Archipelago 2023

El Hierro Will Once Again Be the Centre of the World

Friday, 16 and Saturday, 17 June 2023 - Check programme

Free, until full capacity is reached, with prior ticket collection at the Museo’s Ticket Offices or on the Museo Reina Sofía website from 10am on the last working day before the activity. A maximum of 2 per person. Doors open 30 minutes before each concert

Sabatini Building, Auditorium, southwest Stairwell and Garden
Auditorium: 144 people; Garden: 425 people
Rubén Coll and José Luis Espejo
Organised by
Museo Reina Sofía
Thanks to Esther Villar Gutiérrez for taking Rubén Coll and José Luis Espejo to Arenas Blancas in Frontera, El Hierro
Inside the framework of
TIZ 9. Relational Ecologies
Volcanic mountains and sand from the Sahara in El Hierro, Canary Islands, 2022
Volcanic mountains and sand from the Sahara in El Hierro, Canary Islands, 2022

In May 2022, a few weeks before that year’s edition of Archipelago, it was overcast in Arenas Blancas, a small beach in the municipality of Frontera on the island of El Hierro. At the foot of entirely black volcanic mountains, fine white sand stretches eastwards, blown in the opposite direction to the wind and carried up to that point. In this tiny corner of the island, trade winds do not collide against the mountainous mass but fly over it, depositing white sand from the Sahara. On the side of these black peaks is the village of Sabinosa, one of many on El Hierro that celebrates the traditional dance of Virgen de los Reyes, its rhythm linking directly with research carried out by the curators of Archipelago between 2018 and 2023, and which in this edition closes with the hope of new perspectives.

According to some who participate in the dance of the Virgen de los Reyes, its rhythms emanate from the pre-Hispanic legacy of the Berbers and Bimbaches. Thus, El Hierro is perhaps the most westerly land musical mutation has reached, stretching from North Africa and influenced by instruments that came from the Silk Road. Archipelago has covered this east-to-west journey through concerts organised since 2018 — also ordered from east to west — and performed by Mohammad Reza Mortazavi (Iran), Saba Alizadeh (Iran), Mazaher (Egypt), Nadah El Shazly (Egypt), Ammar 808 (Tunisia) and Asmâa Hamzaoui and Bnat Timbouktou (Morocco). As an endpoint to this research, the rhythms of El Hierro distil the discourse of Archipelago: underscoring alternative music genres and modes of listening with respect to cultural centres in Europe and the USA, demonstrating how the geography of music differs to the political geography we are customarily shown.

El Hierro is not any volcanic island. For centuries, it was considered prime meridian before being replaced by Greenwich Mean Time at the International Meridian Conference in 1884. This occurred after the United Kingdom had standardised the measurement of time for the rest of the planet in 1840 via the Great Western Railway company. El Hierro, sitting halfway between Africa, Europe and South America, is a metaphor for music that circumvents Western media’s powerful grid, which rules the taste, presence and even fees of musicians from the experimental scene. El Hierro will once again be the centre of the world.

Estrella Damm


Friday, 16 June 2023 - 7pm / Sabatini Building, Auditorium
—By Rubén Coll and José Luis Espejo

The researchers and curators of Archipelago present here the theoretical, geopolitical, historical, musical and ideological notions they have used to thread the narrative of El Hierro Will Once Again Be the Centre of the World. Since 2018, concerts have combined with research on the importance of tradition as a way to transmit knowledge that is living and not part of an immobile past. This exploration started by questioning the concept of musical experimentation from a vast array of geographies, eras, genealogies, genres and narratives, but in 2022 evolved towards more material-based aspects and set forth an analysis around sea currents, winds and trade routes to understand musical mutations in different parts of the world. In this analysis of currents and winds, trade winds took up a prominent place, those winds that blow from east to west at sea level, swaying and rocking the boats of looters and slave traders sailing to the Americas. It was no accident that El Hierro was chosen by Christopher Columbus to embark on his second voyage to the Americas in 1493, for in his first journey he had discovered, somewhat fortuitously, this wind current. Hence the reason why the connection between El Hierro and Venezuela is so palpable today in the identity of this Canary Island archipelago.

Friday, 16 June 2023 - 7:30pm / Sabatini Building, Auditorium
Helena Girón and Samuel M. Delgado: Eles transportan a morte

After devoting space to audiovisual works in 2022, the 2023 edition of Archipelago screens Eles transportan a morte (2021), a film written and directed by Santiago de Compostela native Helena Girón and Samuel M. Delgado from Tenerife. The film starts with Chicho Sánchez Ferlosio’s song A contratiempo (Carabelas de Colón), an example of how sound design becomes an indivisible narrative and sculptural element in its mise en scène. Girón and Delgado worked with Colombians Camilo Sanabria, who composed the film’s score, and Carlos E. García, a distinguished sound designer of works such as El abrazo de la serpiente (2015), by Ciro Guerra, and Mauro Colombo’s Tierra adentro (2019), where the presence of sounds from the primary rainforest dividing Panama and Colombia recalls the laurel forests of Tenerife. It is set in 1492, a year that marks the start of Western domination and is still celebrated today as the discovery of the “New World”. However, the film also looks at Columbus’s journey from a different angle, with citations of art and cinephilia which speak of death, suicide and mourning as a geological and magical element connected by magma, as explored by the duo of film-makers in Montañas ardientes que vomitan fuego (2016). Athanasius Kircher, Ana Mendieta and Sam Peckinpah are some of the lodestars offered by this account to observe and listen to the voyage of caravels from a more unusual place.

