Fuenllana: Passeavase (paseàbase) el roy moro

Fuenllana: Passeavase (paseàbase) el roy moro Until a few weeks ago I had never heard of Miguel de Fuenllana (c. 1500 – 1579). Although blind he became a court musician to the Spanish and, later, Portuguese royal families. Most of his large body of works is for vihuela (which was built like a guitar but tuned like a lute), but he wrote 9 pieces for 4-course guitar (and hence suitable for the ukulele).

I find it difficult to appreciate his music, which I admit is my own fault. He wrote in a linear, contrapuntal, academic style, with the harmonies arising from the overlapping lines. In contrast, the song entabulations by Le Roy et al. were often based on grounds (chord sequences), and are more familiar to our modern ears.

When I play arrangements of his pieces using simulated MIDI instruments such as the flute or fiddle, I can hear the harmonies emerge. When the same piece is played on a plucked instruments, it inevitably sounds like a succession of chords with connecting notes. Quite a challenge to interpret!

The first two lines of Fuenllana’s original.
The tablature is in the Spanish-Italian format, with the lower string on top.
The red numerals are the instrumental notes that ± duplicate the sung notes.

Fuenllana has been quoted as saying “words are the soul of any composition”, so presumably he intended his song arrangements (for vihuela and guitar) to be played as an accompaniment to the singer. I have therefore included the song to the present transcription, which makes the whole thing more understandable. It would help to learn the tune.

In voicing, I have emphasised the melody to the original air (indicated by red numerals in the original) by note stems pointing up, whereas all other voices have stems pointing down. This is obviously not possible for semi-breves / whole-notes, but fortunately after the introductory (instrument-only) 9 bars, all such notes on the top line are part of the melody.

The piece is set in the Phrygian mode – the use of keys is a later musical development – which on the piano can be heard (but not in the same key as on the ukulele) by playing a scale on the white keys starting on E. The melancholic mood is appropriate to the sentiment of the song (see below).

You can download for free in the following formats:

  • pdf
  • TablEdit
  • MIDI

[Arrangements updated on 30 Sept 2019 to correct a misprint in bar 22.]



 Paseábase el rey … tells a story of the struggle that took place between the
 Catholic and Moorish forces in Spain. The text reflects the Moorish perspective, their
 king [actually, caliph] expressing his anguish at having lost Alhama [in] Granada , their last fortress in Spain. EGA1.

In 1482, the fortress town was taken from the Moorish Sultanate and Kingdom of Granada by the Catholic Monarchs. Alhama’s position between Málaga and Granada gave it strategic importance for the Moors but they also had a particular fondness for the town and its thermal waters and hot springs.The cry of sorrow, “¡Ay de mi Alhama!”, uttered by Abu Al-Hacen (Abu l-Hasan Ali, Sultan of Granada) following the battle … entered the Spanish language as an exclamation of regret. Wikipedia.


(from EGA1)

Paseábase el rey moro 
Por la ciudad de Granada.
Cartas le fueron venidas 
Como Alhama etra ganada.
Ay! Mi Alhama! 
Como Alhama etra ganada 
Ay! Mi Alhama! 

The Moorish king was walking
Through the city of Granada.
Letters had come to him
About how Alhama had been taken.
Alas! my Alhama!
About how Alhama had been taken.
Alas! my Alhama!


“Orphenica lyra”, libro sexto, p 163v, 1554.
Facsimiles at

Having transcribed this piece from the facsimilies, I was informed by the transcriptions for classical guitar by

  • Keith Calmes: Guitar music of the 16th Century, 2008, Mel Bay Publications, and
  • Charles Wolzien & Frank Bliven: Early Guitar Anthology, I, The Renaissance, c.1540-1580. [EGA1], available to download at: http://www.guitarlessonz.com/earlyguitaranthology/EGA_Renaissance-I.htm. This has a helpful musical analysis of the piece.

Tags: #fuenllana #paseabase #passeavase

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