“The tunas are coming! The tunas are coming!” This is no fisherman’s cry in Spain. It heralds the arrival of dozens of groups of men, dressed up in antiquated minstrel-like outfits, equipped with guitars, tambourines and sonorous voices ready to serenade the people.
About the tunas: One of our Spanish friends, Patricia, told us that these fraternities of singing men are connected to the universities. Each university department may have its own tuna. Both current students and students long-graduated can be in the tuna. Tunas are all over Spain, not just Andalucía. They sing special folkloric songs, and sometimes Christmas carols (villancicos in Spanish) during this time of year. Their outfits consist of a tunic with puffy sleeves, short pants with tights, a sash covered in badges each representing one of their many travels and a cape adorned with a bevy of ribbons gifted them by their moms, aunts, girlfriends, lovers…
The whole group of players and singers together is called a tuna, while just one member is called a tuno. We were told by our Spanish friends to beware the tunas- they have quite the Don Juan reputation. At the same time, the Spanish girls seem to love the tunas. “There’s a tuno!” “Tunos! Tunos!” were the excited whispers heard in the bars and streets.
We were privy to both a small serenade by 2 tunos to a couple of the Spanish girls we were with, and a grand spontaneous concert by a whole tuna in a small street behind our apartment. Both were impressive. Both were surreal moments. Both were jarring reminders that we are in Spain. It’s amazing to see a 13th-century tradition alive and thriving!
To watch the tunos in action, check out this tape I was able to take of them singing a song about Sevilla:
I hope you enjoy the video!