“Islamic Spain: An Encounter of Musical Cultures” Review

More stories from Michaela Reynolds

A couple weeks ago the “Islamic Spain: An Encounter of Musical Cultures” happened on campus. The speakers/performers were Cuban musician and singer Liamna Pestana and the Argentinian musician and string-instrument maker Daniel Yost. This event was held on Tuesday, March 20th 2018 at 7:00pm – 8:30pm in Panasci Family Chapel at Le Moyne College. This event was both open to students and the community to attend. The purpose of this event was to discuss the significant cultural contribution that Arabs have made to Spanish music. This contribution not only influenced their songs, but their instruments as well since the 8th century. The speakers and performers gave a small talk to introduce these contributions then displayed them by singing and playing instruments.

My initial thoughts on the art of the music itself and their performance was that they did a great job. The music that was played was enjoyable. Some of the songs were just instrumentals, while others were songs with lyrics. I thought Liamna Pestana was a very talented singer and was able to hit every note in the music without problem, especially when she sung “Don’t Bite Me My Love”. The same can be said for Daniel Yost, who caught me off guard with his ability to also sing and play multiple instruments during one song.

Their ability to perform the music that they were discussing in their earlier presentation was very helpful because some people have never heard nor thought about how Arabs may have influenced Spanish music. When I think of the Arabic language, it is audibly a little harsher sounding than Spanish, which is known as one of the languages of love. I didn’t quite think the two could mesh as well as they did. When the performers began, instrumentals were first and you still weren’t able to quite hear how the two meshed, but once the songs that included lyrics began, it was very clear that Arabs have influenced Spanish music. The instrumental sounded like Spanish music, while the songs themselves though sang in Spanish, sounded very much like Arabic music.

Some of the things that were discussed in the presentation were different musical instrument influences. These influences were displayed in instruments such as the lute, rebec, guitar, alboka, castanets, dulzaina, and the galician bagpipe. The Rebec was one of the instruments in which they mainly focused on and played. Some of the influences that changed through Arab influence and simply as time progressed on is that the instrument used to be made from animal skin, which later changed to wood; this change made the instrument lighter in weight, more beautiful ,and easier to use. Another thing that was discussed regarding the Rebec is the meaning of the colors on the instrument…light red meant blood and wind, dark red meant soul, black meant earth, yellow meant fire, and white meant water.

Though the presentation portion of the event was a little difficult to follow along with at times because unexplained information on the slides and some pieces of information being lost during translation from Liamna Pestana translating Daniel Yost’s talking portion from Spanish to English, it was still a great event. Overall, I would recommend for people to attend this presentation and performance if the opportunity presents itself again because not only was it very educational, but the music was great and the performers were amazing at both singing and playing multiple instruments; they were truly talented.