Día das letras Galegas

May 17, 2018

The annual day of Galician Literature is happening today. Read all about it in Wikipedia or check the twitter hashtag.   The Oxford Centre for Galician Studies ran a lovely little workshop, managing to coax the Centre’s founder, John Rutherford, out of his retirement to discuss a modern sonnet inspired by Petrarch (the second one on this page).

Also on twitter, there is a lovely hashtag: #euleoengalego, for which I took a selfie, below. And local celebrations continue tonight with the pandeireteiras …


UPDATE (24.5.): I’ve now finished this one, see my review here.




Lúa de prata

May 12, 2018

So the annual day of Galician literature, Día das Letras Galegas is coming up on Thursday. It features a (safely deceased) writer each year, who wrote in Galician – they don’t have to be Galician by birth, and this year’s laureate, for instance, the poet and children’s writer Maria Victoria Moreno (1939-2005), only came to Galicia and to its language at age 22. She describes her relation with the language as a love story:

“Eu non son alófona porque o que practico, se é que escribo, podería definirse coma unha amorosa autofonía […]. A miña relación con Galicia e a miña opción pola súa lingua é simplemente unha historia de amor.” (source)

For this year’s Día das Letras Galegas the band Fuxan os Ventos has set music to one of Moreno’s poems, watch their video here. With their polyphonic arrangement, the band make it sound quite difficult, but it isn’t really. The tune only has 5 notes which are in G major and can be easily played eg on a tin whistle in D.  To demonstrate that it isn’t as hard as it seems, I’ve recorded my approximation of the tune here (also in G major, just an octave lower than Fuxan os Ventos play it).

There is a major cultural gathering in London on the Sunday (13th) ahead of the day, but not much going on around here on the day itself, so I’m hoping we can at least have a go at singing Moreno’s words (scroll down to find the poem below the image), even if it may not turn out quite as perfect as the Fuxan os Ventos version.







Neste amencer de pombas indecisas

conversarei coas fontes

onde beben pesares cristalinos

as sombras que se axitan pola noite.


Esa lúa de prata

atopou o tesouro

que eu perdera na auga.


No laio dos farois agonizantes

evocarei os nomes

que acenderon lucernas balbucintes

nas fragas mestas onde os medos dormen.


Esa lúa de prata

atopou o tesouro

que eu perdera na auga.


Neste tremor de chumbo e de diamante

serei luz que se esconde

no ardor aceso que xerou os días

ou na xerfa esfiañada en surtidores.


Esa lúa de prata

atopou o tesouro

que eu perdera na auga.


No rubor das estrelas acaladas

achegareime á morte,

sentirei o feitizo dos seus ollos,

eo seu bico na fronte.


(Maria Victoria Moreno. Do libro: Elexías de luz, editado por Edicións Xerais. 2006)

Save the date

May 2, 2018

On May 30th, the Galician Session Oxford will celebrate its 6th birthday – see the poster for the first ever session below.

Mano counted 62 sessions until July last year, and this is the 11th on my watch, that makes 73 = 6 x 12 + 1, so it all adds up! (Maths freaks will also notice that after six years including one leap year, the last Wednesday falls on the same date this year.)

So do make sure you can come to this session, and let’s make it a special one! I have one veteran of the first session confirmed (Alice), can we find more?  Stay tuned for further announcements …

galician session 2012


Nooooon me deixes …

May 1, 2018

Galician word of the day (week, month? haven’t quite established a regular pattern yet!):


A Portuguese friend informed me that Galician is exactly like her language, only with lots of “x”es thrown in. Which, confusingly, are pronounced “sh” most of the time, but “ks” in some modern words like taxi (although e.g. galaxia doesn’t count as modern in this way).  So what’s with the “x”es that set Galician apart from its close relatives Portuguese and Spanish?

One small part of the answer hit me when I was reading a book about the Catalan language, which is geographically at the opposite end of the Iberian peninsula, so not much at risk of contamination with Galician words. I learned that it, too has “x”es that are pronounced “sh”, to the extent that some words containing one are actually written the same way in Catalan and Galician, although differently (and x-less) in Spanish. For instance (Spanish / English translations in brackets): deixar (dejar / to leave), baixa (baja / low; f.) caixa (caja / chest/bank) – note, however that the standard version of Catalan subsumes the letter i into the “sh” sound, so it is not heard and the pronunciation is different from the Galician one.

I don’t think there is a general rule for how these originated, and I’m slightly held back in my efforts as the big monolingual dictionary of the Real Academia Galega contains zero etymology, so I have to trust my Spanish dictionary and whatever I can find online. In the case of deixar, at least, I found out that the Spanish dejar derives from Latin delaxare, so the “x”es in Catalan and Galician must be ancestral, and the j in Spanish is a modern mutation. (Update: here is an explanation of how Spanish lost half its fricative sounds, including the one in deixar, in Spanish, and in German, thanks to Asun for the hint.)



