Zajal with Dave Soldier and Pedro Cortes — The Spanish Tradition ‘Is’ Our Culture

Crossover Media
3 min readMar 27, 2020


The Golden Age of Spain that created the tradition of Western song, from Schubert and Verdi to Hank Williams and the Beatles. Song Lyrics in medieval Hebrew, Arabic and Spanish from Andalusia, 900–1400 C.E. Listen to the podcast

Renowned Downtown composer and instrumentalist Dave Soldier explores the beginning of popular song and locates it 1000 years ago at the intersection of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian cultures in southern Spain. Zajal, along with muwashaha, were the lyrics of medieval Andalusia. While many are still sung today (notably in Lebanon), their offspring are everywhere. On a trip to Spain in 2004, Soldier read about the Andalusian caliphate, when the Muslim, Christian and Jewish com- munities not only coexisted, but co-created much of the world we inhabit today. Together, they produced the novel, cowboy culture, the guitar, the dance suite, the Kabbalah, Maimonides and ibn Arabi and the discovery of the New World. And modern song: the zajal and muwashaha introduced the verse and chorus that are the backbone of popular music. Imitation of Andalusia’s singing oud players begat the troubadours and the figure of the wandering poet and singer in its myriad incarnations, from Villon to Joni Mitchell.

Zajal features Maurice Chedid, a celebrated singer and oudist from Lebanon who drives a livery cab in New York; Triana Bautista and Ismael Fernandez, scions of famous Gypsy flamenco families; flamenco and Latin music singers David Castellano and Barbara Martinez; and Israeli-Moroccan-Persian vocalist Ana Nimouz. Players include composer Dave Soldier on guitar and keyboards: classical and klezmer violinist Rebecca Cherry; Alan Kushan, the foremost virtuoso of the Iranian sentur: trombonist Chris Washburne (Eddie Palmieri and Willie Colon): klezmer trombonist Dan Blacksberg: jazz bassist Ratzo Harris (Mose Allison, Betty Carter): timbalero Robby Ameen (Eddie Palmieri, Dizzy Gillespie): Greek clarinetest Lefteris Bournias: flamenco dancer and percussionist Jose Moreno: and palmas (handclaps) by the dancers Nelida (Neli) Tirado and Sonia Olla (Madonna and Ricky Martin). Dave learned flamenco guitar from Pedro Cortes, the foremost American exponent of Gypsy flamenco, who produced the record.

The lyrics are by the major Arabic and Hebrew poets of medieval Spain, plus one by their Persian contemporary Rumi in Farsi; a lyric by Dave Soldier in English that uses the sevillianas, a flamenco form; and a modern muwashaha from the great Lebanese singer Fairouz. The music uses contemporary Andalusian forms (buleria, fandango, petenera, rumba, tango) as translated through Soldier’s vision of the contemporary cultures of New York City.

Musicians: Dave Soldier, guitar, keyboards, musical compositions (except #2), arrangements; Ana Nimouz, Triana Bautista, David Castellano, Barbara Martinez, Ismael Fernandez, Anais Tekarian vocals; Maurice Chedid, oud, vocals; Chris Washburne, Dan Blacksberg, trombones;

Philip Payton, Rebecca Cherry (solos), violins; Alan Kushan, sentur; Lefteris Bournias, clarinet; Mahmoud Hamadani, recitation; Ratzo Harris, bass; Jose Moreno, hand percussion, trap set, vocals; Robby Ameen, timbales; Ismael Fernandez and Sonia Olla, palmas and jaleo; Neli Tirado, palmasn.

Produced by Max Horowitz — Crossover Media, This content, as well as the related podcast, are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) for redistribution and adaptation.