Presented in Partnership with Seattle Symphony
In a monumental project spanning centuries and featuring musicians from Africa, Europe, and the Americas, early music expert Jordi Savall leads a singular experience of music, dance, and spoken word tracing the story of the African diaspora in the Old and New Worlds.
2 hours plus one intermission
Mohammed Diaby, Voice
Ballaké Sissoko, Kora (Mali)
Mamani Keita, Nana Kouyaté, Tanti Kouyaté, Choristes (Mali)
Rajery, Valiha (Madagascar)
Driss el Maloumi, Oud (Morocco)
Maria Juliana Linhares, Soprano (Brazil)
Zé Luis Nascimento, Percussion (Brazil)
Adriana Fernández, Soprano (Argentina)
Iván García, Bass (Venezuela)
Temembe Ensamble Continuo
Ada Coronel, Vihuela, Wasá, Dance & Voice (Mexico)
Enrique Barona, Vihuela, Leona, Jarana, Quijada de caballo, Dance & Voice (Mexico)
Ulises Martínez, Violin, Vihuela, Leona & Voice (Mexico)
Leopoldo Novoa, Marimbol, Marimba de chonta & Tiple colombiano (Colombia)
La Capella Reial de Catalunya
David Sagastume, Countertenor
Víctor Sordo, Tenor
Furio Zanasi, Baritone
Pierre Hamon, Flutes
Béatrice Delpierre, Shawm
Daniel Lassalle, Sackbut
Jordi Savall, Treble viol
Philippe Pierlot, Bass viol
Xavier Puertas, Violone
Xavier Díaz-Latorre, Theorbo, Guitar & Vihuela de mano
Andrew Lawrence-King, Spanish Baroque harp
David Mayoral, Percussion
For more than fifty years, Jordi Savall, one of the most versatile musical personalities of his generation, has rescued musical gems from the obscurity of neglect and oblivion and given them back for all to enjoy. A tireless researcher into early music, he interprets and performs the repertory both as a gambist and a conductor. His activities as a concert performer, teacher, researcher and creator of new musical and cultural projects have made him a leading figure in the reappraisal of historical music. Together with Montserrat Figueras, he founded the ensembles Hespèrion XXI (1974), La Capella Reial de Catalunya (1987) and Le Concert des Nations (1989), with whom he explores and creates a world of emotion and beauty shared with millions of early music enthusiasts around the world.
Savall has recorded and released more than 230 discs covering the Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque and Classical music repertories, with a special focus on the Hispanic and Mediterranean musical heritage, receiving many awards and distinctions such as the Midem Classical Award, the International Classical Music Award and the Grammy Award. His concert programmes have made music an instrument of mediation to achieve understanding and peace between different and sometimes warring peoples and cultures. Accordingly, guest artists appearing with his ensembles include Arab, Israeli, Turkish, Greek, Armenian, Afghan, Mexican and North American musicians. In 2008 Jordi Savall was appointed European Union Ambassador for intercultural dialogue and, together with Montserrat Figueras, was named “Artist for Peace” under the UNESCO “Good Will Ambassadors” programme.
Jordi Savall’s prolific musical career has brought him the highest national and international distinctions, including honorary doctorates from the Universities of Evora (Portugal), Barcelona (Catalonia), Louvain (Belgium) and Basel (Switzerland), the order of Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur (France), the Praetorius Music Prize awarded by the Ministry of Culture and Science of Lower Saxony, the Gold Medal of the Generalitat of Catalonia and the prestigious Léonie Sonning Prize, which is considered the Nobel prize of the music world. “Jordi Savall testifies to a common cultural inheritance of infinite variety. He is a man for our time” (The Guardian, 2011).
LA CAPELLA REIAL DE CATALUNYA
Following the model of the famous Medieval “royal chapels” for which the great masterpieces of both religious and secular music were composed on the Iberian Peninsula, in 1987 Montserrat Figueras and Jordi Savall founded La Capella Reial, one of the first vocal groups devoted to the performance of Golden Age music on historical principles and consisting exclusively of Hispanic and Latin voices. In 1990, when the ensemble received the regular patronage of the Generalitat of Catalonia, it changed its name to La Capella Reial de Catalunya.
