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  • Writer's pictureYumi La Blanca

At Dawn It Shines - The radiation of ‘Al Alba’ in Spanish Music

‘Al Alba’ literally means ‘at dawn’, when the sky awakens from the darkness and starts to blend with the light. As a song, this Spanish title provokes an amalgam of emotions, not only because of its profound beauty but also because of its historic connotation.

As a protest song

27th September is the date attached to this music piece, as it used to be believed that this song was composed in protest against the last executions of the Franco regime, which took place on 27th September 1975.

According to sources, Luis Eduardo Aute, the composer, was in fact making such a song against the death penalty around that time, but the result wasn’t satisfactory to him. On the other hand, he created ‘Al Alba’ as a love song without political intention, but the singer Rosa León, who later became a politician of the Communist Party of Spain, interpreted the lyrics as a story of the executions at dawn. In a way, León’s interpretation determined the colour of this tune.

Aute himself also left a recording of his own version, while many other musicians covered the song in different music styles, making ‘Al Alba’ not only Aute’s best known work but also one of the most beloved songs in Spain.

'Al Alba' by Rosa León (1975)

'Al Alba' by Luis Eduardo Aute (performed live in 1993)

The flamenco version

In flamenco, ‘Al Alba’ connects to a singular name: José Mercé. Personally, my first encounter with this number was through his passionate interpretation. Included in his album ‘Aire’ (2000), his singing in the style of Bulerías refills our energy and uplifts our spirits, leaving us with provoked emotions.

As Mercé performed this song with such artistry and profoundness, it seems hard for other cantaores to overpower his version. It’s therefore buoyant that a group of young artists, who re-arranged and performed this song beautifully for the TV programme ‘Tierra de Talento’, convinced and entertained Mercé himself in the jury panel.

'Al Alba' by José Mercé & Moraíto Chico (the performance year unknown)

'Al Alba' by Jesús Reina, Carmen Cabezas & Manuel Cerpa in ‘Tierra de Talento’ (2020)

Although the song was given a specific meaning in relation to a historic event at dawn, we can still appreciate it as a universal music legend and even give a unique personal interpretation to it. ‘Al Alba’ is an artistic legacy that still radiates light to inspire us anytime, anyday.

Al Alba (Spanish)


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