Zaragoza Music

If it's your first time in Spain, like many others, you may believe that gypsy-influenced, fervent Flamenco is basically what comprises this country's national music.  Fortunately, this is one of those stereotypes about Spain that actually couldn't be further from the truth. 


Traditonal music in Spain is is as varied and distinct as its many different regions and incorporates a number of characteristics and instruments from its mix of past cultures. There are influences from its Roman, Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Celtic roots. Traditional instruments, especially (but not exclusively) used in Spain's inland and northern regions, come from a strong Celtiberian core and may include harps, flutes, tambourines, chicotén (string drum), dulzainas (reed instrument like an oboe), guitarro (like a small guitar),  bandurrias (from the medieval period, similar to a mandolin) and bagpipes, a special variety of which are called gaitas de boto in Aragon.


The most important traditional style of music here is called the Jota.  Although it hails from Aragon, its  influence and style have spread to many other areas of Spain, such as Asturias, Galicia, Cantabria, Navarra, Castille, Murcia and Valencia.  Jota music, lyrical, symbolic and theatrical, is fully folkloric in nature. The singing is often accompanied by live music and is represented visually with highly choreographed dances performed in regional costume. The routines have a resemblance to the waltz, but at a faster pace and with a wider range of steps. Dancers usually accompany the music with small percussion instruments known as castanets, which are like two small wooden shells joined at the end by a piece of string. They are held in the hands of performers and are hit together to make rhythmic clicking sounds. Jota songs can be about anything ranging from the trials and tribulations of daily life to local legends, patriotism and romance.

With roots planted deeply in regional customs and local folklore, the music of  the Jota has evolved with the generations and has helped to cultivate and preserve traditions while managing to foster an awareness and appreciation for local identity. New generations of Aragonese and Zaragozan musicians are carrying on the traditional musical torch by taking notes from the past and using them for their own musical progression. They create new styles of folk by building on foundations and blending old methods with more modern ones. 


Here's a list of some of the local groups to check out:

Jota de San Lorenzo
Jota Vieja
Aragón Tierra Bravía
Gigantes y Cabezudos
La Dolores
Danza de la Olivera
José Antonio de Laboneta
Joaquin Carbonella
La ronda de Boltaña
O' Carolan