Mara Aranda & Youssef El Houssaini Ensemble

Performance on Tuesday 19th August 2014


Mara Aranda vocals & percussion | Youssef El Houssaini vocals, lute, traditional Arabic percussion | Aziz Samsaoui qanun, viola, Arabic lute | J Martinez hurdy-gurdy, citar, classical guitar, mandora, lavta, baglama


The Group 

Mara Aranda and the Youssef El Houssaini Ensemble have spent the past few months traveling Spain, performing this repertoire for musicians, musicologists, historians, tradition and culture lovers, and the general public. Besides the music, the stage set up brings us a fascinating look at a wide range of Mediaeval Spanish Instruments.


Sepharad in the Heart of Al Andalus | Three Cultures: Dialogues Through Time

A la fuente fuera por agua (Sephardic & Andalusí traditional)

Si mi bien quiere + Toro de Plasencia (Sephardic traditional, Morocco)

Sitjaz + El Rey Mimrod (Sephardic traditional, Morocco)

Zaraní (Andalusí traditional)

Sephardic Cradle Song (anon. Sofia, Bulgaria)

Ella es hermosa (Sephardic traditional, Turkey)

Rosa, rosa (Sephardic traditional, Turkey)

Ya qalbi khali el hal (Andalusí poetry)


Mara Aranda is one of the most highly acclaimed names on the 21st Century Spanish World Music scene following the success of group L’Ham de Foc. She has come to be known as the undisputed lead researcher and performer of Sephardic music in Spain, and has made appearances with such groups as Speculum Ensemble, Oni Wytars, Unicorn Ensemble, Aman Aman, Al Andaluz Project and Capella de Ministrers, among others. Mara has taken this important musical tradition to stages across Europe, gaining fame as ‘La Dama del Mediterraneo’.

Youssef El Houssaini hails from Morocco, having graduated the Tetuan Superior Conservatoire of Music. He developed an interest in early music and went on to study in Tanger and Rabat with such renowned professors as El Haj Driss and Faruk Hamed. Youssef’s family is well-known in the world of Andalusí music; his great grandfather being a founding member of the first Sufí Fraternity in Morocco, in Tetuan.

J Martinez is a hurdy-gurdy specialist and one its most well-known players. He is a familiar face on the early music scene, often performing with groups and artists such as Axivil, Ensemble Diatessaron and Eduardo Paniagua. His career, spanning more than 30 years, has seen J Martinez take his brand of early music to some of the most prestigious festivals across the world. For his latest project, he has embarked on a mission to recreate in its entirety the mediaeval instrument collection featured in the ‘Cantigas de Santa María’ of King Alfonso X “The Wise”.

Aziz Samsaoui is another native of Tetuan, Morocco, having graduated the Andalusí Music Conservatoire in his home town. He has studied the lute and the Andalusí violin under the direction of Telemsaní. The beginning of his career saw him playing in the Conservatoire’s Youth Orchestra, and since then he has gone on to play with the Malaga Philharmonic Orchestra and Cinco Siglos y Alía Música (Medieval Mudéjar-Sefardí), among others. Aziz has made the preservation of the Andalusí heritage through music and song his life’s work.

Programme Notes

‘Sepharad in the Heart of Al Andalus’ is the name of an evocative programme, inspired by the traditions of the three cultures who once inhaboted the Iberian Peninsula: the Muslims of Al Andalus, the Spanish Christians, and the Sephardic Jews. Their music and song was to be heard in the courts of Kings and Caliphs; in the squares and in the markets; in public celebrations and in the intimacy of the family home. Five centuries on, we bring the sounds and the emotions, the shared legacy of three peoples back to you.

Published by Mara Aranda

Mara Aranda es una de las intérpretes más aclamadas surgidas de la escena española. Casi tres décadas durante las cuales ha investigado y cantado músicas turcas, griegas, occitanas y músicas antiguas, medievales y sefardíes, que han dejado como resultado casi una veintena de discos propios de excelente factura merecedores de premios y reconocimiento por parte de público y también de medios especializados.