Published : 2001

Group : Culture


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By Sreekanth R

Call it inspiration or an archaic derivation; the present day Spanish music shows a heavy influence of the traditional Sindhi music. Exploring the strings of attachment further. . . . .

Tracing the origin of any form of art, especially music is a difficult task, given the paucity of records during the pre-historic times. The research findings are culled out from what can be deciphered of the recovered historical artifacts and literature from the bygone era. But from whatever has been collected and researched there have been evidences that confirm the linkages of Spanish music to the Sindhi counterpart.

Aziz Baloch, the Sindhi scholar, musicologist and a renowned vocalist, who spent forty years in Spain and established himself as the first foreign singer of Spanish music has an interesting point to make. He opines that the origin of ‘Conte Jondo’ a popular fork music of Spain, has its roots in the East and most likely in Sindh. His observations are that the famous Arab musician, Zaryab was the one who took Conte Jondo to Spain, and ever since, this form of music has gained popularity in the European country. Zaryab laid the foundation of the traditional Andalusian music way back in the 800 A.D., which not only flourished in Spain but also gained popularity in the neighbouring European lands. The tradition took firm roots and even after the Arab rule came to an end, the provincial rulers continued to patronize the study and performance of music. Despite the various innovations and variations, Zaryab’s tradition has continued over centuries even after his death, and the legacy of music tradition bequeathed by him constituted a common denominator of the music of different provinces. This is substantiated by the 14th century writings of Ibn Khaldum who observes : “The music heritage of Zaryab left in Spain was transmitted down to the time of reye de taifas (The Provincial Rulers).

The similarities in music are too obvious for the music aficionado to miss. Musical notes from both forms of music further validate their kinship. Chords of similarity are clearly audible in the time-honoured Sindhian melodies and the Cante Jondo melodies. Marui alias-Sindhi Bhairavin and Larraoo are by common consent, among the most ancient melodies of the Lower Indus Valley of Sindh. These musical forms, believed to be introduced by Sindhian musicians into the Middle East as also in Spain, have left a permanent mark on certain aspect of the music of these places. Among the more typical, Cante Jondo melodies, the four, viz. Seguidilla, Soleares, Companilleros and Fundago of Spain closely resembles the Sindhi Bhairavin the Companilleros has shades of the Sindhi Laraoo, a commonly practiced mode in the Sindhi music system. Musical identity is also unearthed by the Osara of Sindh and the Sateas – the religious songs of Cante Jondo.

Aziz Baloch also finds a striking semblance between the emotional intensity to the situational behavior that is pertinent both to the Spanish as well as the Sindhian music. Just as the Spanish Seguidillah and Soleares are expressive of sad concerns, eg : separation, longing or even deep sense of fatalism, so the Sindhian Desi, Kohiyari, Rano, Larraoo etc. Seguidilla is a sad song, often expressive of violent despair and strong passions, such as jealousy, hopeless longing. So is the Sindhi Bhairavin, which in its representation of thematic music of the famous legend of ‘Umar Marui’ arouses deep pathos and sentiments of sorrow and sympathy.

It is believed that the intensity of feelings that is the distinguishing characteristic of singing of Spanish Flamenco and the indigenous Sindhian melodies, is not coincidental; it is a psychological element that arises from feeling common to the two indigenous populations which are geographically miles apart. The Gypsies of Spain who have music resembling most strikingly to Sindhi music still maintain that their melodies, including Seguidillas, Soleares and Fandangos have lilts of Sindhi melodies because they have been borrowed from the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent. But historical records have some interesting references that counter this theory and actually establish an ancestral link between the Gypsies and the people of Sindh. Going back into the history records it is found that in the 7th century, people in Sindh, tormented by the tyranny of the crafty Brahmin missionary, Chachha, started moving out in search in search of new pastures. The early migrants of the Sindhian stock had among them, a large section of the more adventurous Lora or Lorees, who were traditionally the ironsmiths and musicians, who migrated to the European continent. They came to be known as Tsiganese (in France) and Zigeuner (in Germany), which was a name given to their tribe because of their trade. (The above two names have supposedly been derived from the Turkish word Zincire viz. Iron). But in Spain, where they had arrived earlier during the Arab period, they were identified, more accurately after their home country (Sindh) as Sintanos, which later came to be pronounced as Hintanos as it is done today. They were also amongst the people instrumental in taking Sindhian music to Spain, which became popular among the village folk among whom they sang and danced for a livelihood. Even today, these gypsies are humming the tunes set by their ancestors, with slight variations incorporated in the music.

Remarks made by one Spanish scholar Ribera stand testimony to the predominant connection between Spanish and Sindhian music. According to him, “The popular music of Spain (musica fieta), in and after the thirteenth century, can be traced to the Andalusian and thence through Arabic to Persian and other sources. It may be further added that it can also be traced further eastwards to the Sindhian sources.” Semblance between the music of the two regions are also identifiable by the instruments used. One instance in particular is the Al-Quittara of the Arabs in Southern Spain, which was adapted by the Spaniards and eventually became the national instrument of Spain.

Evidences available till date have thus clearly exposed the strings that bind the Spanish music to the Sindhian, but scholars and musicians are scouting for further proofs that will substantiate the claims of the Sindhi music’s Spanish connections better.