The newly-formed ensemble specialized in the recovery and performance on historical principles of the polyphonic and vocal musice of Spain and Europe from the Middle Ages and Golden Age up to the 19th century. La Capella Reial de Catalunya shares with Hespèrion XXI the same artistic outlook and goals, rooted in respect for the profoundly spiritual and artistic dimension of each work, combining quality and authenticity regarding the style of the period with a careful attention to the declamation and expressive projection of the poetic text.
The ensemble’s extensive repertory ranges from the Medieval music of the various cultures of the Mediterranean to the great masters of the Renaissance and the Baroque. The group has distinguished itself in various Baroque and Classical opera repertories, as well as in contemporary works by Arvo Pärt. The Capella Reial de Catalunya played on de Jacques Rivette’s soundtrack of the film Jeanne La Pucelle (1993) on the life of Joan of Arc.
In 1992, La Capella Reial de Catalunya made their opera debut accompanying all the performances of Le Concert des Nations. They have received various awards and distinctions in recognition of their more than 40 CDs. Under the direction of Jordi Savall, La Capella Reial de Catalunya pursue an intense programme of concerts and recordings all over the world, and since the ensemble’s creation it has regularly performed at the major international early music festivals.
Ancient music’s most important value stems from its ability as a universal artistic language to transmit feelings, emotions and ancestral ideas that even today can enthral the contemporary listener. With a repertoire that encompasses the period between the 10th and 18th centuries, Hespèrion XXI searches continuously for new points of union between the East and West, with a clear desire for integration and for the recovery of international musical heritage, especially that of the Mediterranean basin and with links to the New World.
In 1974 Jordi Savall and Montserrat Figueras, together with Lorenzo Alpert and Hopkinson Smith, founded the ancient music ensemble Hespèrion XX in Basel as a way of recovering and disseminating the rich and fascinating musical repertoire prior to the 19th century on the basis of historical criteria and the use of original instruments. The name Hespèrion means “an inhabitant of Hesperia”, which in ancient Greek referred to the two most westerly peninsulas in Europe: the Iberian and the Italian. It was also the name given to the planet Venus as it appeared in the west. At the turn of the 21st century Hespèrion XX became known as Hespèrion XXI.
Today Hespèrion XXI is central to the understanding of the music of the period between the Middle Ages and the Baroque. Their labours to recover works, scores, instruments and unpublished documents have a double and incalculable value. On one hand, their rigorous research provides new information and understanding about the historical knowledge of the period, and on the other hand, the exquisite performances enable people to freely enjoy the aesthetic and spiritual delicacy of the works of this period.
Right from the beginning Hespèrion XXI set out on a clearly innovative and artistic course that would lead to the establishment of a school in the field of ancient music because they conceived, and continue to conceive, ancient music as an experimental musical tool and with it they seek the maximum beauty and expressiveness in their performances. Any musician in the field of ancient music will have a commitment to the original spirit of each work and has to learn to connect with it by studying the composer, the instruments of the period, the work itself and the circumstances surrounding it. But as a craftsman in the art of music, he is also obliged to make decisions about the piece being played: a musician’s capacity to connect the past with the present and to connect culture with its dissemination depend on his skill, creativity and capacity to transmit emotions.
Hespèrion XXI’s repertoire includes, amongst others, the music of the Sephardi Jews, Castilian romances, pieces from the Spanish Golden Age, and Europa de les Nacions. Some of their most celebrated concert programmes are Les Cantigues de Santa Maria d’Alfons X El Savi, La Diàspora Sefardí, the music of Jerusalem, Istanbul, Armenia and the Folías Criollas. Thanks to the outstanding work of numerous musicians and collaborators who have worked with the ensemble over all these years Hespèrion XXI still plays a key role in the recovery and reappraisal of the musical heritage, and one that has great resonance throughout the world. The group has published more than 60 CDs and performs concerts for the whole world, appearing regularly at the great international festivals of ancient music.
TEMBEMBE ENSAMBLE CONTINUO
Ensamble Continuo is dedicated to exploring, recreating, and promoting the musical connections between the Hispanic baroque period and traditional music from Mexico and Latin America. This overlapping breaks the imaginary musical wall dividing them by opening new possibilities for enjoying, expanding, and understanding music. Continuo blends baroque guitar music pieces gathered from Spanish and Mexican tablatures, and links them with contemporary Mexican and Latin American sones. By exploring commonalities in terms of musical practices and instruments, it puts together a music, singing, and dancing show which revives the festive spirit of 17th century and contemporary fandango gatherings (popular festivities with live song and dance).
Their show is a fandango-concert exploring subtlety and contrast in music, dancing, and singing. The program includes Spanish and Mexican baroque music for guitar and tiorba linked together with sones from Mexico and Latin America. These include sones from Veracruz, Tixtla (Guerrero), the Huasteca region, Michoacan and Jalisco, as well as Bambuco and Joropo music from the plains of Colombia and Venezuela. This musical interweaving aims at showing how 17th century baroque music and traditional contemporary Mexican and Latin American music are two faces of the same coin, distant in time and close in spirit. They can be blended together in one single festivity and one single fandango.
Ensamble members are: Enrique Barona, Eloy Cruz and Leopoldo Novoa. They studied music at the National School of Music in Mexico City, as well as in many other music institutions in Mexico, Colombia, the U.S.A., and France. They currently teach at UNAM, Morelos Center for the Arts, and Ollin Yolistli Center. They also organize and direct workshops on building and playing traditional instruments in the state of Morelos (Mexico).
Regular guest artists often collaborating with Tembembe include: Patricio Hidalgo (composer, improviser and jarana player) ; Zenén Zeferino (composer, improviser and jarana player): Ada Coronel (singer), Donají Esparza (dancer), Ulises Martínez (violin), Miguel Cicero (harpsicord), Hille Perl (viola da gamba) Lee Santana (Theorbo) and Steve Player (guitar).
Tembembe has performed in Mexico's main concert halls as well as performances in United States, France, Spain, Germany, Austria, Colombia, Malasya, Singapore and Korea.
To date, Tembembe has recorded CDs with important labels such as Urtext Digital Classics, Sony, BMG-Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, Alia Vox (Catalonia).
Tembembe has performed in several festivals and chamber music seasons, such as:
International Early Music Encounter in Mexico City; National Encounter of "Jaraneros" in Tlacotalpan, Mexico; International Cervantino Festival; Gateway to the Americas (N.Y, USA); Early Music Festival in Gijón, Spain; Eldkirch Festival (Austria); Singapore Arts Festival; Chamber Music Festival in Bogotá, Colombia; Hi Seul Festival in Korea;
Recently, Tembembe has developed a strong collaboration whith maestro Jordi Savall and Hesperión XXI, performing in several tours accross Europe and the U.S.A.
Monica Rojas-Stewart (Lima, Peru) is a doctor in Cultural Anthropology and the founder and director of DE CAJóN Project and Movimiento Afrolatino Seattle (MÁS), two community arts organizations dedicated to raising awareness of the cultural contributions of people of African descent in Peru and Latin America respectively. She currently holds two positions as the Assistant Director of the African Studies and of the Latin American and Caribbean Studies programs at the University of Washington.
The Routes of Slavery
Memories of Slavery
1444-(1865 USA) 1888
Narration (0) : Aristotle, Politics
Humanity is divided into two: Masters and Slaves.
Aristotle, Politics, 4th century BC
Narration (1) : 1444. Chronicle of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea.
The voyage of Captain Lançarote de Freitas, for the service of the Infante Prince Henry, was the first major commercial venture of the Portuguese in West Africa.
1. Djonya (Introduction) –Improvisations by Mohamed Diaby
Lamentation: The African view of slavery.
2. La Negrina: San Sabeya gugurumbé – Mateo Flecha, the elder (1491 - 1553)
Los Negritos / Gurumbé - Jarocho son (traditional)
3. Vida ao Jongo (Jongo da Serrinha) – African tradition (Brazil) / Lazir Sinval
Music: Guitar (Romanesca)
Narration (2) : 1505. On 15th September from Segovia, King Ferdinand the Catholic wrote a letter to Nicolas de Ovando.