(The title quote is from the song Lela, of course.)

This has been the fourth instalment of my series Galician word of the day, I think I’ll reproduce the accumulating dictionary at the bottom of each entry, see how far I get:


deixar – dejar – to leave

graciñas – gracias – thanks

estrañar – echar de menos – to miss

maruxiña – mariquita –  ladybird


The Galician Studies Centre in Cork, Ireland, has a Word of the Week feature on its blog, written in Galician and translated into English, which is here.

PS in other Galician language news, I liked this comment about a school project encouraging pupils to live in Galician for 21 days. Incidentally, this is the first article in “La voz de Galicia” that I’ve seen that is entirely written in Galician. A few that I saw were in Spanish with quotes from interviewees left in Galician.


Aí vén o Maio

April 30, 2018

Tomorrow bright and early (6:30 am or so) the Oxford Pandeireteiras will be singing a traditional Galician May song, Aí vén o Maio, on the steps of the Clarendon Building in Broad Street, with the Whirly Band. Here’s one of my photos from last year’s event:



oh, and a few other people will be out and about as well, doing various folk-y things …


Dance like a Galician

April 29, 2018

Today’s podcast of Un Pais Mundial includes a section about Alba and her Galician dance class in London, starting at around 17:00 mins:


and also a shoutout for our Oxford session …



Drowned days

April 23, 2018

The last screening of the Galician Film Series in Oxford, jointly organized by The John Rutherford Centre for Galician Studies (University of Oxford) and the Galician Film Forum (GFF)-London, is coming up this week:

Os días afogados -‘The Drowned Days’- (2014), by César Souto Vilanova and Luis Avilés Baquero

Screening: Galician with English subtitles

Friday 27th April, 5.15 pm. Main Hall, Taylor Institution (OX1 3NA), Oxford

free registration via EventBrite




Galicia v. Norway

April 21, 2018

We had an amazing mix of cultures at the open session of the Folk Weekend on Friday. Among other contributors there were half a dozen violinists from a Norwegian dance outfit (de Frilynde) and half a dozen Oxford Pandeireteiras, which made for an interesting cultural contrast. Here are the pandeireteiras performing Carmiña Carmela, with some of the Norwegians looking on bemused in the background.


The Norwegians were absolutely flawless in their prepared pieces but shy in joining in with things they didn’t know, so I have a suspicion they may be classical musicians travelling incognito …


April session(s)

April 18, 2018

The April edition of our Galician session / foliada is coming up next week, on Wed, 25.4., starting from 8:30pm, at the James Street Tavern as usual.

In the tenth session in the new sequence, we’ll again play lots of lovely tunes from our vast collection of Galician traditionals. The Oxford Pandeireteiras will play their tambourines and sing some of the songs they practise in their weekly classes. Sheet music will be provided for anybody who brings an instrument and wants to join in. Feel free to dance if you find space to move. A bag of miscellaneous percussion instruments is also on hand if you would like to rattle along with the rhythms.

Note that the Tavern has a 11:30 curfew for music activities, so the  session will close before that time with the traditional anthem of “Fisterra”. If you don’t have to leave earlier, it would be nice if you could stay for that.

For further info about the sessions and sharing audio and video recordings of the tunes we play, subscribe to this blog or join the Facebook group. There is also a mailing list for email reminders sent a week before the sessions.

Other events coming up:

This coming weekend, 20.-22.4 will of course see the amazing Folk Weekend Oxford, with lots of concerts, dance events and sessions. While there is no specifically Galician session in the programme, I can predict that some Galician tunes and songs will be played at the Open Session on Friday evening, 8pm till midnight, at the St. Aldates Tavern (first floor). Full programme for the weekend is here.

Then, on Tue 1.5. (May Morning) at some ridiculously early time like 6:30 am, the Oxford Pandeireteiras will be singing “O Maio” on the steps of the Clarendon Building, Broad Street, with the Whirly Band.


Illustration from the Cantigas de Santa Maria (wikimedia).

Galicia somos nós

April 14, 2018

lovely video combining hiphop choreography with the Muiñeira de Chantada, which is also part of our session repertoire (the version in the video is by Carlos Nuñez and the Chieftains). We’ll all dance it like that next time …

The lines recited at the beginning of the video are the tail end of the poem

Galicia, by Manuel Maria

Galicia é o que vemos:
a terra, o mar, o vento…
Pero hai outra Galicia
que vai no sentimento!

Galicia somos nós:
a xente e maila fala
Se buscas a Galicia
en ti tes que atopala!

BTW, Manuel Maria is also the author of the poem O carro, the song version of which is also in our session repertoire, although we haven’t sung it very often.