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Egyptian Fandango

Speaking of Horace Weston, Champion Banjoist of the World, I have done a recording/video of his superawesome 1882 song “Egyptian Fandango.”

MP3: Lucas Gonze channelling Horace Weston via “Egyptian Fandango”

Also: AIF, FLAC, and Ogg Vorbis.

Fandango means “A lively Spanish dance in triple time performed with castanets or tambourines. The dance begins slowly and tenderly, the rhythm marked by the clack of castanets, snapping of fingers, and stomping of feet. The speed gradually increases to a whirl of exhilaration.”

It’s a great little composition with a lot of spooky flavor. Very Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Weston was a sophisticated musician.

The harmony dips into both blues and classical. I hear Paganini *and* Rev. Gary Davis. As an example of classical harmony, at the center of the piece is a dissonant chord in A minor spelled b-f#-g-d; notice the f# and g right next to each other, without even an octave between them to help them get along. As an example of blues harmony, he uses V minor (E minor) and V dominant (E7) interchangeably, without modulating, which makes the third a blue note.

Rhythmically it plays a subtle game with a strong offbeat and weak downbeat: 1 *2* 3 *4*. This was ten years ahead of ragtime and thirty ahead of jazz, and it’s clearly an antecedent.

A wonderful and special thing about Weston is that as a gifted and educated free black man in a time of poverty and intense ghettoization he was able to write his own story and document his times for himself. Very few black people were empowered to do that. And what do you find? The advanced rhythmic techniques that characterize all African-American genres _and_ mastery of European music theory.

Here’s the sheet music I worked from, which I got from the Library of Congress:

sheet music for Egyptian Fandango by Horace Weston

In terms of my own playing here, I feel good about how it came out. I like the way the time ebbs and flows, and I like the brightness of the tone. There are no bad spots or mistakes. Also, I feel like I succeeded in bringing out the weird and awesome combo of blues and classical. But the recording is too short to really succeed. I feel like I needed to get at least two minutes out it to have something that people would listen to for its own sake.

The one good thing about the shortness is that this would be a natural soundtrack for a Flickr video, since Flickr videos can’t be longer than a minute and a half.

Anyhow, you’re welcome to remix my recording here, as well as download it, upload it, and tattoo it on your behind. It’s in the public domain.


To the extent possible under law, Lucas Gonze
has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to
Egyptian Fandango.
This work is published from
United States.

6 replies on “Egyptian Fandango”

This is a very good listen. I love the way that the banjo can show so much color in the dissonance. I’ve been listening to Nigel North’s take on old English lute melodies lately, and now wonder how this would sound on a lute.

Love your work, bringing these amazing old pieces of American music to life, and giving us some great historical contexts about the composers. Thank you! I wanted to ask, as a new guitar player, I can’t tell what tuning you’re using. Could you please tell me what the tuning is? I see the publisher gives fingerings for the Egyptian fandango. Many, many thanks! I really look forward to playing this music on my own dobro! Dan

Hey Dan, thanks for stopping by.

This is a neat piece of music and I’m glad another player noticed it. I mean, flamenco influence on roots americana? Huh?

Anyhow the fingerings in the original are for classic banjo. Those tunings are super quirky. In this song you can tell how differing those tunings are from guitar because the original chord voicings are fingerbusters.

Are you going to play it on lap style dobro? That would be amazing. If you make any recordings I’d love to hear how you approached the tune.

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