5. Other song genres


Other song genres include the romance (narrative ballad), children’s songs, religious songs: passos (or stations of the cross), hagiographic narratives, lullabies, recreational and topical songs, and, from the early 20th century on, some peninsular Spanish genres. In earlier times, women would be contracted to intone funeral laments; although it has been decades since this was done. Macabich wrote in the 1960s (283) that certain women were still admired for these abilities: “que tenen bon reclam.” Isidor Marí relates a curious anecdote from the first decade of the 1800s, which constitutes the first documented Ibizan popular song, and a distinctly insular story. Frencesc Aragó, the French scientist who established the decimal system, returning from his measuring expedition to the Pityusans, was captured by Corsairs and saved himself by singing a glosa he had learned in Ibiza. An Ibizan sailor on the Corsairs’ boat embraced him and said he was one of their own and should be freed (I. Marí 2001:10). The Archduke Luis Salvador informs us that mid-nineteenth century Ibizan sailors “disdained” the pagesos’ dances and singing styles and preferred fandangos,. He lists several incipits of songs these sailors liked to sing, “in pure Castilian” with, he says, only scattered words in Ibizan Catalan (90).

Both the Samper and Macabich collections include a rich collection of romance texts. One romance from the Cid cycle, En Rodriguet, is an unusually complete version not found anywhere else, and which may offer clues to the early transmission of the Castilian romance to the Balearic islands (Macabich 146-8;191-3; I.Mari 1979). The romance melodies in general are simple, and often  the same one is used for several different ballads (e.g. Samper in Massot IX: 24). As early as the 1920s, Samper lamented the paucity of romance melodies, saying several women only recited the ballads, most women used the same melody for all their songs, and that he despaired of finding “bones tonades” for romances in Ibiza (34). Essentially, the romances were a domestic repertoire, not generally heard in cantades or other group occasions. Navarro, curiously, states that one could almost say that Ibizans had little affection for music (45) but almost immediately afterwards says they have a good ear, and learn any sort of song or instrument easily (46-47). Few traces remain of the romance in oral tradition today. In 2004, we were pleasantly surprised at being able to record a fairly complete version of Delgadina from a woman in her eighties. The melody she used is the same one as that used for many popular songs in the Pityusans, and in fact for many popular and also classic romances in peninsular Spain. It is easy to see how this melody took hold in th Pityusans; Flitch describes specific blind ballad singers in Ibiza at the turn of the twentieth century, including one Juan “whose guitar was always hanging by his side” (182). E. Bonet recognized a blind ballad singer in a photograph taken by Alan Lomax in 1952, and recalled that as children, she and her friends would knock on the door to his stairwell, and he would emerge, with his stick, and sing a couple of songs with risqué lyrics, till the children laughed and ran off (correspondence, October 12, 2004).

Vida de Sant Aleix
Francisca Escandell Ferrer, vocals
La Mola, Formentera, July 15, 1952.


Quan per el món vo[s] anàveu mirant llibres i papers,

per fer una bona vida tots es dies que visqués.

Quan va estar desconegut de son pare i de sa mare,

va pensar d’anar a ca seua una nit dessimulada,

una nit de fred i fosca que no li vessen sa cara.

Pes primer que preguntà va ser l’amo de la casa,

demanant-li per favor si li daria posada…[*]


[*] This is part of a longer hagiographic romance, about the life of Saint Aleix. In the Pityusan Islands, this type of devotional song is usually sung by women in domestic settings.

In some cases ballads or Pityusan versions of ballads which reflect Ibizan or Formentera island life: in this local adaptation of the old ballad theme “The Captive Siblings”, the “Moors” do not arrive by land, but rather in a “barqueta de moros” , “a little boat of Moors”, and the lyrics  mention specific locations in Ibiza (Macabich 169, Massot IX:122); others use typical Ibizan expressions. The version of “Delgadina” we recorded appears to be unique. It ends with a formula usually spoken, excusing the singer if the song is not to the listeners’ liking, but which  the singer integrated into her version. She also links the text to other ballads, first a line from  “La bella en Misa”/“la Dama de Aragón”, and then a few lines from a popular ballad known in Mallorca as “Cuan s’al.lota es muri” – which itself also appears in Ibiza and Formentera. This in turn was subsequently sung to us by another elderly woman, and also is known as a glosa shortened, arranged and popularized by the Ibiza folk revival group “Uc”,  as “Com voleu, germans, que cante”(9).

Samper, curiously, specifies that rural people told him that performing ballads was “glosar” and the verb “cantar” was reserved for the redoblat genres (Massot IX:35-37), the opposite of how these genres are generally described today. The woman who sang “Delgadina” for us referred to it as a “cançó pagesa”, i.e. a rural, country person’s song, a term not usually associated with romances. She herself does not do the redoblat and, in fact, it is not usually practiced in the area of Ibiza where she lives, San Juan de Labritja.

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