4. Tambalagumbá (Negrilla for 6 v. & b.c.) – Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla (1590-1664), Mss. Puebla (1657)
5. Manden Mandinkadenou (Griot song) – Musical version and improvisations by Mohamed Diaby & Ballaké Sissoko
The pleasures of youth are destined to be forgotten, but the great deeds of heroes of the past are remembered long after them, especially when they brought peace to their homeland.
Narration (3): 1620. The first African slaves arrive in the English colonies.
António Vieira, Sermons, 1661
6. Velo que bonito (San Antonio). – Traditional spiritual song (Pacific, Colombia)
Narration (4) : 1657. Richard Ligon publishes A True and Exact History of the Island of Barbadoes at London, in which he describes the music of the slaves.
Richard Ligon, A True and Exact History of Barbadoes, 1657
7. Saí da casa (Ciranda) – Traditional / Escurinho (Brazil)
Music: Slow drums
Narration (5) : 1661. The punishments of slaves in the “Slave Code of Barbados”.
Hans Sloane, A Voyage to the islands, London, 1706, vol. 1, p. lvii.
Jean-Baptiste Labat, Nouveau Voyage aux Îles de l’Amérique, Paris 1722, p. 248
8. Follow the drinking gourd – Slave song
9. Antonya, Flaciquia, Gasipà (Negro a 5) – Fray Filipe da Madre de Deus (ca. 1630-1690)
Narration (6) : 1685. The “Black Code” promulgated by Louis XIV.
10. Another man done gone – Slave song
Narration (7) : 1748. Montesquieu, On the Slavery of Negroes.
Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws, Paris 1748
11. Simbo (Griot song) – Musical version and improvisations by Mohamed Diaby
The mytical hunter Mandé Mory, clear-sighted as the kingsfisher (Kulandjan) is compared to the great hunter Soundiata and other hunter heroes.
12. Awal (instrumental & vocal) – Improvisations (Mamani Keita, Mohamed Diaby & Ballake Sissoko)
Music : Guitar
Narration (8) : 1772. Guillaume Raynal, A philosophical and political history of the settlements and trade of the Europeans in the East and West Indies: «Wretched condition of the slaves in America».
Guillaume-Thomas Raynal, Histoire philosophique et politique des établissements et du commerce des Européens dans les deux Indes, chap. X, Genève, 1772.
13. Son de la Tirana: Mariquita, María – Traditional (Costa Chica de Guerrero, Mexico)
Narration (9) : 1781. Thomas Jefferson, Notes of the State of Virgina.
14. Tonada de El Chimo: Jaya llûnch, Jaya llôch (Indian ritual song in Mochica language, for two voices, bass and tabor) – Anonymous, Codex Trujillo, No. 6 (E 180)
Baltazar [Baltasar] Martínez Compañón. Peru, Bolivia, ca. 1780.
Narration (10) : 1782. Abandoned by her master, the slave Belinda, aged 70 years, petitions the legislature of Massachusetts for a pension as reparations after a lifetime of labour.
15. Tonada El Congo: A la mar me llevan (For voices and bass, sung while dancing) – Anonymous, Codex Trujillo, No. 3 (E 178)
Music : Guitar
Narration (11) : 1855. Abraham Lincoln wrote to Joshua Speed, a personal friend and slave owner in Kentucky.
16. I'm packing up – Slave song
Narration (12) : 1865. The 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude.
17. Amazing grace (Spiritual song) – John Newton (1779) / William Walker (1835)
Narration (13) : 1963. ”Why we can’t wait”, by Martin Luther-King (New York, 1963)
Martin Luther-King, Nobel Peace Prize (1964), New York. Assassinated in Memphis on 4th April, 1968.
18. Touramakan (Griot song) – Musical version and improvisations by Mohamed Diaby
Touramakan was Soundiata’s half-brother was a ferocious warrior who became the general of the Emperor’s troops and the ancestor of the Diabatés.
