‘Amic, Amat’: Mallorca’s María del Mar Bonet covers Bruce Springsteen

‘Amic, Amat’ – PICAP, Sabadell, Catalunya (Spain), 2004 CD 91 0400-03 – is the remarkable new album by the Mallorca-born, Catalan-language singer Maria del Mar Bonet. The music is a fusion of Catalan/Iberian and Arabic/Syrian elements (with Catalan musicians); the 14 tracks range from settings of from medieval Catalan poems (Ramon Llull as reinterpreted by Jacint Verdaguer) through Al-Andalus and traditional Turkish material to the biblical Song of Songs … and Bruce Springsteen. The album as a whole is dedicated to a notion of East-West, ancient and modern musical fusion harking back to the eclecticism of Moorish Spain. It does not, though, stand aside from the existence of today’s hegemonic Anglophone popular music, and indeed scores a triumphant coup here, integrating into its texture what must be the most surprising Springsteen cover ever – a Catalan adaptation (by Albert Garcia, as ‘Mons apart’) of ‘Worlds Apart’, a track from 2002 and ‘The Rising’. And it works, too – indeed, it fits like a glove. On Springsteen’s post-11-9 reconciliation opus, ‘Worlds Apart’ had a special status as the only song directly dealing with Islam, representing a love scene between a Muslim and a Westerner (which could either be a same-gender or a different-gender encounter, depending whether one reads the narrator as male or female). The song reaches out across cultural barriers, while also implying that both cultures have to show some flexibility if they are to communicate. Springsteen writes: ‘We’ll let blood build a bridge over mountains draped in stars / I’ll meet you on the ridge between these worlds apart’. The arrangement on ‘Amic, Amat’ takes its cue from the ‘oriental chant’ opening of the original and extends the ‘eastern’ formula to the whole of the song, enveloping it in a swathe of Mediterranean-Arab sound similar to that on the rest of the album. The instrumentation includes accordeon, lute, classical guitar, lute and Arabic darbouka and saz. Maria del Mar Bonet’s vocals are, as always, of remarkable warmth and lushness, and merge gently into a choral back-up. This is a remarkable track on a remarkable album. Bonet has done Springsteen proud, and Springsteen has done Bonet proud. Much more could, I believe, be written about this recording as a successful gesture towards intercultural understanding, which affirms local particularities while not ignoring Anglo-American globalised realities. Indeed I cannot recommend the whole album highly enough – Bruce Springsteen in Catalan is quite a revelation!

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