Decemember 21, 2020
Gurumbé. Canciones de tu Memoria Negra
Songs from your black memory
2016, documentary, 72 min.
Brief information about the film:
Flamenco is synonymous with Spanish culture. Yet, since its inception, theorists have sidelined the fundamental contribution of Afro-Andalusians to this art form. Commercial exploitation of the American colonies brought hundreds of Africans to Spain to be sold as slaves, forming a population which, over time, managed to gain space in a society wrought with racial prejudices. Music and dance were a fundamental part of their expression and the most important affirmation of their identity. As the black population began to disappear from Spain in the late 19th century, so too did their contribution to this extraordinary art form. In Gurumbe: Afro-Andalusian Memories, their story is finally told.
"Andalusia, a country with three cultures - Jewish, Christian and Muslim - has been hiding from a fourth that came in chains from Africa" says filmmaker and anthropologist Miguel Ángel Rosales, director of Gurumbé.
It can be estimated that about 40 million Africans were abducted and enslaved. But only one in four survived capture in Africa, the ordeals of abduction and the cruel hardships of the crossing. In the nearly 400 years of Atlantic slavery, some ten to twelve million abducted black Africans arrived in the Americas alive. Even before the actual discovery of the Americas, in the mid-15th century, the transatlantic slave trade began when Portuguese and Spanish ships carried off the first North African Berbers and black Africans to southern Portugal and southern Spain. It was the beginning of one of the greatest trafficking of peoples of all time.
About 90,000 African slaves came to Seville, about 10% went on to America. And the other 80,000? In Seville, almost 15% of the population was black or of multi-ethnic descent. In Cadiz, up to 20% of the population. Some authors claim that blacks made up almost 50% of the inhabitants of Sanlúcar de Barrameda and a total of 10% of the population of Andalusia. It was part of good manners, of social prestige, to have one or more slaves. The Archbishop of Seville had more than 100 slaves at the end of the 15th century.
Black African slavery is very present in Spanish literature of the Golden Age. This is the case in El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha, where Sancho Panza contemplates the possibility of importing slaves from sub-Saharan Africa to Spain, saying, "What is it to me that my vassals are black? I will have to get them and bring them to Spain, where I can sell them and where they will then pay me in cash, from which I will buy a title or trade to live on while I rest all the days of my life."
In 1811 Spain banned slavery and ten years later signed a treaty with England pledging to end the trade in African slaves. However, the trade continued illegally. Mainly by Spanish plantation owners and merchant families in Cuba and other Hispano-American colonies, who created an empire in the textile, sugar and tobacco industries in the modern capitalist society of Spain. It is known that the founders of the great Spanish banks, such as Banco de Bilbao, Banco Santander were involved in the slave trade.
However, it is believed that after the ban, another two to three million Africans were sent on the journey across the Atlantic. In a comparison of nations, Spain accounted for 75% of all slave ships entering Cuba after the ban. The Spanish government did not enforce its own prohibitions. There was even a department in the government responsible for the so-called "trata de negros", the "trade with the blacks". It did not care about human rights. On October 7, 1886, Spain was the last country in Europe to finally abolish slavery.
The Slavery Convention of the League of Nations of 1926 and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 established the abolition of slavery as an international norm under international law.
Even among the population, the slave trade was not considered immoral for a long time. It was said, for example, that "this is how Africans get the right religion" or "this is how they finally learn to work and stop beating each other's heads in. The few critics, mostly intellectuals, had not been heard. 
The few traces that remained are part of the naming of streets and public buildings, or their presence in Holy Week brotherhoods, like that of "Los Negritos" in Seville. In towns like Niebla and Gibraleón (Huelva) there are still direct descendants. The image of the "brunette" grandmother with her blond-haired and blue-eyed grandchildren illustrates the mixing over the centuries.
"Many people have passed through this land" opines the director of Gurumbé. But - "what is missing?" he asks. "The black part that has disappeared, that has been diluted in the population and that we have erased from our history."
[Commentary] The question of where these slaves, whether "negros," "mulatos," or "mestizos," are today is not answered by this documentary any more than it is by other accounts and anthropological writings.
[Comment] The question of where these slaves, whether "negros", "negritos", "mulatos", or "mestizos", are today is not answered by this documentary any more than it is by other reports and anthropological writings. As for the "uncomfortable rift" part of the Andalusian-Spanish story in the movie, I totally agree. But that, as the author says, Andalusian culture, the hallmark of Andalusia, flamenco, would be steeped in African culture is true, if you go back to roots. Basically, however, the influence of the Afro-Americans, originally undoubtedly sub-Saharan Africans, who experienced a different culturalization in the course of their slave existence (see my publication Flamenclaro, Negros - Pardos - Morenos - Mestizo Culture).
