on 28 July 2013
This collection of music from the Balkans, from the Mediterranean to the Danube is extremely important because it is one of the cribs from which European culture emerged. But we have to be clear here. It was not the only crib. This is how far the Greek migration from Anatolia reached at the very most. Romania was also the limit of the Roman Empire, or Roman presence, hence their language surrounded by Slavonic languages.
There was another Indo-European migration along another route, through the Caucasus and then in the vast plains of Russia, Ukraine and then the Germanic northern half of Western Europe and the Celt second half of Western Europe that the Romans tried to conquer but did not really colonized, apart from the Iberian peninsula in depth and Gaul rather deeply in the Occitan area of today's France and superficially in the Oil section of today's France and in Walloon Belgium. We must also understand that the Magyars arrived later from another migration from north-eastern Europe and the Finno-Ugric linguistic tradition. And we have to keep in mind that the Indo-European penetration was not demographic since only 25% of present day European DNA is from that origin several thousand years after the ice-age, whereas 75% of the DNA of present day European population (of European origin) is from the older stock that arrived in Europe some 45,000 years ago and 25,000 years before the peak of the ice-age. These older populations, Cro-Magnon, Gravettians, etc., were of Turkic descent and language.
The Balkans were not different. The Greeks were first to arrive and settle in the peninsula with the great advantage they had over the local population since they were arriving with the military organization of the Indo-Europeans, their agriculture and cattle husbandry, their commercial practices and their metal work that gave them an edge in weaponry and war. But they were a minority and they had to integrate in their own culture the culture of the locals not to completely alienate them, and eventually to bring them over to their life style, economic model and language-culture. The basic and symbolical episode is that of the Golden Fleece, Jason and Medea and how the Turkic culture of Georgia was integrated, and at the same time brought down, demonized into the Greek religious culture. I regret that Jordi Savall does not go that far in the history of this region. It is tentative to start the history of this region in 330 and the founding of Constantinople, founded on the site of the old Greek city of Byzantion, better known as Byzantium, founded by the Greeks in 657 BCE, hence practically one thousand years before Constantinople and the Greeks probably recuperated a site that was already occupied by the Turkic population that were there before them.
Note too the presence of Islam in Turkey and beyond did not start with the Ottoman Empire. Islam arrived in Anatolia, hence today's Turkey in the second half of the 11th century, that is to say before the FIRST crusade was decided in 1095 and called for by Pope Urban II in Clermont Ferrand, Auvergne, France. Or so is the legend going on around this event, and that could only be then because it is then that the Peace of God movement started in Aurillac, Auvergne, France in 972 and then to be widened in the Charroux Abbey's Synod in 989, was finally endorsed as the Peace of the King in France and other kingdoms in Europe. The Crusade was the only way to keep the military class fighting but out of the Christian territories.
One of the leaders of the fourth Crusade that was to reconquer Constantinople for a while was a certain Conon de Béthune, a poet from Béthune, Pas de Calais, France, and he is buried in Anatolia. He became the leader of this re-conquered Constantinople after the death of Yolande of Hainaut, the Empress of Constantinople, in 1219, but he died soon after.
I regret this important shortcoming of the presentation of this region of Europe and its present day musical culture. This region became at the end of the 15th century a crossroads of many cultural traditions. First of all the old traditions from before Christianization, then the Christian, both Orthodox and Catholic traditions, and we must not forget that the orthodox tradition itself is divided between the Slavonic tradition and the Greek tradition. We must also speak of the presence of the Magyars who finally settled in present day Hungary in the 9th century over a period starting in the 5th century, coming from the Urals and part of the Finno-Ugric linguistic and cultural family. We must not forget that they are connected to the Hunnic Empire, and the famous or infamous Attila the Hun, and older versions of the Siegfried mythology marries Siegfried's widow to that famous Hun. But apparently they were pushed back and they settled in a small European territory.
Then at the end of the 15th century they welcomed the Sephardic Jews expelled from the Iberian Peninsula, and we must not forget that the Gypsies had been present in this area for a very long period and we aren't even sure about their origin. Many connects them with India, but there seems to be no real evidence of this connection, except of course that their language or languages are connected to the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European family. But the terms are false. In fact the Indo-European and the Indo-Aryan branches of this family of languages come from the same source, the languages on the Iranian Plateau in older times even before Zarathustra and the Zoroastrians and the two branches moved respectively west and east. They thus are cousins and in no way father-son or mother-daughter. The linguistic characterization of the Romani Gypsy languages seems to imply a later migration back west of an Indo-Aryan group of people. But we have no evidence beyond that, except legends and mythologies.
The final element we must keep in mind is that the Ottoman Empire with Suleiman the Magnificent and his successors was extremely open to European cultures and music and his court counted a lot of artists end composers from Europe.
The presentation seems thus more romantic about the people in this region than accurate enough about the tremendous crisscrossed heritages there. Romanticism about the tremendous and frightening wars of the last thirty years, the role of Europe and NATO in these wars and their end and now the European integration of these countries into Europe. A particular point has to be taken into account. These zones came down faster than expected, in spite of the horrors perpetrated on BOTH sides because the USSR had been dismantled and the Russian president at the time was a weakling at the international level because he was a highly incompetent president in Russia itself that was more or less trying not to sink in spite of the looting some oligarchic social climbers were carrying out on the whole territory not to speak of the Chechen terroristic problem. In other words Europe took advantage of this weakness of Russia to take over ex-Yugoslavia that was crisscrossed by innumerable and absolutely hateful ethnic conflicts based on ethnic and religious cleansing.
This being said, this CD is a marvelous compilation of various styles and traditions and this music is fascinating. Jordi Savall is of course equal to himself and brings together the best and most representative musicians from these traditions and his work and rendition is absolutely convincing and trustworthy. This compilation might be considered later on as a milestone in the rebirth of this vast area, but there are still a lot of potential conflicts and hatred there. It will be a long process to bring everyone to the proper understanding that respecting the others is the basis of the future.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU