In 2015, FolkWorld provided latest news about the Spanish folk musician José CLIMENT, and a flashback on his starting career (back in the 1980s) with the Castilian folk band La Musgaña. We also spoke about his first solo álbum ‘Mirando Nubes’, and his leading role on trad sessions in Madrid. We finally left behind the hot and long summer of 2018, but it is now that José brings back for us some fireflies and other luminescent insects in his new album ‘Luciérnagas (Pirilampos)’. A title which in Spanish (& Portuguese) means precisely that: glow-worms.
The music in ‘Luciernagas (Pirilampos)’ is absolutely mesmerizing, but the lyrics in the songs are all in Spanish language. To be more precise, in Castilian from central—northwest Spain. Thanks to the magnificent CD booklet translation that follows — performed by Chris Dove (José’s old friend from Madrid’s ‘Celtic’ band Puca Óg)—, it will be much easier to understand the whole meaning behind José Climent’s latest masterpiece :
The first two tracks are : ‘Glow-worms’, written by J. Climent, with Héctor López in the cajón, and ‘On the Banks of the Douro’ / Riomanzanas Passacaglia (composed by J. Climent / Traditional), with Pilar López Ballarín (tambourine), Héctor López (cajón) and Juanma Sánchez (bassoon). The first tune is a mixture of waltz and bourrée inspired by Iberian (Spanish & Portuguese) and French melodies. Very special thanks to Luis Vaquero Sanabria, piper of Urzes, folk band of the Home of Zamora in Madrid, for remembering it. The second piece was collected in Riomanzanas (Aliste, Zamora) by Alberto Jambrina and José Manuel González Matellán on 24 September 1983. It was originally performed by Gabriel de la Fuente.
Tracks three and four are : March of the Crickets (J. Climent), with Jaime Muñoz (baroque flute), and Alingolondró (How Would You Know Your Husband?) (Traditional) with Pilar López Ballarín (voice). It was collected from Doña María Barrio in Pedralba de la Pradera (Sanabria, Zamora) in 1984 by Rafa Martín, Quique Almendros and José Climet (former members of La Musgaña). Doña María didn’t sing the whole story; the end of the song was missing. José returned to the University of Washington archive of Spanish ballads to complete the lyrics (depts.washington.edu/hisprom/). In the original version, the undisclosed husband rejects the wife’s offers one by one with the line “But what would you give, My Lady…” The translated lyrics are as follows :
One day as I sat sewing / Alingolondró (Fol-the-dol-the-dol) Sewing silk and embroidering / Alingolondrero (Fol-the-dol-the-dero) I saw a gentleman riding by / High in Sierra Morena I stepped up and asked him / If he’d come from the war From the war I come, My Lady / Why do you ask? I ask about my husband dear / Seven long years he is gone there Seven long years, nearly eight / And never a line he’s written me How would you know your husband? / How would you know him in the war? He rides a bonny white horse / The saddle black and gold And painted on the stirrup leather / Is a picture of his lady From everything that you have said / I do believe your husband’s dead What would you give, My Lady / To have him back alive? I would give my hundred cows / And a wee bull to go with them I would give my hundred mules / And a wee horse to go with them I’d give my hundred ewes / And a good young ram to go with them I’d give the hundred doubloons / That I keep here in my purse What would you give, My Lady / If your husband were worth more? I have no more to give you / If more I had, I’d give it I’ll bring your husband to you / If you give your white legs to me To serve you right I’d give you / The sharp end of a bull’s horn! What would I want my husband for / If I gave my white legs to you? Come to my arms, my own one / For I was and am your husband Husband, you have done me wrong / To treat me in this way!
The fifth tune is Peñaranda Charrada (Traditional dance from Peñaranda), with Blanca Altable (fiddle), Rocío Garde (bouzouki) and Pilar López Ballarín (drum). From Peñaranda de Bracamonte (Salamanca), original composer or performer unknown. It formed part of the repertoire of the mythical dulzaina (shawm) band, Los Talaos. Felix Sánchez included it in the first album of the series: Arte de la Dulzaina (Art of the Shawm) (Dial, 1983).
The sixth song is Musette (J.S. Bach), from the English Suite N° 3, BWV 808. With Rafa Martín (hurdy gurdies). Musettes were pieces with a pastoral air that formed part of the baroque dance suites. Having a bass drone, they could be played on a musette (bagpipe). José thought it would be fun to play this one on the pipes (cornemuse in D) with Rafa on hurdy gurdies.
