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Triana - Triana (El Patio) CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.18 | 192 ratings

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5 stars Triana were at the forefront of the nascent Rock Andaluz of the mid-1970s with their particular blend of flamenco and progressive rock, characterised by multi-layered analogue keyboards, elaborate flamenco guitar and intense, at times tortured, vocals. Flamenco is of course a musical genus from Andalusia; the neighbourhood in Seville that gave this Spanish trio its name is generally considered to be the birthplace of flamenco. Triana, 'the gitano barrio', was home to a large population of Romani people who usually lived in communal homes, called corrales, which were organised around a patio. Many corrales have now disappeared due to housing pressure thus the patio is an important symbol of gitano culture and of the struggle between tradition and modernity. While Triana's 'El Patio' has similar cultural significance it differs in that it features the harmonious synthesis of tradition and modernity, represented respectively by flamenco and progressive rock.

During Francisco Franco's dictatorship flamenco was redefined as generically Spanish in order to prevent local allegiance within the ostensibly unified nation. The gitano experience of oppression was erased and, with the rise of tourism, flamenco was used as nationalist propaganda. While Franco's declining regime relaxed some of its regulations during the 1960s and early-1970s it was really the influx of foreign tourists and the return of Spanish workers from abroad that introduced democratic values to Spain: 'The trees had stories of other worlds' ('Luminosa Mañana ).

'El Patio' (1975) was released in the same year that Franco died but before democracy was established in Spain therefore political themes are not as obvious as on the follow-up album 'Hijos de Agobio' of two years later. Flamenco lyrics tend to have several different interpretations that rely on myth and metaphor and are able to speak to the marginalized without being overtly political in tone: 'I know a place where flowers bloom for you, where the river and the mountain love, where the child is born happy' ('Sé de un Lugar'). The child here may be a metaphor for the gitano's rights and status in society, and for the broader changing social values of the new Spanish nation.

The lyrics on 'Abre la Puerta' concern dreams and 'life and illusion' and these notions relate to metaphor and myth and the magical status of gitanos. Running water is symbolic of life itself and patios usually had a central fountain: 'There is a fountain, girl, they call it love'. This traditional view of gitano culture contrasts with the acid trip of 'En el Lago': 'Yesterday afternoon I went to the lake with the intention of meeting something new / We met there and everything started to emerge like a dream'. The use of recreational drugs was one of the transgressions that accompanied freedom of expression after Franco's death, but Triana's lyrics are typically couched in allegory.

The combination of poetic lyrics with plaintive melodies makes for bittersweet listening but there is a considerable history of collaboration between flamenco singers and poets such as Federico García Lorca. Although not a gitano himself, Lorca was killed along with many gitanos during the persecutions of the Franco regime. Lorca's 'Romancero Gitano' (Gypsy Ballads) features the familiar contrast of tradition and modernity, as well as repetition and typically gitano related themes such as water, the moon, love, etc. The same repetition and allusive imagery are prominent in Triana's lyrics: 'I asked the moon if it is love that shines in your smile' ('Diálogo'). This song exemplifies the personification of nature, with the protagonist asking the moon for motherly reassurance like a pagan calling to a female deity for guidance. The moon can be a symbol of death but here it represents the Cosmic Mother who will protect the protagonist. Nature is seen as active rather than passive throughout the album; mountains love, stars dance, and 'the moon bathes in the river' ('Recuerdos de una Noche').

'El Patio ' is a wonderful musical evocation of southern Spain but in my opinion the words are as important as the sounds, which is the reason the review focuses on the lyrics. This was one of my earliest 'discoveries' when I began visiting this site several years ago and it was this kind of eureka moment that drew me in. My one word of warning is that the ethnic and symphonic elements are on an equal footing so symphonic fans might want to tread carefully. However for me this is the yardstick against which all other Spanish progressive albums are measured.

seventhsojourn | 5/5 |


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