Saturday, 17 June 2023 - 7pm / Sabatini Building, Garden
A Folkloric Ensemble from Sabinosa

The story goes that in 1546 a boat, on its journey towards the Americas, was between the tip of La Restinga and the Orchilla Lighthouse, an area on the southern coast of El Hierro called Mar de las Calmas (Calm Sea) where boats sought shelter from the blowing trade winds on the hillsides of El Julan. When the food on board ended, the shepherds would go down to the coast to offer supplies to the crew, reciprocated with a carving of the Virgin Mary. According to this tale, the exchange caused the winds to change and the boat could set sail westwards, leaving the island behind. The shepherds kept the sculpture in a cave and from 1643, when the end of a drought was proclaimed, the custom of celebrating the Descent of the Virgin began, a commemoration in which dancers took the carving on a route through different towns, accompanied by songs for whistles, flutes, local castanets and drums, setting a syncopated rhythm which preserved the legacy of the Bimbaches and Berbers who inhabited the island before it was invaded by the Kingdom of Castile.

Saturday, 17 June 2023 - 8pm / Sabatini Building, southwest Stairway
Tenores di Bitti "Mialinu Pira"

Canto a tenore is a type of polyphonic singing in the pastoral culture of Sardinia. Groups are structured around four voices: bassu (bass), contra (counter), boche (solo voice) and mesu boche (half voice). Gathered in a circle, the singers modulate the deep and guttural timbre of the bass (bassu) and the counter (contra). According to Polish ethno-musicologist Bożena Muszkalska, in Sardinia the canto a tenore is thought to connect shepherds, flocks and mountains and, therefore, the solo voice (boche) is comparable to the voice of the shepherd as he speaks to his animals, while the choir is responsible for creating the non-human replica. Further, the tenors sometimes use the echo of caves and rock formations to make their song more immersive.During this edition of Archipelago, the Sardinian ensemble Tenores di Bitti "Mialinu Pira", which has been active since 1995 and comprised of Omar Bandinu, Bachisio Pira, Arcangelo Pittudu y Marco Serra, attempts to recreate this resonance on the granite stairway located in the south-east part of the Sabatini Building. Declared Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 2004, the canto a tenore is deemed vulnerable because of the decline of pastoral culture and the rise of tourism in Sardinia, sparking transformations in the diversity of its repertoire.

Saturday, 17 June 2023 - 8:30pm / Sabatini Building, Garden
DJ Travella

DJ Travella is a musician and producer from Dar es-Salam, the largest city in Tanzania — a country where almost half the population are teenagers. The demographic growth forecast for Dar es-Salam estimates it will become one of the three most populated cities on the planet by the end of this century and it is already one of the nerve centres of today’s geopolitical landscape. Currently, the city, the former capital of Tanzania, is home to one of the ports built by the China Harbour Engineering Company, and the place from which this superpower extracts minerals such as lithium, used in the manufacturing of batteries which could be a sustainable alternative to other energy sources without reducing global consumption. DJ Travella belongs to the so-called Generation Z and is an exponent of the new wave of Tanzanian producers who have managed to take singeli, a distinctly local genre, to the international circuit of electronic dance music and, in so doing, open it up to other influences which are more representative of urban sound in the West. Singeli, synonymous with speed and jubilation, draws from genres such as taarab, mchiriku, bongo flava and sebene, and was present back in the 2019 edition of Archipelago via Bamba Pana (responsible for the famous Pamoja Studios) and rapper Makaveli.

Saturday, 17 June 2023 - 9:15pm / Sabatini Building, Garden
DJ Diaki

Dj Diaki is the moniker of Diaki Kone from Mali. He continues, with DJ Sandji, along the way paved by Seydou Bagayoko, a pioneer of balani show, a genre widely embraced since the 1990s by young people from enclaves such as Bamako (Mali). Due to its waning popularity in the city, balani show gained traction at parties organised with sound systems in rural areas. Balani means “little dance” in reference to the balafon, a tuned melodic percussion instrument from West Africa which is at the heart of ceremonies and social events. Its rhythmic structures are key in this type of music, where elements from coupé-décalé and soukous coalesce. With DJ Diaki at the controls, balani show becomes, in his own words, balani fou (“crazy balani” in French), because the tempo is pitched up to 190-200 BPM, triggering a dialogue with another dizzying genre, Tanzanian singeli. Today’s Bali and Tanzania are connected by a route which has crossed the Sahara since the Iron Age 4,000 years ago, when Bantu migration spread across the continent from South Africa to Mali, Kenia and Tanzania.

Saturday, 17 June 2023 - 10:00pm / Sabatini Building, Garden
DJ Diaki + DJ Travella

To see out this edition of Archipelago, two ambassadors of balani show and singeli, two music genres which have shaken up the most unprejudiced dance floors around the world, will perform together. With Veteran DJ Diaki and the prominent figure of DJ Travella, this special collaboration serves to show how we stand not before a passing phase, but a contemporary sound in full force. The three DJ sessions feature a device with speakers which will turn the Sabatini Garden into an immersive space for dance.