Ziryab and Us: Tradition and Collaboration in the Interpretation of an Arab-Andalusian Musical Myth

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The 9th century poet and musician, Ziryab, is synonymous with the musical cultures of Muslim Spain (al-Andalus) and the idea of commonality between different genres across the Mediterranean. While some scholars have deconstructed the myth of Ziryab at a historiographical level, there has been less consideration of how the myth is interpreted in contemporary musical practice. This article examines how Ziryab is reinterpreted in the present through intercultural music making. Drawing on fieldwork in Madrid and Valencia (2016), I focus on the Ziryab and Us: A New Vision of the Arab-Andalusian Heritage project, in which French, Israeli, Moroccan and Spanish musicians sought to reinterpret the legend of Ziryab through the lens of their own musical traditions. I argue that Ziryab functioned as a
discursive trope that engendered a series of micro-social relations between the musicians, framed by ideas of musical affinity, a shared cultural space (the Mediterranean) and crosscultural exchange. But beyond the ideals of musical connection that Ziryab implies, the relational processes that characterised the project were not always unified. Therefore, I examine some of the points of tension that emerged when the musicians brought together distinct traditions under the rubric of a shared ‘Andalusian’ or Mediterranean heritage.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)494-514
Number of pages21
JournalThe Journal of Intercultural Studies
Issue number4
Early online date8 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

This research was conducted during my Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship (2014–2017) and my European Research Council Starting Grant project entitled ‘Past and Present Musical Encounters across the Strait of Gibraltar' [2018–2023, MESG_758221]. For more information, see www.musicalencounters.co.uk. I would like to thank both institutions for their support, which has made this article possible.


  • Ethnomusicology
  • Arab-Andalusian music
  • Flamenco
  • Intercultural dialogue
  • Collaboration
  • Mediterraneanism
  • Ziryab


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