In Spain, a Tuna is a group of university students in traditional university dress who wander the streets playing traditional instruments and singing serenades. The tradition originated in Spain and Portugal in the 13th century as a means of students to earn money or food.
The name Tuna comes from French roi de Thunes, or “King of Tunis”, a title used for leaders of a gang of vagabonds. But there is also a legend of a real King of Tunis, known for his love of making music and partying, who would walk around the streets at night with a group of friends, playing and singing.
In Medieval times, the Sopistas (soup beggars) would use their musical talents to entertain people in exchange for a coin and a bowl of soup (sopa, in Spanish, hence the name Sopistas). They would also play their music under the windows of the ladies they wished to court.
From its origins in the 13th century to the present day, the Tunas have continued the use of traditional instruments such as the bandurria, lute, Spanish guitar and pandeiro.
The Tunas, or Sopistas, were poor students who used their music, friendly personalities and craftiness for cheap eats or for a few coins in the eating-houses, convents, streets, and squares. They are known for their flowing capes with patches representing their travels around the globe, and their colorful ribbons that are purported to represent all the times their admirers “swiped right.”
The Tuna tradition is kept alive to this day by troupes from all over Spain, each one manned by alumnus of a particular university. Tuna de Derecho hails from Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, and they are known as one of the most accomplished Tunas in all of Spain.