Travel in music: Chapter 4 - 1978-82, Spain

2020, the world is in confinement because of a corona virus. I have used this time to reminisce on my past through a musical blog series. They will take you through my peregrinations on this tiny, unique earth, in chronological order. Click on the song, use it as soundtrack, and enjoy!

1978-1982 - Chapter 4 | At the age of 5, I moved to Madrid with my family. Spain had just readopted democracy, after decades of isolation under Franco’s dictatorship. It was busy trying to join the European Community and bursting with quiet, fragile optimism. Of course, all this flew miles over my primary-school-kid head, though I do vividly remember the failed coup Antonio Tejero attempted in Parliament in 1981. In our school’s playground, I recall reenacting it, screaming “Todo el mundo al suelo!” and pretend-shooting machine guns in the air with childish delight.


My other memories of the time were decidedly more infantile. Speaking Spanish with my brothers. Walking to school and spitting the “pipas” shells on the pavement. Rare allowances to watch “El Libro Gordo de Petete” on TV. Choking on grapes at New Year’s Eve, in a vain attempt to follow the pace of the midnight countdown. Playing “chapas” in the sand. Forcing my younger brother to be the goalkeeper for our elaborate soccer role-plays in the garden - to be fair, he never really minded ‘being’ Jean-Marie Pfaff. Feverishly trading and collecting Panini stickers ahead of the Naranjito 1982 World Cup. The beaming smile I harbored at school the day after the opener, in which, against all odds, Belgium beat the titleholder Argentina…


I also remember traveling through Spain a lot. I loved the frequent expeditions to El Escorial, every time we had visitors as much as the picnics in the high lakes surrounding Madrid or the streets of Toledo. I also loved how exotic Spain seemed, particularly the South, where the Moorish heritage is still ever-present: in the accent, the monuments (oh, how the Alhambra stimulated my imagination), the names of places and, of course, the music. This is why I have chosen Radio Tarifa to illustrate today’s chapter. This eclectic band has put out a few albums whose music I really love. What I appreciate most about them is the conscious effort to recreate the fusional origins of Spanish music. By using medieval instruments and researching the styles that played pre-1492, when the Catholic kings expelled the Moors and Jews from the Iberian Peninsula, they bring to life gorgeous melodies and highlight the decidedly ‘mestizo’ nature of Spanish music.

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