Antonio Soriano, Evaristo Payá, Chiquet de Bétera y Ceguet de Marchalenes – Albaes

sorianoFor this week’s post, I’ve decided to continue exploring the folk music of Spain’s many autonomous communities, each with its own particular type of traditional music – often multiple types. Previously, I’ve posted tracks from Galicia, Asturias, Andalucia, and Basque Country – and now we’ll move in a southeast direction to what is officially called Comunitat Valenciana, or the autonomous community of Valencia, which roughly reflects the borders of the medieval Kingdom of Valencia (1010-1238).

Several regions in Spain feature music with powerful unaccompanied vocals – Asturias and mountainous Cantabria being two examples. I do not know the origin of this often jaw-dropping trait in Valencia, but I have to think it may be related either to rural, peasant life (as it apparently was in Asturias and Cantabria), or at the very least related to performance outdoors. This piece, by Antonio Soriano and company, is a mix. The vocals are accompanied by a muted drum only and handled by multiple performers in succession, but are bracketed and bridged by duets on the dulzaina (also dulçaina), the extremely loud double-reed shawm of Spain, and the aforementioned tabalet drum (called tambor on the label). The piece is an “albaes” which, according to my research, is the Valencian version of the aubades, or alboradas – the “dawn song.” Traditionally known as a song sung by lovers before they part in the morning, the albaes is also sung after Midnight Mass at Christmas. It is also commonly known as a song type which features biting social commentary – the singer is accompanied by the “versaor,” who spontaneously invents the lyrics on the spot. This is a wonderfully unusual song type for public performance: a blistering outdoor screech of an instrument accompanied by a tiny little drum, singers who bellow amazing vocal runs, and a silent person who whispers lyrics into the singer’s ears. For a visual idea of what this may look like, please check out this video here.

This albaes was recorded in Valencia by engineer H.E. Davidson on September 30th, 1928. He must have known talent as this take is a keeper, made even more real by the coughing and throat-clearing throughout. Davidson spent much of his career with the Gramophone company recording in Spain. In 1928 alone, he was in Spain for virtually the entire year, recording upwards of 600 sides in Madrid, Valencia, Bilbao, and Barcelona. According to Paul Vernon’s article The Engineers (Vintage Jazz Mart 94, 1994), Davidson led an expat’s life, spending the better part of eight years traipsing around Spain recording artists, rarely returning to England, and frequently disappearing for months at a time with no explanation, much to the chagrin of the home office. As for the artists themselves, little is known (a typical refrain around here, alas), although Evaristo Payá, who accompanies Antonio Soriano, has been documented on 78s since ca. 1905.

Antonio Soriano, Evaristo Payá, Chiquet de Bétera y Ceguet de Marchalenes – Albaes

Technical Notes
Label: HMV
Coupling Number: AE 2333
Face Number: 2-264180
Matrix Number: BJ1436

7 thoughts on “Antonio Soriano, Evaristo Payá, Chiquet de Bétera y Ceguet de Marchalenes – Albaes

  1. Thanks, Dan – glad you liked it. As for the Moorish influence, the research that I’ve done over the years tends to indicate that only Andalusia can claim a Moorish influence, with flamenco. However, I’m sure there are other theories…

    My goal is to make the blog MORE scary…or at the very least, to keep on doing this for a while.

    Your fan,

  2. The right transcript of the names is “Chiquet de Bétera” and “Ceguet de Marchalenes” which means Bétera’s kid and Blind of Marchalenes. Bétera is a little town close to Valencia and Marchalenes is a neighbourhood of this city.
    Do you have more recordings from Valencia?
    Do you have the documentation you mention about Evaristo Payá?

  3. Thanks for the correct names! Quite often, mistakes on the labels were made, and it takes a native speaker to help clear things up.

    As for Mr. Payá – from A. Kelly’s Spanish Gramophone discography, Mr. Payá is first documented recording for the Gramophone Company in 1905, with R. Tamarit, and then later in 1928. It’s quite possible he recorded for other companies in between 1905 and 1928, but this is all the information I have. Good luck!

    EVARISTO PAYA y R TAMARIT (flute & tabor)
    62140, 8963t, -10-05, “Les Albaes”, 52091

    EVARISTA PAYA y R TAMARIT (flute & tabor)
    62161, 8962t, -10-05, “Les Albaes” 52078

    X-52028, 8953u, -10-05, “Jota Valenciana: El U y dos I”, 62332
    X-52029, 8954u, -10-05, “do: El U y dos”, 62331

    X-52188, 8957u, -10-05, “Jota Valenciana: E A U”, 62327
    X-52189, 8960u, -10-05, “do: El U y Dotze II”, 62328
    X-52190, 8958u, -10-05, “do: El U III”, 62329
    X-52191, 8956u, -10-05, “do: El U I”, 62330
    X-52192, 8959u, -10-05, “do: El U y Dotze I”, 62333

    2-264178=, BJ1435-_, 30-9-28, “El U (valenciano)”, AE2332
    2-264179=, BJ1434-1, 30-9-28, “El U y Dos (valenciano)”, AE2332

    2-264182=, BJ1438-_, 30-9-28, “El U y Dos (valenciano)”, AE2334

    A RUBIO, EVARISTO PAYA (ac. rondalla)
    2-264186=, BJ1442-1, 30-9-28, “El U y Dotze (valenciano)”, AE2336

  4. I am willing to bet that there was quite a lot of musical exchange even outside of the ‘court’ music known as Andalus (usually described as 13th Century).

    If you look at the map that is on wiki ( you will see that Valencia was part of the territory known as Al Andalus from 790 to 1150 (appx)… Draw your own conclusions.

    I like this blog, thanks for posting.

  5. Well, yes, I am familiar with the map, but from a map I can’t draw musical conclusions – though they may indeed exist. I should have been less hard-line in my comments. This is more of a hunch. If you can point me to some concrete musical theory suggesting that this type of music from Valencia is directly related to Al-Andalus, I’d love to read it.

    My experience listening to this track leads me to relate the “tabor and drum” aspect to concurrent musical styles in Basque Country (see my most recent Basque post) and the music I have from Asturias and Santander – neither of those regions were part of Al-Andalus, for what it’s worth. And in a general sense, those styles are vaguely linked to the presence of the Celts (though that’s no doubt disputed, too).

    The acapella vocal in this piece is almost exactly the same in style as the vintage Manuel Sierra piece from Santander on the “Voices of Spain” CD – and very similar in style to “La Busdonga”‘s Asturian piece on the very same CD (I have several others by her (and Sierra) which are completely acapella). In fact, the Valencian piece above reminds me of a combination of the acapella singing from Santander and Asturias, and the “tabor and drum” style from Basque region.

    That said, you may very well be correct. In fact, one rebuttal to my own particular hunch would be the presence of the dulzaina, a loud reed instrument similar to…well, the zurna of Turkey for instance. But I think I need more proof.

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