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Two-hundred years ago, in 1810, Mexico declared independence from Spain. But for three centuries before then, Mexican culture was woven from Spanish and indigenous traditions.

Now, Spanish musician Jordi Savall is exploring that hybrid with the help of a group of Mexican musicians.

Betto Arcos has the story.

BETTO ARCOS: It's fitting that Jordi Savall met the Mexican group Tembembe Ensamble Continuo in Guanajuato, one of Mexico's oldest colonial cities.

(Soundbite of music)

ARCOS: The new album, "El Nuevo Mundo," is a reflection on the music born when two cultures collided in the New World.

(Soundbite of music)

ARCOS: Jordi Savall says it's important to remember several things about this encounter. First, when the Spaniards landed they brought with them Africans.

Mr. JORDI SAVALL (Musician): The Africans was the slaves in this - they had to do the most difficult works. And then come the Indians, the natives people, and the music that we still today are singing in the baroque music at the end of the renaissance is a mix of this confluence of old Spain, African rhythmical and songs, and Indian influences - all this mixed together.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified People: (Singing in foreign language).

ARCOS: One of the music styles the Spaniards brought with them is Son, created in the 16th Century. Guitarist Eloy Cruz, one of the founding members of Tembembe Ensamble Continuo says it flourished and changed in Mexico

Mr. ELOY CRUZ (Musician): We take old sones, we call them sones, pieces for baroque guitar from 17th- and 18th-century manuscripts, and we put this music together with sones that are from today, that are alive today.

And they just work perfectly together. It's just like one single piece, but it's always a pair of pieces, one from 17th-century Spain, another from 21st-century Mexico.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #1: (Singing in foreign language)

ARCOS: Cruz says this collaboration with Jordi Savall not only creates a bridge across cultures but across time.

Mr. CRUZ: It's not a confluence, not a meeting of different forms, of kinds of music. It's one and the same.

(Soundbite of song, "El Cielito Lindo")

ARCOS: This piece, called "El Cielito Lindo," starts with a Cumbes, a dance by Santiago de Murcia, one of many composers who came to the New World.

De Murcia was a Spanish guitarist who lived in Mexico in the early 1700s. He absorbed the indigenous musical traditions and began to compose informed by his experience, says Jordi Savall.

Mr. SAVALL: We use the music from Santiago de Murcia, like many other music from this period, to make the bridge to the ancient to the New World.

(Soundbite of music)

ARCOS: Savall points out that Spanish music before 1492 was very different. He says many people don't realize that as soon as 50 years after the encounter, the musical language of Spain, and by extension Europe, was forever changed.

Mr. SAVALL: Fifty years after this, in Spain, we invented Chaconas, Folias, Jacaras, Seguidillas, all lot of the dances, who they had never exist before and dances that were so exciting and so beautiful and so different from everything. And this was in Spain. And I think this has a very strong relation with this meeting between the old Spain and the New World.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #2: (Singing in foreign language)

ARCOS: Jordi Savall says this music shows the diverse influences of all the cultures coming together in the Americas. And he says that's one of the most positive aspects of the tragic encounter between Spain and the New World.

Eloy Cruz of the Ensamble Continuo says this musical collaboration is an opportunity for Spanish people to see themselves through Latin American music.

Mr. CRUZ: It's like they spread their seed out in the world, and now they are finding pieces of themselves that they thought to be lost to be very much alive and healthy in the other side of the ocean.

ARCOS: The same might be true for Latin Americans.

For NPR News, I'm Betto Arcos.

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