© 2019 by Veronika Lorenser

Introduction to the Project


Welcome to the ‘Past and Present Musical Encounters across the Strait of Gibraltar’ website and our blog page.


The Giralda in Seville

The Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakesh

Why might it make sense for Moroccan musicians to include flamenco in their concerts? What do Sephardi songs have to do with Spain’s past? What are the musical parallels for the legacies of cultural exchange that characterise architectural wonders such as the Giralda in Seville and its ‘sister’, the Koutoubia in Marrakesh? Why might some Algerian musicians promote the intertwined cultural histories of Muslim Spain (al-Andalus) and the Maghreb in Paris or Marseille?


These questions provide a backdrop for the ‘Past and Present Musical Encounters across the Strait of Gibraltar’ project. In our research, we seek to explore the musical encounters that take place between North Africa and Southern Europe in both colonial and postcolonial contexts. Here, encounter might refer to fusion projects that mix genres such as Arab-Andalusian music, flamenco, western art music and Sephardi music, and that are often based on the idea of a shared cultural history across the Strait of Gibraltar. Encounter can also mean the exchange of musical knowledge through scholarship, educational settings and cultural organisations. Encounter might also refer to the sorts of intercultural social interactions that take place through music, whether that be between Jews and Muslims, or North African communities in the diaspora. The team will explore the social, cultural and political factors that have given rise to these musical encounters, both in the context of French and Spanish colonialism in North Africa (in the first half of the 20th century), and present-day contexts of immigration and cultural diplomacy.


The team’s research will be guided by the following key questions:


· Colonial history: what musical encounters took place between the coloniser and colonised? How was music used to legitimise or oppose colonial authority? How did European musical aesthetics and practices influence North African genres and vice versa? In what ways did the colonised influence and shape the cultural identity of the coloniser?


· Transcolonial connections: What were the connections between French and Spanish music policy and scholarship in colonial North Africa? What role did music play in the intercultural relations between different groups under colonial authorities (most notably between Jews and Muslims)? In what ways did musicians and their music move transnationally, across North Africa, France and Spain?


· Postcolonial realities: how might colonial history continue to influence present-day music making in this region? How is music used to break from or even ‘exceptionalise’ colonial history? How might musical exchange influence cultural diplomacy between nation states (such as Spain and Morocco)? What role does music play in the lives of North African communities in France and Spain, and wider debates about immigration and social integration?



This project will lead to publications (both academic and for a general audience), as well as concerts, conferences and open lectures. For more information, do browse the individual research areas or contact Matthew Machin-Autenrieth [mm2085@cam.ac.uk]. We would love to hear from musicians and those interested in the music of the region, and to find out how this music impacts on their own lives.


We will regularly post on this blog about our research and upcoming events, so please share widely!!




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