Tag Archives: Spanish

Flamenco: I still can’t get enough of Estrella Morente

13 Sep

Here she is singing soleares and siguiriyas, generally considered the two oldest and “heaviest” of flamenco genres: the most “jondos” of “cante jondo”.* Usually no dancing, none of the guitar or caja percussion of other flamenco, minimal if any clapping or ole-s, heavy melisma and chromaticism — what probably makes them the most definitively eastern-Med-sounding of flamenco genres.

Wiki says of siguiriyas vs. soleares:

Its deep, expressive style is among the most important in flamenco. The siguiriyas are normally played in the key of A Phrygian with each measure (or compás) consisting of 12 counts with emphasis on the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 8th and 11th beats as shown here: [1] 2 [3] 4 [5] 6 7 [8] 9 10 [11] 12

This rhythm can be contrasted to the rhythmic pattern of the soleares, which also has 12 beats, but the accents fall differently. Taking the unusual accenting into account, it can technically be seen as a measure of 3/4 (counted in eighth notes) starting on “2”, then a measure of 6/8 followed by the “1 and” of the 3/4. Every note is evenly spaced apart. For example: [2] and [3] and [1] 2 3 [4] 5 6 [1] and

However, this presents difficulties in counting and is counted more simply in 5 beats, with three “short” and two “long” beats: [1] and [2] and [3] and uh [4] and uh [5] and

In this case, the 1, 2, and 5 are the short beats and the 3 and 4 are long beats.

It sucks to really be into a certain kind of music and have absolutely NO clue what someone — like above — is talking about. I’ll give my first-born to anyone who can adequately explain it to me.

Anyway, Estrella; she’s friggin’ magnificent:

Like in ghazal, the verses of flamenco have only the freest of free associations between them. I love this particular soleá because at 2:30 she sings:

“No te compro más camisas, Y porque no he visto altares, pa que otros digan misa”

“I’m not buying you any more shirts, because I haven’t seen any altars, for others to cry ‘mass’.

Like, what does that mean? Like with any truly captivating poetry, you don’t really know what it means, but you kinda do.**

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* “Cante” in Spanish doesn’t mean song, but chant. And “jondo” is deep, with the archaic Andalusian/Gypsy pronunciation of the “h” in “hondo”

** “Missa est” — it is mass, literally — is how the Catholic Tridentine Latin mass ends. It’s the participle of the Latin verb “mettere”, to put, to place — like “mise-en-place” in French culinary language, put in place — or “no te metas” in Spanish, don’t get involved. So in the Latin mass it means, “It’s done – it’s in place” – “you’re dis-missa-ed”.

So what is the soleá verse saying? We’re done, you and me? You ain’t all that? I don’t see any altars from where “Missa Est” is cried when I look at you? Y’ain’t so holy that I should keep you in shirts?

Again, you don’t know, but you do.

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“Ottoman”: It’s pretty good: understanding an opponent’s mythology

28 Jan

“Understand an opponent’s mythology…”

Last night I figured I’d just buck up, get over with it, and start watching the Netflix docudrama — got through first two episodes — and it’s actually pretty good. Some key notes: The Turkish perspective is not insufferably jingoistic or Islamically triumphalist, like it was in that trashy 1453 film that came out a few years ago, which I also put off watching for a while because I thought it would be disturbing, but I ended up turning off after 20 minutes, not because I was disturbed or offended but because the script and acting were so horrendous and the production values so cheap — it looked like the set was composed of stuff bought wholesale from a Moroccan antique shop in the East Village or Çukurcuma– that it was simply unwatchable.

* We’re not portrayed as craven cowards or decadent dinosaurs à la Gibbon, whose destiny it was to float off into extinction. Both Constantine and Mehmet are portrayed as equal opponents, Hector-Achilles style: it’s probably no accident; both were, I’m sure, as acquainted with the Iliad as the other. Constantine’s heroic and complex combination of resistance and resignation are portrayed as thoroughly as possible: he did everything he could until there was nothing to be done anymore; Mehmet’s impressive intellect, cosmopolitanism and warrior skills are highlighted without going overboard. And both are pretty sexy, as is Giustiniani, as is even Notaras père (costumes and sets are beautiful too). I do dread the thought of how they’re going to treat the fate of the Notarades, though. It’s much too scintillating to just leave out of the whole narrative, yet to show it to us they’d have to admit that their revered Fatih Mehmet was what we would today call bisexual, and that he was also a cruel sadist, and I don’t know how that would have sat with the Turkish side of the production.

* Unexpectedly, I thought, we’re called “Romans” from the beginning of the series, in the fictional segments (and I think some of the Italians, Giustiniani even, calls us “Greeks” at one point); there’s more “Byzantine” used in the doc segments obviously. Either way, it’s hard to say whether they wanted to take a calculated risk in doing that, because using “Romans” probably leaves all non-Greek viewers baffled, or because “baffling” and confusing were the desired result for what’s always been the Turkish state’s policy: that is, separating us from the Byzantines/Romans and not giving us our due rights to claim descent for ourselves there, by calling us something different, the same reason Turkey calls Istanbul’s 3,000* remaining Greeks “Rum” to this day, while the rest of us are “Yunan”. It’s satisfying to hear, in any event.

