Friday, 24 June 2016

Singing the gozos

Let us begin with the obvious question: What are gozos? Let us answer this at the linguistic level first. In Spanish, gozos literally mean joys, expressions of gladness. Its etymology is mercifully uncomplicated. The singular of this word traces its origin to the Latin gaudium. The Septem Gaudia Beatæ Mariæ Virginis in Latin, which are the Seven Joys of Mary in English, are called the Siete Gozos de María in Spanish. Often, in Catholic mentality, gaudia exist in duality with dolores, as in the Seven Sorrows of Mary.

Literally, therefore, gozos are ouvertures of rejoicing and exuberance.

Now, our question largely remains unanswered. What, then, are gozos? These are what the blog Gogistes valencians curate in order to spread their use as a treasure of the past. The extent to which this blog has studied, catalogued and promoted the gozos has earned for it the rightful moniker of Gozopedia. 


Let us translate the definition provided by the contributors of the blog as to the nature and character of the gozos:
The gozos (Castilian), goigs (Catalan) or gojos (Valencian), are popular poetic compositions that are sung in honour of the Virgin, Christ, or the saints. They are sung in the context of an important religious act, such as the Mass of a great feast, a procession, or the blessing of an image, etc. Its goal is to render thanksgiving for received blessings, or as a entreaty for a petition of protection against evil. Of a written or oral character, they trace their origin back to the Middle Ages, and are preserved in most cases in documents of great artistic value which we are attempting to collect, dignify, and show here.
Historically, devotionally, and artistically, gozos are votive prayers.

Valencian gojos in honour of
Our Lady of Miracles

In the Philippines, the gozos are almost exclusively sung within the context of a novena. Its structure is antiphonal, that is, it is usually sung in two parts, the verses by the leader of the novena, the refrain by the rest. In music, it is strophic, meaning all its verses is set to the same tune or melody.

Gozos from the Ilocano novena
in honour of Saint Raymond Nonnatus


The copla is treated as the refrain of the gozos, but this can be misleading. The copla is typically composed of four lines. The last two lines of the copla is called the estribillo, and these are the ones that are normally repeated after each verse.

Untouched gozos from the Cebuano novena
in honour of the Holy Child of Cebu
(copla and estribillo highlighted)

If there are only two lines, then the entire copla is repeated after each verse.

Gozos from the Cebuano novena
in honour of the Holy Cross
with two-line copla


The estrofas are the verses of the gozos. It can have a minimum of four lines, a standard number of six lines, and a maximum number of eight lines (two sets of four lines). If the estrofa has the standard six lines, the last two lines are called the letrilla, and these, together with the estribillo of the copla, are sung as the refrain.

Untouched gozos from the Cebuano novena
in honour of the Holy Child of Cebu
(estrofa and letrilla highlighted)

If there are only four lines, the entire copla is repeated after each verse.

Gozos from the Cebuano novena
in honour of Saint John the Baptist
with four-line estrofas

If there are eight lines, the repetition will then depend on the established tradition of the place.

Gozos from the Hiligaynon novena
in honour of Saint John the Baptist
with eight-line estrofas

The gozos exist as the dalit in Tagalog areas, and these are either recited or sung.

Dalit from the Tagalog novena
in honour of the Holy Cross of Bauan

Same dalit sung in honour of the Holy Cross of Tunasán

In the Visayas, the tradition is quite robust. Even, San Pedro Calungsod, the newest Filipino saint, has gozos in his novena, although, metrically, it bears no semblance whatsoever to the authentic form of the gozos. Let us end this, therefore, with the Hiligaynon gozos in honour of Saint Roch.

Gozos from the Hiligaynon novena
in honour of Saint Roch

Same gozos sung in honour of Saint Roch

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

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