July 14, 2008
on the 2 January 1492 the Andaluz city of Granada fell to a besieging army of christian Celts and franks ending 750 years of Arab civilisation in the Iberian Peninsula. What had become a haven of learning, culture and tolerance met the kind of violent end that was to characterise christian expansion; with papal approval Arab, morisco (mixed christian and Arab) and Jewish populations were indiscriminately slaughtered, the libraries and universities torched…
To celebrate the occasion a pageant known as a ‘Moresca’ was devised; a Celtic dance describing the fate of the Moors (Arabs) at the hands of the victorious christians. The Moresca spread throughout christian Europe, changing name as it passed through regions and languages; morisques (F), moriskentanz (D), moreška (Ju), morisca i(I), arriving as ‘Morris’ in fifteenth century England.
Ever since, ‘Morris’ has been seen in the UK as quintessentially English in that peculiar way the English have of defining English-ness through foreign imports; St George (Turkish), Morris (Spanish), Royal Family (German), Churchill (half American), The Mini (Greek designer) – and why not, we are a mongrel race, despite what the BNP would have us believe…
Apart from a modern addition of the Concertina to the traditional line-up of pipe and drum , the musical form of Morris has changed little…until now. Breaking with ‘tradition’, radical new forms of Morris appear to be developing including ‘Goth Morris’ an obscure blend of satanic ritual and Morris dance which despite it’s neo pagan pretensions adheres rigidly to standard musical form. Conversely the more recently ‘Free Morris’ movement eschews all traditional form and is recognisable as true Morris only by retaining Morris-like instrumentation; concertinas, hand drums and flutes and the occasional symbolic items of clothing; blacked faces and orange ribbons; all else is obscured by a raucous field of free improvisation and spontaneous ‘dance’. Free Morris reveals by a process of cultural erosion the history of violence deeply embedded within Morris and thereby all nationalist tradition.
Hastings ‘jack in the Green’ (the home of ‘Free Morris’)
Mad jack Morris (typical reformist Morris)