The musical legacy of black Africans in Spain: A review of our sources


  • Aurelia Martín-Casares University of Granada
  • Marga G. Barranco University of Granada


slavery, black diaspora, Renaissance Spain, historical anthropology, migration, music


Did the sub-Saharans who arrived in Spain from the Renaissance to the 19th century suffer the destruction of their original cultures and adopt that of their captors? In this paper, we shall throw some light on their memory by studying their participation in public celebrations, civil and religious. People of black African descent, freed or slave, men or women, born in Spain or brought from Guinea, were thoroughly represented in historical, literary and artistic sources from the Renaissance until 1886, when the abolition of slavery was finally approved by Parliament. Despite being christened and having adopted Spanish traditions and costumes, they held a particular celebratory role in civil and religious ceremonies and developed a number of popular songs and dances of African origin, like the guineo or the zarambeque, dances that became particularly popular and may have left traces in Andalusian folklore and music, including the flamenco. This is because they were not perceived as a threat, and could therefore be allowed to hold private meetings and celebrations, with dancing and singing, and also participate in public holidays and religious feasts such as Corpus Christi.