Narration (14) : No place in the world can any longer put up with the slightest forgetting of a crime, the slightest shade cast over the mater. We ask that the parts of our history that have not been spoken be conjured up, so that – together, and liberated – we can enter into the Tout-Monde. And together, les us name the slave trade and the slavery perpetrated in the Americas and the Indian Ocean: Crime Against Humanity.
Extract from a petition sent by Edouard Glissant, Patrick Chamoiseau and Wole Soyinka to the Secretary General of the United Nations in 1998.
Selection of Mali music: Mohamed Diaby, Violet Diallo & 3MA
Selection of Mexican and Colombian music: Leopoldo Novoa
Selection of Brasilian music: Maria Juliana Linhares
Selection of slave’s songs & early gospel: Jordi Savall
Historical and literary research: Sergi Grau, Manuel Forcano & Jordi Savall
Texts translated by Jacqueline Minett
Program concept and final musical & text selection: Jordi Savall
With the support of the Departament de Cultura of the Generalitat de Catalunya, the Institut Ramon Llull and the Unesco
1444 - 1888
Humanity is divided into two: masters and slaves.
Aristotle (385-322 B. C), Politics
Homo homini lupus est.
Plautus (c. 195 B. C) Asinaria
Man is a wolf to his fellow man.
Thomas Hobbes (1651), De Cive
Despite the fact that for more than four centuries, from 1444 (the year of the first mass slaving expedition, described in a text from the period) to 1888 (the year slavery was abolished in Brazil), over 25 million Africans were shipped by European countries to be bound in slavery. This period of history — one of the most painful and shameful in the history of mankind — is still largely unknown by the general public. The women, men and children who were brutally deported from their villages in Africa to the European colonies in the New World had only their culture of origin to accompany them on the journey: religious beliefs, traditional medicine, dietary customs, and music — songs and dances that they kept alive in their new destinations, known as habitations or plantations. This evening, we shall try to evoke those shameful moments in the history of humanity through a series of eloquent texts and accounts, accompanied by the emotion and vitality of the music to which the slaves sang and danced.
And yet, how could they think of singing and dancing when they were reduced to the condition of slaves? The answer is simple: song and dance, rhythmically structured by music, were the only context in which they could feel free to express themselves - something that nobody could take away from them. Singing was, therefore, their chief means of expressing their sorrows and their joys, their suffering and their hopes, as well as being a reminder of their origins and their loved ones. It was this that enabled all those people with their diverse origins and languages to create a common world and withstand the negation of their humanity.
First documented 5,000 years ago, slavery is the most monstrous of all the man-made institutions created throughout history. In fact, its existence only began to be objectively documented when “history” (as opposed to prehistory) began; in other words, with the invention of the earliest writing systems. Its organization is closely linked to the invention of the State in the modern sense of the term, that is, an organ of centralized coercion, supported by an army and a civil service. Indeed both, as pointed out by Christian Delacampagne in his Histoire de l’esclavage (Paris, 2002), “came about five thousand years ago, in the region that historians call the ‘fertile crescent’ [...] There is a simple explanation for this apparently surprising connection between the emergence of writing, slavery and the State: all three became possible when the forces of production of a given social group, in a given time and place, became sufficiently developed to enable them to produce a greater quantity of food than was required for the survival of the community.”
As Paul Cartledge explains in his interesting text, in Ancient Greece there were a thousand or so separate political entities, and the principal cities based their social, political and economic relations on slave labor. “Aristotle’s definition of a citizen — that of a man who actively participates in public affairs and sits as a magistrate — corresponds to the perfect citizen of a democratic Athens [...] Thus it appears that there was a mutually strengthened circle or loop between slavery in the mines and democracy — a virtuous circle for free citizens, but a vicious circle for the exploited and harshly treated slaves.”
In Antiquity and the Middle Ages, black slaves were a rare, exotic and very costly merchandise for their owners. For more than two thousand years, the majority of slaves were white, originating in Northern Europe and the regions around the Mediterranean Sea. All this changed when a sizeable commercial trade, instigated by the Crowns of Portugal and Spain from the middle to the late 15th century was established between Europe, Africa and America.
