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Deià Delights #2: making music in DeiàAugust 17, 2019

Daniel Alzamora-Dickin

If you’d been wandering through the Clot in Deià earlier this week, you’d have heard the timeless sounds of sitar and harmonium drifting out of a tranquil garden space and away on the slowly cooling August air. Music in Deià is everywhere.

Daniel, playing the sitar, is a fascinating, prolific Deià-based musician who releases his own music in a number of different incarnations. I’ve done spoken word and music performances with Daniel and it’s a fantastic experience.

Music in Deià has always been an integral part of the village’s cultural identity. For centuries, the olive terraces and almond groves echoed to the sounds of voices singing to lighten the load of arduous labour. The fisherman who set sail from Cala Deià would have had their own songs. Music played at fiestas and celebrations to accompany dancing featured bagpipes, flutes and drums, with small guitars, violins, castanets and triangles sometimes being added.

When the great American musicologist Alan Lomax visited Mallorca in 1952, he recorded a selection of these songs that was described as ‘a treasure trove of beautiful performances with amazing sound for the time period and conditions’. If you’re interested, look for The Spanish Recordings: Mallorca: The Balearic Islands. Mallorcans are fiercely proud of their music, which was suppressed by Franco. It’s alive and well and often played at the many island fiestas.

The love of acoustic music, experimentation with far-out sounds rooted in free jazz and a cosmic mindset along with an appreciation of rhythm and quiet skill or a vast amount of enthusiasm – come together to make the sound of Deià.

Jazz disrupts music in Deià

For centuries, Deià has had a reputation for wildness. At the Sala, which is now the ISLAS shop, people would cling together to dance the ‘agarrados’ that were frowned upon in other villages.

Jay Ansill performing at S’Hortet in Deià

When writer Laura Riding arrived in the village along with Robert Graves in 1929, she bought her windup gramophone and jazz records with her. I would love to have been a fly on the wall when she first played her Louis Armstrong 78s at the Sala dances. Who knows what impact this had on Mallorcan music.

Riding herself is a major influence on the music of American Jay Ansill, who has made music in Deià a number of times.

Musicians were among those who came to visit Graves and Riding from the 1930s onwards and the making of music was part of life in his circle. His sons Juan and Tomás both became musicians. The Americans who began to arrive after WWII bought sophisticated tastes in jazz, blues and rock and roll with them. But it was in the early 1960s that the elements that make up music in Deià today began to come together.

Enter the Soft Machine

Legendary psychedelic music pioneers Soft Machine began making music in Deià, when founder member Robert Wyatt was taught to play drums by jazz musician Ramón Farrán who was married to Robert Graves’s daughter Lucia. Throughout the 1960s, Wyatt and other founder members Kevin Ayers and Daevid Allen would spend time in Deià. Today, Wyatt, Ayers and Allen are, quite rightly, regarded as heroic musical pioneers but, back then, they would have been among many long-haired musicians jamming, playing and creating constantly in the village.

As well as having an impact on musical history they’d never have expected, their presence in the village would also influence the music made by Mallorcan musicians like Joan Bibiloni, who has been recording since 1966. Today, Bibiloni is increasingly feted for his contributions to the Balearic sound which rules Ibiza and the clubs of Mallorca.

Kevin Ayers and Galen

Kevin Ayers’s legacy is also championed by his daughter Galen, who grew up in Deià. The wistful peculiarity of her music carries the scent of his influence as well as that of the village and Mallorca itself.

In the wider world of contemporary music, Deià has had a truly unlikely impact. Read the full amazing story here.

The sound of Deià

All of these elements – the love of acoustic music, experimentation with far-out sounds rooted in free jazz and a cosmic mindset along with an appreciation of rhythm and quiet skill or a vast amount of enthusiasm – come together to make the sound of Deià.

You can hear it at Bar Sa Fonda in the heart of the village, where music constantly plays. This week, if you hadn’t stopped to listen to the musicians playing down in the Clot, you could have checked out the Organic Sessions at Sa Fonda.

Throughout the summer, from April to October, Deià Cultural offers eight free concerts that take in flamenco, blues, American folk, gipsy jazz, Cuban music, and vintage jazz. Some of these take place at Belmond La Residencia, the hotel in the centre of the village that does a sterling job of supporting the arts and hosts Deià’s own Pa Amb Oli band at the beginning of August of every year for a concert on the lawn. Other concerts take place in restaurants and hotels in the village as well as the beautiful, atmospheric Deià Amphitheater. On Friday, September 6, you can experience the crossover opera pop of Vocello at Belmond La Residencia starting at 8.00 pm.

Check out the notice board on the corner opposite Restaurant Xelini, which itself has occasional jazz nights but always does delicious tapas. There are usually flyers advertising musical events. Music in Deià is alive and well.

But, to find out what’s going on musically in Deià at any given moment, and culturally in general, the best thing you can do is listen closely and follow your ears. You might find yourself standing outside an open window, listening to something you’ve never heard before. Or, you could wander through a doorway into an enchanted garden and enter an entirely different musical universe.

David Holzer

A freelance writer for many years, David is the author of a number of books and magazine articles, mainly on the subjects of the Beat writers and yoga. He is fascinated by the remarkably rich cultural history of Deia, from Robert Graves to the present day.

David also teaches yoga for writers.

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