By late 1973, Marc Bolan's star was waning fast. No longer gunning out those effortless classics which established him as the most important figure of the decade so far, he embarked instead on a voyage of musical discovery, which cast him so far adrift from the commercial pop mainstream that when his critics said he'd blown it, he didn't even bother answering them back. Or that's the way it appeared at the time, and today, too, it must be acknowledged that 1974's Zinc Alloy & the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow is not classic Bolan, even if one overlooks the transparency of its title. After all, hadn't Bowie already done the Fictional Someone & the Somethings from Somewhere routine? Indeed he had, as his fans kept remarking at the time, and when the knives began slashing Zinc Alloy to shreds, that was one of the fiercest wounds.
Hespèrion XXI was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2001 for their double album Diáspora Sefardí, a collection of vocal works and instrumental pieces dating from the 15th century when the Jews were expelled from parts of Spain. The Sephardic Diaspora refers to this Jewish exodus in 1492 when King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella commanded that all Jews who refused to convert to Christianity be expelled from Castile and Aragon in modern-day Spain. An estimated 100,000 Jews fled to North Africa, lands of the Ottoman empire (particularly Turkey and Greece), and other European countries such as France, Italy, and Portugal. These exiles brought with them unique culture, language, and traditions. The resultant marriage of influences from the Sephardic Jews’ old and new homes is reflected in Hespèrion XXI’s two-disc set, Diáspora Sefardí. The selections on the album depict not only surviving traditions of medieval Hispanic music but also the influence of sophisticated musical forms which developed in the Ottoman empire during the 16th century.