How large the respective share of the so-called "Cinco Fuentes" (Andalusian, Jewish, Castilian, Gypsy and Black African sources) is still requires a little more research. Faustino Nuñez claims in his latest book "The history of Europe, Spain and Andalusia must be seen from an Atlantic perspective". As far as the history of flamenco is concerned: "All flamenco has something American about it".
The film now explains several shades of that "black culture" with which Andalusian music, flamenco is said to be imbued: a zambomba in the Peña Tío José de Paula de Jerez next to a serer dance in Joal, Senegal, a fandango Jarocho next to a Mandé song or a flamenco petenera. "Pieces that were banished at some point in history and that today seem indispensable in this cultural puzzle that is Andalusia" said Miguel Ángel Rosales.
Raúl Rodríguez, a Seville-born guitarist, singer and bandleader of the group "Son de la frontera" is undoubtedly an excellent musician and, above all, a good tres player (Cuban guitar with three double strings), describes at several points in the film his anthropological research in which he explores the cross-cultural origins of early flamenco music in the Afro-Caribbean colonies and the Andalusian port cities of Seville and Cadiz between the 16th. and 19th centuries.
About his song "El Curro Negro", Raul Rodríguez says: "I started looking at the maps of migrations and the maps of the emergence of different rhythms and I realized that there was a pretty clear relationship, especially in terms of the emergence of the 12-beat rhythm, which is so important for us. "[...] I started to draw an imaginary folklore line, trying to move back in time, and I discovered some archaeological remains in our rhythmic sounds that could somehow shed light on this."
[Comment] The 12-beat rhythm he cites is about alternation in that beat sequence. In flamenco, many palos (genres) contain this change of measure, in which 2 x 3/4 and 3 x 2/4 measures are combined (see El Compas). In these compositions, one speaks of an alternating time signature, amalgama or aksak. In fact, the aksak rhythm has been documented in popular and cultivated Spanish music since at least the 15th century and has been attested to by various ethnomusicologists. The alternating time signature should not be confused with the sesquiáltero, or hemiola, which has existed since the conquest of North Africa and southern Spain by the Moros, whose slaves brought this rhythm with them from what is now Mali. The spread of Islam spread the hemiola over a wide geographical belt from Morocco to Indonesia. Tresillo, the basis of many Latin American dances, is also based on this rhythm.
There are also many "rhythmic remnants" from the 700 years of Moorish rule. Think of the Arabic rhythms, the wazn (patterns) and countless combinations and time signatures, from, for example, 2/4 to 17/8 time. Whether the gypsies still had residues of the picturesque rhythms from the north Indian music culture (Talas with 7, 8, 11, 14, 21, in older to 100 bar units) when they arrived in Spain, may be a moot point. It is indisputable that many palos in flamenco take place in the 12s compás, also Hispano-American genres, i.e. the so-called "Cantes de Ida y Vuelta" (e.g. Guajiras, Petenera). In order to find out where the 12er ultimately comes from and to "somehow shed light on this dark matter", it will probably take some more thorough research and not just conjecture and individual enlightenment.
Oriental rhythms on the darbuka.
In the film contribution of the two researchers José Miguel Hernández y Lénica Reyes (Etnomusicólogos - Universidad Autónoma de México), there is talk of a software that they have specially developed, which analyzes that rhythmic-harmonic relationships would exist between Petenera, Guajira, Solea, Bulerías, Zarabanda, Zorongo, Canarios, namely those of the 12 compás.
[Comment] This was already determined decades ago without "computer program".
Furthermore, it was analyzed which elements could be African, which elements could perhaps be Gypsy, and which elements could be Andalusian. The conclusion of the pair of researchers: it is quite complicated.
In another statement Rodríguez says: "These original 12-beats (he does Palmas)
dum-taka-taka dum-taka-taka dum-taka dum-taka dum-taka
were veiled (?), they changed names, and in some ways they are still in our music and in our dances. My feeling is that a lot of the whole story that hasn't been told yet, that isn't in the authorized documents, that isn't in the official versions, can be traced through the music."
Now follows a contribution from Senegal. Bailes Serer: Association of Women of Joal-Fadiouth, Senegal.
Rodríguez comments, "Since there are no drums here, it seems like these rhythms were never here. My feeling is that everything that was drummed - we have in our hands and feet. An important part of the richness of what we do rhythmically in flamenco with our hands and feet is due to the fact that there was already a very complex rhythmic language. Just as you beat the skin of a drum, you beat your own skin. And you do it with your own flesh. Against your own body. The way we create rhythm is not external, it's internal. It is as if we ourselves are "seeing" inside our flesh.