Slavery already existed in Africa before the massive Portuguese and Spanish slaving expeditions began. It was the need to replace the feeble workforce of native Indians, especially when it was recognized that Indians had a soul and had to be converted to Christianity, that the modern trade in black African slaves to the New World began. We know that there were black slaves on board the ships of Christopher Columbus, and also that in the years immediately after 1500, King Ferdinand I sent instructions for the purchase and transfer of black slaves to the island of Hispaniola, where they were sent to work in the gold mines. Alonso de Zuazo, appointed judge in residence on the island by Cardinal Cisneros, recommended in a letter dated January 22, 1518: “Dar licencia general que se traigan negros, gente recia para el trabajo, al revés de los indios naturales, tan débiles que solo pueden servir en labores de poca resistencia.” (To issue a general authorisation to import Blacks, who are strong and can withstand hard work, unlike the native Indians, the latter being so weak that they are only useful for tasks that do not require much stamina.) It was on this same island that the first revolt of black slaves took place in the New World in 1522.
The French began to trade in black African slaves in the 1530s at the mouths of the Senegal and Gambia Rivers. From the beginning of the 17th century, the English arrived in the Caribbean, first in the Bermudas (1609) and then in Barbados, while the Dutch were the first to unload twenty African slaves (August 20, 1619) in the port of Jamestown in the English colony of Virginia, which became the center of the tobacco-growing industry. It was the first time that Blacks had set foot as slaves on the soil of the future United States. It was also the beginning of a particularly painful history: the history of today’s Afro-Americans.
Paradoxically, it was during the “Age of Enlightenment” (1685–1777) that the Black slave trade reached its apogee. Like Christian Delacampagne, we ask ourselves the questions: “Are light and shadow truly inseparable? Was the progress of reason incapable from heralding the age of justice? Are reason and evil inextricably linked? Such would appear to be the lessons of European history. But it was to be another two hundred years, dozens of wars and several attempts at genocide later, in the aftermath of 1945, before this bitter lesson was explicitly expressed by the philosophers Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno (Dialektik der Aufklärung, 1947).”
With the presentation of the concert The Routes of Slavery and the accompanying CD/DVD book from ALIA VOX, featuring the live audio and video recordings of the concert at the Festival of Fontfroide Abbey in France on July 19, 2015, we aim to present the essential facts surrounding that terrible history, thanks to the extraordinary vitality and profound emotion of this music, preserved in the ancient traditions of the descendants of slaves. The music lives on, etched into the memory of the peoples concerned, from the coast of West Africa and Brazil (Jongos, Caboclinhos paraibanos, Ciranda, Maracatu and Samba), Mexico, the islands of the Caribbean, Colombia and Bolivia (songs and dances from the African traditions), together with the traditional Griot music still found in Mali. The music is performed by musicians from Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Mali, Morocco and Madagascar in dialogue with Hispanic musical forms inspired in the songs and dances of slaves, native Indians and racial mixes of all kinds based on African, Mestizo and Indian traditions. The contribution of the more or less forced collaboration of slaves in the Church liturgy of the New World is represented in this recording by the Villancicos de Negros, Indios, and Negrillas, Christian songs by Mateu Flecha the Elder (La Negrina), Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla (Puebla mss.), Roque Jacinto de Chavarría, Fr. Filipe da Madre de Deus, etc., performed by the vocalists and soloists of La Capella Reial de Catalunya and Hespèrion XXI, together with musicians from Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, Mexico, Spain and Catalonia.
For the first time, they come together in a triangular relationship, linking the three continents of Europe, Africa and Latin America, and the heritage of Africa and America with borrowings from the European Renaissance and the Baroque, resulting in a disturbing and at the same time deeply hope-inspiring record of a musical heritage which is the positive, reverse side of a culture of conquest and forced conversion.
