic wedding song from Morocco mentions in its text the specific day, Monday, which also appears in other songs and even in several romances as a special day for important events: “I would wake up on Monday, on Monday morning, I would take my jug and go to bring water from the well”. On her way she meets her beloved who attempts to sieze her (tiróme la manita al cuello) but is rejected, as she says tells him to wait, explaining that she will go home to wash her body, to put on a white chemise (camisita blanca), with a dark red girdle (una kusaka morada). These clothes are actually part of the traditional bride’s wedding attire. In other versions of this song the text has one more strophe which mentions that the protagonist will comb her hair and tie it with a pink ribbon. This reflects the wedding custom of changing the bride’s hair style into that of a married woman by loosening the pink ribbon she had used as a maiden; traditionally, the bride gave this ribbon to her best friend as an omen that she will also get married soon.
 
 
 
This song shows another feature common to old poetical sources: the scene near the water for the lovers encounter, also seen in the romances such as example 3. The well and the water are symbolically suggestive of renewal and fertility.
 
 
 
In considering the musical aspect of this example we can appreciate the influence of the surrounding musical culture, with the rhythms of Berber and Moroccan music. Furthermore, from the long years of the Spanish Protectorate, the Moroccan Sephardim adopted the use of castantes, which they hold hanging on the middle finger of one hand and struck by the fingers of the other hand.
 
Example 10:
Yo me levantaría un lunes (The Meeting at the Well)
Ginette Benabu (Tetuán, Morocco)
Kiryat Gat, 24.6.2003 - NSA Y7889/4.
 

Yo me levantaria un lunes

y un lunes por la mañanita
cogiera mi cántaro en mano
y a la fuente fuera por agua.
 
Y a la mitad de aquel camino
con mis amores me encontrara
tiróme la manita al cuello,
la gargantilla me tocara.
 
Táte, táte, tú, el caballero,
déjame me iré a mi casa,
me lavaré mi lindo cuerpo,
me pondré camisita blanca.
 
Me ciñeré mi cinturita
con una kushaka morada,.
Ay, Alaidin que no hay dote,
deja el amor para la noche,
Ay, Alaidin que no hay nada,
deja el amor para mañana..
 
In conclusion:
The three genres of the Sephardic musical tradition are: Romancero, Coplas and Cancionero. Due to the wide dispersion of the Sephardim and consequently, to the influence of the regional music on each community this repertoire is rich in its different styles and varied in its musical elements. It is important to recognize how rich and varied this repertoire is, and at the same time to acknowledge how little is known about the jewels of this treasure of musical tradition.