[Comment] In another post, a black African woman named Yinka Esi Graves, who comes from England, dances a Bulería. She dances beautifully authentic flamenco as she learned it in Andalusia, in Seville in classes. But what, please - is this supposed to show? Is it supposed to be the proof that flamenco dance comes from Africa? Already in the 70's, at times when I often stayed at the Amor de Dios in Madrid, in all the studios, in all the classes, you could see Japanese, American, Finnish, Swiss and German women, who were learning the flamenco dance in a graceful way every day. Why shouldn't a black African woman be able to do the same?
At the end, a strange wall is built between blacks and gitanos. It is criticized that the contribution of the blacks would be just as important as that of the Gitanos, only that just Gitanos with their romantic fascination would have completely displaced the Hispano-Africans from the music and dance performance. To counter this, it was the Gitanos who, immediately after the disappearance of the Bailes de Candil, entertained politicians, travelers from abroad, middle-class Spaniards, writers and journalists in private performances. Already at that time and in the following epochs, even in Franco's time, it was recognized that the free-spirited, lascivious-dancing "racy gypsy" could be sold well as a figurehead for tourism. Even more recently, we were told of a flamenco with vagabond gypsies enjoying freedom and cultivating their intimate art around a campfire.
The contribution of African music made by black and mulatto slaves and freedmen in Spain in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries cannot be overlooked, nor can the fact that during the last century, and especially in the 19th century, African-American rhythms arrived in the peninsula, especially in Andalusia, and revived African music that was in danger of disappearing in parallel with the decline of the slave population in the peninsula. In fact, the Gitanos played a very important role in the incorporation of a large part of the dances and songs of African origin into their musical repertoire, whether these came directly from Africa or later from Hispano-America.
Should it prove true that the Hispano-African influence on flamenco is so immense, the Gitanos would have the undoubted honor of having preserved for posterity a part of the cultural heritage of various groups that had been marginalized by Spanish society over the centuries (blacks, Moors, etc.). Perhaps this can explain the origin of flamenco, its depth and its enormous diversity. 
As Hugo Schuchardt already remarked, "It is not the origin that is gypsy, but the product created from it by the artists".
In any case, the film has had the effect, and this must be acknowledged with all due respect, of bringing back to memory the crime of the abduction of millions of slaves. Although the history of the origins of flamenco does not have to be rewritten, at least a few corrections are needed.
Addendum 03. January 2022
Fortunately, things are now moving in Andalusia. Both in the press and in public, the identity of Andalusian culture is being discussed, sometimes including African influences. The Asamblea de Andalucía held a conference in Seville on December 3, '21 to commemorate the Día nacional de Andalucía to "recognize the sources of our Andalusian identity. Various experts debated under the motto: Las Cinco Fuentes de la Identidad Andaluza las fuentes Andalusí, Judía, Castellana, Gitana y Negro-Africana."
Why did Europeans enslave Africans?
 Source: "Negreros y esclavos. Barcelona y la esclavitud atlántica (siglos XVI-XIX).
 Eloy Martín Corrales, Los sones negros del flamenco: sus orígenes africanos.
According to press reports, an international team of researchers found in 2008, based on DNA samples, that in the two heavily Catholic countries of Spain and Portugal, nearly 11% of men were descended from North African Moors and nearly 20% from Sephardic Jews.
Zigeuner versus Sinti and Roma?
Roma = Zigeuner with non-German citizenship; Sinti = Gypsies of German origin. However, Roma is the name of a single tribe in some countries. The compound term Sinti and Roma is incorrect. All designations throughout Europe, as well as in the Balkans, are similar to the name "Cigani" (Slavic): Zingari (Italian), Gitanes or Tziganes (French), Çingeneler (Turkish), Cingarus (Latin), Gipsy (English), Italy (Zingaro), Portugal (Cigano), Bulgaria (Циганин), Greece (τσιγγάνος), Poland (cygan), Romania (tcigan), Russia (Цыган), Sweden (zigenare), and Hungary (cigány). The terms always trace back directly, or indirectly, to the word "Ägytper", since the leaders of the Gypsies, upon arriving in Europe, pretended to be dukes or counts of Little Egypt. Egyptians (English), égyptiens (French), egipcianos -> gitanos (Spanish).
From my sheet music album Gipsy Guitar - Rumbas flamencas ... y mas.
With regard to the term Zigeuner, the members of the Sinti Alliance Germany, out of respect for all other Gypsy peoples, are of the opinion that in the absence of a neutral umbrella term accepted by all Gypsy peoples, the one and a half thousand year old historical term Zigeuner cannot be dispensed with - as long as it is used in a value-free manner. There should not and must not be any censorship or ostracism of the term Gypsy by anyone."
If, because of the misuse of the term "Zigeuner" by the Nazis, we stop using it today, we are helping the Nazis to a late victory. We had better avoid that. I would like to endorse this opinion.
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