There could be no starker contrast than that which exists between the striking beauty and mysterious power of this music and the brutal accounts and detailed descriptions that our selection of chroniclers and religious figures of the period (texts recited in the book/CD/DVD by Bakary Sangaré) and this evening by Montreal actor Jean Fayolle gave concerning the expeditions to capture men and women in their African villages. We are given an insight into those accounts through the studies, historical research and reflections on the subject contained in the excellent articles in the book The Routes of Slavery contributed by our formidable team of experts: Paul Cartledge, José Antonio Piqueras, José Antonio Martínez Torres, Gustau Nerin and Sergi Grau.
Through the music of the descendants of slaves, we also wish to pay a moving tribute as we remember that dark period, and appeal to each one of us to recognize the extreme inhumanity and the terrible suffering inflicted on all the victims of that heinous trade. It was an ignoble enterprise perpetrated by the majority of the great European nations against millions of African men, women and children, who for more than four hundred years were systematically deported and brutally exploited to cement the great wealth of 18th and 19th century Europe. Those civilized nations have not yet deemed it necessary to make an unreserved apology, or even to offer any kind of compensations (symbolic or real) for the forced labour carried out by the slaves who were regarded as chattels (nothing more than “tools” without a soul). On the contrary, the four-century-long slave trade, during which they became established on the coasts of Africa, paved the way for the principal European countries’ “colonisation” of Africa. In other words, it confirmed them in the belief that the continent was their property. It is as if from the end of the Middle Ages to the end of the 19th century, Europe had relentlessly pursued one common goal: to subjugate, one after the other, all the lands stretching south of the Mediterranean.
In view of the extremely serious situation of large numbers of people risking their lives to reach Europe from Africa (so far, more than 3,000 have died since the beginning of 2016) by crossing the sea once known as the MARE NOSTRUM and now a sad MARE MORTIS, why is it that today, in the 21st century, none of the those responsible for immigration in European countries remember our enormous moral and economic debt to the Africans who are now forced to flee their homelands, currently mired in abject poverty or ravaged by tribal or territorial wars, and frequently abandoned to corrupt dictators (propped up by our own governments) or insatiable multinational companies?
The period which saw an official end to slavery (1800–1880) saw the rise – particularly strong in those countries where it had lasted the longest – of another aberrant, inhuman kind of relationship, characterised by a visceral hatred of the other, the foreigner and, above all, of the former slave: racism. Slavery was built on contempt for the other – whether Black, Mestizo, or the native Indian – while racism feeds on hatred of people who are no longer slaves, but different. As Christian Delacampagne writes: “The history of slavery preceded and paved the way for that of racism. Historically, slavery came first. Racism was merely the consequence of a civilisation’s long habituation to the institution of slavery, whose victims have always been foreigners.”
We also want to draw attention this evening to the fact that, at the beginning of the third millennium, this tragedy is still ongoing for more than 30 million human beings, of whom many are children or young girls subjected to new forms of slavery brought about by the demands of production and prostitution. We need to speak out in indignation and say that humanity is not doing what it should to put an end to slavery and other related forms of exploitation. Although absolutely illegal in the vast majority of countries in the world, and despite also being officially condemned by the international authorities, slavery still exists today, even in the supposedly democratic developed countries. Again, as Christian Delacampagne writes, “In the face of slavery, as in the face of racism, there is no possible compromise. There is no possible tolerance. There is only one response: zero tolerance.” Against the absolute outrage of the exploitation of child labour and the prostitution of minors, against these endemic ills in human society, which continue to breed new forms of slavery, and against that hatred of the other, which is the inhuman force of racism, the struggle is not over.
Through this evening’s concert and the texts and music of our CD/DVD book, we hope to contribute to that struggle. We firmly believe that the advantage of being aware of the past enables us to be more responsible and therefore morally obliges us to take a stand against these inhuman practices. The music in this programme represents the true living history of that long and painful past. Let us listen to the emotion and hope expressed in these songs of survival and resistance, this music of the memory of a long history of unmitigated suffering, in which music became a mainspring of survival and, fortunately for us all, has survived as an eternal refuge of peace, consolation and hope.
21/23 October, 2016
Translated by Jacqueline Minett
Town Hall Seattle
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Bastyr University Chapel
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Seattle First Baptist Church
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