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World Music CD Reviews Europe

Various Artists

By Doug Merlino
Published April 24, 2007

The Spanish Recordings: Ibiza & Formentera: The Pityusic Islands

In the early ‘50s, Alan Lomax, trailed by General Francisco Franco’s Guardia Civil, traveled thousands of miles through Spain recording local music. When the legendary folklorist arrived on the tiny Pityusic Islands of Ibiza and Formentera in 1952, he found an isolated people who had long fought for survival at the crossroads of empires, from the Phoenicians through the Muslims and the Catalans. (The Euro-hordes, hippies and Café del Mar habitués were still to come). The music Lomax captured sounds ancient, mournful and lonely. Most of the songs consist simply of a singer accompanied by occasional beats on a tambor drum; vocal lines often end with a redoblat, which is a somber ululating wail unique to the area. Remaining within a narrow vocal range, the singers tackle love, loss, God, wandering and despair. Not easy listening by any means, the music hits you through the ache in the performers’ voices, opening the door to a bygone era.