Academic journal article Western Folklore

Women's Songs: The Lullaby in the Spanish Autonomous Region of Valencia

Academic journal article Western Folklore

Women's Songs: The Lullaby in the Spanish Autonomous Region of Valencia

Article excerpt

A lullaby is a song performed by an adult, almost exclusively by women, which conveys a direct, brief and concise message, where words, music, movement and rhythm are combined with the sole aim of sending a baby off to sleep. It is never used in other situations and it includes, amongst other things, musical, literary, anthropological, sociological, psychological and educational aspects.

Traditionally, this genre has been considered an integral part of folk childhood lyrical songs. However, it is important to bear in mind that children never sing lullabies (rather, they are the direct recipient of the lullaby) and this is what determines the categorization of this type of song.

In Spain, lullabies are known by several names depending on the geographical area and the dominant language in the region. Thus, to mention just a few terms, nanas is used throughout Spain, arrorrós in the Canary Islands, Latin America and the Castilian Spanish-speaking part of mainland Spain (Menéndez-Ponte and Serna 1999), bezçô in the Galician-Portuguese region, kantak in the Basque Country and bressol in Catalan or Valencian-speaking communities (Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands). There are additional terms employed at a more local level, such as nanes in the Spanish Autonomous Region of Valencia or vou-veri-vou in Majorca.

This type of cultural expression is common to all levels of society, differentiating it from most traditional activities that are always preconditioned by an awareness of belonging to a particular social group.

For this reason its survival might appear guaranteed, because it ought not to suffer from the vagaries of social change which condition and negatively affect the transmission and continuity of oral tradition.

But nothing could be further from the truth. The change of uses and practices in modem society is contributing towards the complete disappearance of this cultural expression. On the one hand, the fact that women have fully entered the workforce has resulted in a loss of this tradition. The typical family unit in which the man is the breadwinner and the mother or grandmother are the homemakers (socializing agents) is no longer that common. On the other hand, as shown in the study carried out by Irene Watt (2012), the introduction of means of mass communication in the home, such as TV, radio, CDs, and DVDs has also significantly influenced the replacement of proper chants with the songs that are in fashion at that particular time.

As part of this research project, on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th of November 2011, a survey was carried out on 420 students (257 women and 163 men) between the ages of 19 and 22 undergoing teacher training at the University of Alicante. They were asked to supply socio-demographic information (such as age, sex, place of residence, birthplace and that of their parents and grandparents) and had to answer 4 open questions:

1. Do you know any lullabies?

2. If so, which ones?

3. Who did you learn them from?

4. Do you sing lullabies to your children, nieces or nephews or any other children you look after?

The main response (252 women and 100% of men) was that they did not know any lullabies. Only two women knew songs relating to their hometown, indicating that they had leamt them from their mothers, grandmothers and/or aunts. The other three women knew songs which were not local to their hometown or region and which they had leamt from a CD.

Lullabies in Spain have always been an interesting object of study. Thus, there is an abundance of literary and/or musical references. The first lullaby appeared in the 15th century with the work of the poet Gómez Manrique (Tejero Robledo 2002), and in 1626 Rodrigo Caro (1978) wrote Días geniales o lúdricos, the first great compilation of folklore material that included these types of songs.

From a literary point of view, the research carried out during the first third of the twentieth century by Caballero (1995) and, in particular, by Garcia Lorca (1972, 1974)-whose dissertation on lullabies in 1929 constituted a turning point regarding the classification and literary-theatrical significance of the genre (Pelegrin Sandoval 2003)-are worth mentioning. …

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