- Title: Spanish conductor Jordi Savall turns slave trade routes into musical journey
- Date: 11th January 2017
- Summary: VENEZUELAN SINGER, IVAN GARCIA, REHEARSING SAVALL, GARCIA, MUSICIANS AND SINGERS REHEARSING
- Embargoed: 25th January 2017 15:06
- Keywords: Belgium Brussels Africa America slavery slave Savall conductor music musician
- Location: BRUSSELS, BELGIUM
- City: BRUSSELS, BELGIUM
- Country: Belgium
- Topics: Arts/Culture/Entertainment,Music
- Reuters ID: LVA0055YMZTY1
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Spanish conductor Jordi Savall brought together musicians from Europe, Africa and South America in Brussels on Tuesday (January 10) for a concert billed as a musical journey relating 400 years of the history of slavery.
In "The Routes of Slavery" Savall put together music linked to places that were affected by the grizzliest aspect of triangular trade: the enslavement and deportation of millions of Africans between the 15th and the 19th century.
The concert featured music by artists from Mali, Madagascar, Morocco, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina and Venezuela, backed by Savall's vocal group La Capella Reial de Catalunya and Hesperion XXI, a period instrument ensemble he founded in 1974.
The music was intertwined with text readings about slavery by Aristotle, British adventurer Richard Ligon, French philosopher Montesquieu, U.S. Civil Rights activist Martin Luther King and Nigerian Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka.
Music, Savall said, was the best way of understanding the past.
"With the music, we travel in time. Any song from different epochs gives us the same emotion as it was 200 years ago, 300 years ago. With the music, we can understand things that we cannot understand with reading only. We see in the books so many victims of this or this, we say 'Oh a pity' but if you hear a song talking about this, we have another feeling," the 75-year-old musician said.
He added he thought Europeans would handle the current refugee crisis differently if they had their ancestors' responsibility in the slave trade in mind.
He developed the idea of a project on slavery after interpreting religious music the Jesuits had composed using African and Native American rhythms while carrying out missionary work in Africa and South America.
"After playing many of this music, I was thinking "I would like to know what was music from the other side. This is the music from the colonials, the conquerors - not for the slaves"," he said.
One of the performers, Venezuelan singer Ivan Garcia, said the project particularly appealed to him because of his background as a descendant of slaves but also because of the relevance of the show's message in modern times.
"The difference with the show that Jordi presents to us is that it doesn't show us beauty but instead it's a piece that uses music to invite us to reflect on something that has happened in the past but also continues to be present today in another fashion: slavery," said Garcia, a bassist who previously performed works by Mozart, Verdi and Wagner.
Taking a more philosophical tone, Savall quoted Prussian geographer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt saying the knowledge of the past can help build a better future for humankind.
"Only if we know the history from our ancestors, we can be able to build a new future and I think this is what moved me to prepare and do all these projects about the history: because I think we need the art and the music helps us to understand what happened in our history to have a reflection and be able to create better conditions for the future," he said.
Savall added that half of the music played during the concert would be improvised, saying that Europe was the only continent that had lost this practice with the emergence of Romantic music in the 19th century.
After Belgium, Savall will head to the United Arab Emirates for a series of concerts dedicated to 14th century traveller and scholar Ibn Battuta dubbed 'The Voyager of Islam, from Afghanistan to China (1336-1346)'. This time, the concert will feature musicians from Morocco, Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, India, Armenia and China.
Savall will resume performing 'The Routes of Slavery' in Hamburg on April 12 and in Lisbon the next day.
He said he would add Negro spirituals songs to the set list if ever the concert were to be played in the United States.
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