|Fun for all the family at the Verdiales Music Festival.|
The Verdiales Music Festival of málaga
December 28th, right smack in the middle of the Spanish Christmas season, we have the annual Verdiales competitions taking place right outside Málaga City. The festival will bring together competing “pandas” as they are known. These are groups that practice one of three different forms of Verdiales singing accompanied by their traditional folk dance and unforgettable costumes. Agility seems to be one of the top requirements for the couples who provide their performances in leaps and bounds…
Verdiales is a form of flamenco that first developed century ago in the Los Verdiales olive-growing region north of Málaga, near Almogía. It's also one of the earliest forms of fandango, and still undergoing a process known in Spanish as “ aflamencomiento”, or “flamencoisation”. In other words, this is an original folk song form that has been slowly adopted into the flamenco tradition and its many houses but still retains its distinctive character.
The name comes from a specific type of olive, the “verdial”, grown in the region. The word “verdiales” derives from the Latin for verdant, or green ("verde" in Spanish) and flourishing. Flamenco scholars describe this type of song as either a "fandango alegre" (happy) or a "malagueño", which is a particular country dance associated with the city and the region.
The origin of Verdiales is uncertain, but like much of Andalucían culture, it probably has roots in the Arabic music introduced by the Berbers in the eighth century. It is a music intended to be danced to, and is common at village weddings, communions and other celebrations. The predominant instruments are guitar, violin, castanets, and the lute. The groups who perform it are known as “pandas”, and their songs are usually happy and simple, marked by a passionate cry of 'ay' and vigorous clicking of the fingers. At times, villagers would improvise instruments from domestic objects, such as pots or pans, or agricultural materials such as wood and sugar cane. Traditionally, the members of the panda wear costumes of unusual headgear decked with flowers and also festooned with mirrors, bells, beads and coloured ribbons - the Spanish equivalent, perhaps, of England's Morris dancers.
|Intricate foot movements.|
The Verdiales dance is for couples, and involves a lot of leaping. Each song is strucgtured in the form of three "coplas", or verses, in which there are specified dance moves, gestures, and finger clicks. It tends to be performed by more agile dancers, and is quite strenuous.
In the hills north of Málaga, there are three types of Verdiales to be seen and heard: Almogía, Montes, and Comares, in a sense these are dialects of the music and dance as they developed in those particular villages and outlying districts.
|The tambourine plays an important role in the Verdiales musical bands.|
The Almogía version of Verdiales is the most energetic, with the violinist leading the other performers. In the Montes school of Verdiales, the chief instrument is the tambourine.
Many of the villages have annual Verdiales festivals, normally in summertime. In Almogía, for example, it happens at the beginning of August. Tourism offices will have details of all these festivals.
Fiesta Mayor de Verdiales
The main festival of Verdiales, however, is the Fiesta Mayor de Verdiales, which traditionally takes place on December 28 in Puerto de la Torre, 15 mins from Malaga on the A7075 road to Almogía. The new A7 motorway provides an easy access from the Costa del Sol or Antequera.
25 Pandas (Verdiales Groups) from local villages compete on a stage in the three categories. Almogia, Montes and Comares. Each group of about 20 persons performs 3 routines. The 'Group' will features a group dance lead by a young member vigorously swirling the two sided Andalucian and Spanish Flag. The band's conductor swinging a tasselled baton. The 'Pair' features a dancing pairs. The 'Three' features three members in a dance. The judges, by holding up cards, vote for both music & song and dance. The home team "Raices de Malaga" has the most support. Listen to 50 sec sample.
Equally interesting, and perhaps also more authentic, are the impromptu practice and jamming sessions among the musicians, where they perform this particularly passionate rhythmic music with the assistance of bottles of potent Málaga sweet wine and aguardiente (literally, fire water) passed from hand to hand.Listen to 25 sec sample. The traditional headgear and multi-coloured finery makes this a particularly festive event.
This authentic competition, which celebrated its 50th edition in 2012. The organising association is sponsored by Malaga Town Hall for 120,000€ a year mainly for this event. Refreshingly it lacks modern commercial influences such as adverts for soft drinks and beer everywhere. These days the event is very well organised, with the stage under a large marquee and plastic seating, catering and portaloos. Inspite of being recognised as a 'Bien de Interes Cultural de España' in 2010 it makes no consession to tourists such as sinage or explanations adding to the discovery flavour. It should be on the top ten list of any curious traveller.
December 28th is 'dia de los inocentes' in Spain equivalent to April Fools Day in UK.
It was held in the grounds of La Venta de San Cayetano from 1988 to 2010 until the Venta (roadside cafe) closed due to the construction of the A7 motorway. Many lament the loss of this natural location. In 2010 and 2011 it was held in Recinto Ferial, Puerto de la Torre (district of Malaga) and it was hoped that it will move in a permanent location in the Parque de Andrés Jiménez in Puerto de la Torre, although the need for an weather proof venue complicates matters.
In view of this in 2012 it was held in the spacious Parque Periurbano La Concepción (north of the Jardin Botanico-Historico de Malaga La Concepción ). The format was different. Bands performed on three different stages located on three 'pergolas' in the park. There were three teams of judges for the three different music categories; Almogia, Montes and Comares. This location was heavily critisized by both bands and spectators leading to a long debate in the Malaga council chamber in Nov 2013 consequently since 2013 it has been held in a marque at Feria Ground, Puerto de la Torre, Malaga. (near Calle Pirita)
In 2015, it will was held in Puerto de la Torre feria ground again from12.00 and continued until about 21.00 hrs.
If you are unable to attend at this time of year go for the smaller Fiesta Tradicional de Verdiales, in Bebagalabon, Rincon de la Victoria, Malaga on or about 21st September.
Below is a video of the 2011 Festival from our YouTube channel.