FolkWorld #72 07/2020
© Pío Fernández

The Middle Ages from a Female Perspective

Back in November 2019 we covered the last work from Spanish female singer Mara Aranda centered on the subject of Sephardic music. Now, “Trobairitz” is a nine song album, capturing medieval traditional music from the region of Occitania.

Mara Aranda

Mara Aranda

Artist Video Mara Aranda

Mara Aranda "Trobairitz", 2020

This is the historical region in southern Europe where Occitan was historically the main language spoken, and where it is sometimes still used, for the most part as a second language. This cultural area roughly encompasses the southern third of France, as well as part of Spain (Aran Valley), Monaco, and smaller parts of Italy (Occitan Valleys, Guardia Piemontese).

To be precise, the core subject of the CD are the female Trobairitz or Occitan female troubadours of the 12th and 13th centuries, active from around 1170 to approximately 1260.

Female trobadours such as Bieris de Romans, a trobairitz of the first half of the thirteenth century. Her birthplace was Romans near Montélimar, Southern France. Other than her name, which includes her place of birth, nothing is known of the details of her life, which has led to a significant gap in knowledge for scholarship analyzing her work.

She left behind one canso (the first one included in this album), ‘Na Maria, pretz e fina valors’ (‘Lady Maria, in your merit and distinction’), addressed to another woman named Mary. The poem is written in the typical troubadour style of courtly love and has been consequently analyzed as a lesbian poem. Bieiris may, however, be simply writing from the masculine point of view, fully immersing herself in the masculinity of the genre.

There is also Clara d'Anduza from the first third of the 13th century, probably born to the ruling family of Anduze. Her only surviving work is a canso beginning ‘En greu esmay et en greu pessamen’ (second tune in the CD).

The third song is ‘Ar em al freg temps vengut’, written by Azalais de Porcairagues (also Azalaïs) or Alasais de Porcaragues, a trobairitz composing in Occitan in the late 12th century.

From Beatriz de Día, mostly known as Comtessa de Día in contemporary documents, and other times as Isoarda (1175—1212, most likely the daughter of Count Isoard II of Diá, a town northeast of Montelimar), Mara has included three songs: ‘Fin ioi me don’alegranssa’, ‘Estat ai en greu cossirier’, and ‘A chantar’.

The female instrumentalists that accompany Mara in ‘Trobairitz’ are: Miriam Encinas Laffitte: viella, percussion, flutes & vocals, Patricia Garcia: fiddles & vocals, Belisana Ruíz: citolae & vocals, Sara Águeda: harp, psaltery & vocals.

‘Trobairitz’ is a beautiful piece of art that takes the listener’s dreams back to the imaginary sounds and landscapes that each of us recreate in our minds as the Middle Ages. This time from the female perspective of that part of Europe’s history.

Photo Credits: (1)-(2) Mara Aranda (unknown/website).

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