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Music of the Brotherhoods

Music of the Brotherhoods

Music of the Brotherhoods


Sounds are an essential part of Holy Week in Málaga. There’s even room for flamenco through the saeta, a specific style of singing, with unclear and ancient origins, which are sung as the images pass by.

These extremely difficult songs have been dignified by many people in Málaga: Antonio de Canillas, María La Faraona, Niño de Bonela, Cándido de Málaga, and many others who continue to sing the saeta as the processions pass by in Málaga.

Special mention should be made of the Peña Recreativa Trinitaria, a key institution to the survival of the saeta during Holy Week in Málaga. Its saeta contest, created in 1976, is one of the oldest competitions in local culture, one that has been witness to the best voices from Andalusia's flamenco scene.


The processional marches provide the main soundtrack of Holy Week. Today there are numerous bands or groups that play them, and they are classified under a certain musical genre. Although there are nuances within it, broadly speaking they encompass music for horns and drums, music for a musical ensemble, music for a band and chapel music.

Bands of horns and drums, although traditionally in Málaga they have marched at the head of the procession, starting in the 1990s, their presence with some platforms bearing thrones of Christ became commonplace. It is with these thrones that the musical ensembles march. Finally, the music band also marches behind the thrones bearing Christ and, unfailingly, with the thrones bearing the Virgin. Chapel music on Easter week is featured in just one brotherhood, but it also abounds in acts during Lent. In this case, they always march in front of the images, and never behind.

Horns and drums

Music for horns and drums was created in Málaga through to the appearance in 1911 of the band of the Royal Firefighters Corps, which is considered the ‘mother and teacher’ of this style of Easter music. The main figure in the genre is Alberto Escámez, a military musician from Linares who, starting in the 1920s, began to compose pieces that today remain the most played in the style, such as ‘Cristo del Amor’ (Christ of Love), ‘Virgen de la Paloma’ (Virgin of the Dove) or ‘La Expiración’ (The Expiration), among many others.

A branch came out of the horns and drums style in the 1990s mainly thanks to four bands from the province of Seville: El Sol, Las Tres Caídas, and Las Cigarreras in Málaga; and La Presentación al Pueblo, in Dos Hermanas. In them (and in many that would be founded in Andalusia and Spain in their wake), as well as in the compositions that they premiered, other instruments that in the past were limited to accompanying the main voice of the cornets, such as trombones, tubas or, more recently, tubular bells and cymbals, began to take centre stage. This outgrowth of the classical band of horns and drums is the one that prevails today, and is increasingly similar to the genre of musical ensemble.

Musical ensembles

The musical ensemble is a genre that emerged in Seville in the early 1970s, first played by the bands of the Armed Police and the Civil Guard of the Barracks of Eritaña. Their marches are characterised by the presence of bass, cymbals and peculiar instruments such as the lyre or the peak flute, and they became especially popular with marches adapted from religious or popular songs, such as ‘Perdona a tu pueblo’, sardanas such as ‘La Santa Espina’ or Serrat's well-known song ‘La Saeta’.

In Málaga's Holy Week, this genre was first introduced in the 90s with the presence of ensembles from the province of Arahal in Seville - where the current authority in this genre, the musical ensemble Santa María Magdalena, is from -, Marchena and Morón de la Frontera in brotherhoods such as Rocío, Fusionadas, la Sagrada Cena or Ecce Homo. It would take a while for the city's first musical ensemble to be founded, San Lorenzo Mártir, of the Viñeros brotherhood, which started in 2007. It remains the only one of its kind in Málaga today.

Music bands

Marching songs for music band are the oldest and constitute the original accompaniment of Easter processions. There are documented processions with bands as early as the 19th century. The presence of the municipal band starting in 1859 undoubtedly influenced this musical presence during Holy Week.

In terms of brotherhood members, we would be remiss not to mention Perfecto Artola, the main composer of processional marching songs for the city, and author of emblematic pieces such as ‘Holy Week in Málaga. Symphonic Poem’, ‘Hymn of Coronation of the Virgin of Hope’ and ‘Virgin of Grace’. Artola founded the music band of the Miraflores and Gibraljaire schools, which, especially from the 1980s on, would revolutionise a Holy Week in which only military bands and the municipal band contributed music to certain processions (MENA, Students, Expiration and the Holy Sepulchre).

The influence of the Miraflores-Gibraljaire band was such that today, Málaga has a huge number of music bands, and all of them have ties to brotherhoods, schools and associations. Practically all their members are young, and there are no examples of adult and professional bands, beyond the municipal band.

Chapel music

Chapel music is the oldest of all the formations that go out on Holy Week. It is a group of wind instruments that play brief motets to help the public and the Nazarenes in the procession meditate. Although they were common in past centuries, today only the Archfraternity of the Sorrows of Saint John uses it in its Good Friday procession.
In the brotherhoods, the chapel music formation consists of an oboe, a bassoon and a clarinet. In Málaga, the Dolores de San Juan added the flute to these instruments, which gives personality and sweetness to the compositions they play. At this point, we should mention the role of the priest and musician Manuel Gámez, one of the great advocates of this genre that, although isolated decades ago, is today a mainstay in the intimate acts of Lent in the brotherhoods.

Música cofrade