* Whether advertently or not, it punctures some pretty giant holes in the Turkish mythology of heroic feat. One, by admitting the fact that we were outnumbered by the tens of thousands, so that the speed with which, for example, Rumelihisarı was built doesn’t seem quite so miraculous, plus there were already foundations on the site from an older Roman fortress. Two, by showing the glaring technological disparities between the two sides, meaning, that the Siege and Fall of Constantinople was the last great military event between mediaeval fortifications and early modern cannons and artillery, so that instead of being an incredible military achievement, it was more like the Spanish conquest of Tenochtitlán, with as dogged and determined a defense. And enough already with the “genius” of dragging the ships over from what, I would guess, would be somewhere near Kabataş, over the ridge, down Dolapdere into the Horn. It must have taken an enormous amount of manpower — too bad Erdoğan’s tunnel wasn’t there yet — yet not everything that’s just super-hard is necessarily “genius”.

* And stop comparing it to fucking Game of Thrones. GOT was Tolkien with sex and was the most maddening piece of trash to enthrall the masses in a long time. Ottoman is about a series of deeply traumatic events in the history of a real people that still exists, and who have been persecuted and are still threatened and harassed by Mehmet’s descendants to this day: US.

All in all it’s good; watch it. I mean, wtf, whatever. Maybe the inevitable escalation of violence, especially against civilians after the entry of the Turks into the City (The Religion of Peace gave an army three days’ right to loot, murder, rape and enslave if a city resisted and didn’t capitulate on it own) will make later episodes more disturbing. And the long arm of Erdoğanism is always felt throughout the whole thing. If Netflix were to produce a series portraying the destruction of the Second Temple and the horrendous brutality with which the Romans massacred and expelled most Jews from Judaea that made the Romans look even slightly heroic for even a second — “due to be released next Tisha B’av” — there’s not even a question of whether it would face a howling riot of protest or not; it would simply never have been produced. That’s not a “Jews control Hollywood” argument. It’s the truth. Just too many people would be offended. But even as Turkey sinks deeper into self-isolating dictatorship, it does wonders projecting a certain image to the rest of us and the rest of the Ummah.

But, at best it’s an exercise in what Helequin above calls “understand-[ing] an oppenents [sic] mythology”. You don’t have to be a trained Jungian to understand (or at least try) that “myth” is the only “reality”. That means understanding the other’s myth/s is crucial to the development of empathy, the one form of intelligence that homo sapiens [?] are still tragically deficient in.

It’s certainly the only thing in Palestine, or between Hindu and Muslim in India, and in the continuing bad divorce that is Greek-Turkish relations that will inevitably make a difference. Put yourself in a Turk’s position. Think about the massive baggage of tradition around the idea of taking Constantinople that animated them. And then [smerk]… put yourself in our position: if everybody wanted it so badly for 1,200 years, it must have been one puta madre of a city we had built there.

And in the 19th and 20th centuries, we built them another real city — “over there” — the likes of which they also had never known, and they threw us out of there too.

What are you gonna do? After a certain point, anger is too tiring. And they pay and are paying the price for their political culture anyway.

************************************************************************* The number of Greeks today in Istanbul is somewhere in the 2,000 to 3,000 range, there’s an issue of whether deaths and marriages and births will keep things in the range of critical mass… Near 300,000 in a city of around a million in the 1920s, three-thousand — in a city of 15 million today.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Watching Netflix Spanish series: “Elite” — Spain and sin

26 Oct

elite-season-2Elite is an insanely watchable series about gorgeous under-age Spanish kids in an elite private colegio doing all-conceivable-manner of illegal, delightfully twisted and boundary-pushing shit.  It’s a work of what one might call the ‘Movida pija’, super-saturated with what remains a central ethical, psychological and aesthetic pillar of Spanish Catholic civilization even in a post-Catholic Spain: transgression.  It’s a telenovela “on crack”, as we used to say back in the day, till folks started saying “on steroids”.

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One is tempted to think that the Spanish psyche’s shadow projection creates Inquisitions, puritanism, strongmen, and dictators just so that it can break the rules imposed on it and flip a finger at the world.

Check it out:

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Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Castille and Catalonia: a kulturkampf much older and psychologically complex than we think

14 Oct

Miguel_de_Unamuno_Meurisse_c_1925

The Spanish — and/or/together, autonomously together, autonomously independent but dialectically related — Basque philosopher Miguel de Unamuno, one of my highest-ranking intellectual heroes, wrote in 1905:

“Los ensayos que constituyen mi libro En torno al casticismo […] son un ensayo de estudio del alma castellana, me fueron dictados por la honda disparidad que sentía entre mi espíritu y el espirítu castellano.  Y esta disapridad es la que media entre el espíritu del pueblo vasco, del que nací y en el que me crié, y el espíritu castellano, en el que, a partir de mis veintiséis años, ha madurado mi espíritu.  Entonces creía, como creen hoy no poco paisanos míos y muchos catalanes, que tales disparidades son inconciliables e irreductibles; hoy no creo lo mismo.”

“The essays that make up my book Regarding Casticismo […] are an attempt at a study of the Castillian soul, essays I felt obligated to write due to the profound disparity between my own soul and that of Castille.  Yet this disparity is what mediates between the spirit of the Basque people, into which I was born and raised, and that of Castille, in which, since my twenty-six years of age, my own spirit began to mature.  At the time I believed, as do not a few of my compatriots and many Catalans, that these disparities were irreducible and irreconcilable: today I no longer believe so.” [my translation]

I’ve chosen to leave “casticismo” untranslated, and not take Amazon’s suggestion that it means “purity”, precisely because it means so much more than that and has a much more complex, nearly untranslatable meaning.  I mean, it’s explainable, just not with one word.  But a good explanation, to the best of my instinct, since I’m not Basque or Castillian or Spanish at all, is what I need to give readers.

I have to go back to Unamuno’s essays, which are unfortunately not available in English, to do so, however.  Just posting this as a coming attraction and to get my own head working on the issue.

Later…

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

 

 

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