The seventh track is Hard times I’ve had (Traditional) with Pilar López Ballarín (voice). It was collected from Doña María Barrio in Pedralba de la Pradería (Sanabría, Zamora) in 1984 by Rafa Martín, Quique Almendros and myself. The final couplet comes from H. Barrio and A. Espina “Oral tradition at the border: Calabor (1925-1936)” an article published in Revista de Folklore (Folklore Review) number 134 (1992). The translated lyrics are as follows :
Up the street and down the street / I’m perishing of cold When will you pay me, Madam / For the hard times I’ve endured Once, I own, I yielded / And opened doors and windows But now my will is firm / I keep them all fast shut Crying I was born, they say / And that may very well be How often in my mother’s arms / I would have lain crying High up there / I heard singing and I cried “Damn” my youth / That brought me little pleasure Stand up, young man, stand up / For up above am I Higher up is the honour / Your wicked tongue took from me
The eighth tune is Lusco-fusco (J. Climent and Rocío Garde), with Rocío Garde (accordion). Lusco-fusco is sunset in Portuguese and the tune is dedicated to good times spent watching the sun go down into the Atlantic in Portugal. José composed the tune in ten minutes but didn’t record it in time and completely forgot it. Almost a year later it came back into his head (or rather his fingers) just as it had the first time. Many thanks to Rocío for finding the pulse and the harmony it wanted.
Song number nine, The Way (J. Climent) with Héctor López (cajón). An old composition of José for bagpipe trio. Rescued again in extremis thanks to some four track cassette recordings going back to about 1996.
The tenth track is the popular Passacaglia (Luigi Boccherini), from the quintetino Musica Notturna delle Strade di Madrid Op. 30, G324. With Diego Sánchez (acoustic guitar), Rocío Garde (bouzouki), Pilar López Ballarín (tambourine) and Jaime Muñoz (baroque flute). Another folkified rendering of a famous classical piece based, in turn, on traditional or popular XVIII Century Madrid music. This piece was part of the live repertoire in the Mirando Nubes ensemble in 2017.
Tune eleven is the medley Ronda de Lobeznos (Lobeznos Serenade) / Alboreada de Pedrazales (Pedrazales Dawn Dance) (Traditional), with Pilar López Ballarín (tambourine) and Juanma Sánchez (bassoons). The ronda was collected from Don José Rodríguez in Lobeznos (Sanabria, Zamora) in 1984 by Rafa Martín, Quique Almendros and José. The alboreada is part of the repertoire of brothers Modesto and Tarsicio Espada (Los Gaiteros de Pedrazales -The Pedrazales Pipers). Manuel Otero and Climent recorded it on two bagpipes on the CD “De Urzes y Madroños” (Of Heathers and Arbutus), published by Casa de Zamora en Madrid (Home of Zamora in Madrid). The translated lyrics are as follows :
Tonight’s the night / When I will have Joy or sadness / Pain or relief Come on, lass, it’s late We don’t want the nightwatch to catch us out on the street If the nightwatch catch us / I have an excuse I’ll say I’ve been / To say the rosary Come on, lass... Come on, lads / It’s nearly dawn Each man to serenade his lady / As I do mine Come on, lass...
The last track is Valse dos Pirilampos (J. Climent). The title means The Glow-worm Waltz in Portuguese. Glow-worms are coleoptera of the Lampiridae family. They feed on slugs and snails. Their disappearance from many places is due to a lack of humid zones and the abuse of chemicals in private and market gardens and orchards but more than anything to light pollution. Paradoxically, the use of more energy efficient lighting is exacerbating the excess of nocturnal light. This has reached a point where, if it was a luxury for our recent ancestors to have light by night, now truly dark nights are the exception. To recover the magic lights of the glow-worms we must reconcile ourselves with the primordial dark of night and all its sounds, a treasure we have lost almost before we realised how much we needed it.
And finally the bonus track : The Lonesome Fiddler (Traditional). Slow reel composed by the traditional Irish fiddler Eddie Kelly (Co. Galway, Ireland, 1933). José first heard it from an anonymous fiddler at the Nuechi Celta (Celtic Night) in Corao (Asturias) in 1984. Thanks to the kind assistance of his friend the great fiddler, Matt Early, in 2016 José managed to get in touch with Éilís Crean, an Irish fiddler living in the USA who specialises in the style of Eddie Kelly. Éilís sent him a fantastic video tutorial that helped him to unpick the tune in a matter of hours, something he had been unable to do in 22 years! Thanks a million, Éilís.
Photo Credits: (1)-(4) José CLIMENT (unknown/Pío FERNÁNDEZ LÓPEZ).