Header Banner - Google Adsense

The Verdiales Music Festival

Fun for all the family at the Verdiales Music Festival. © Michelle Chaplow .
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 Music competition taking place right outside Málaga City. The festival brings 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.

Ornate hats © Michelle Chaplow
Ornate hats

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.
Intricate foot movements.

The Verdiales dance is for couples, and involves a lot of leaping. Each song is structured 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 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 from early afternoon until the evening on December 28 in the Puerto de la Torre district of Malaga. This is 15 mins from Malaga city centre on the A-7075 road towards Almogía. The A-7 motorway also provides an easy access junction at km 235 from the east or west Costa del Sol or Antequera. Malaga municipal Bus lines 21 and 62 pass the venue. The current venue is Parque Andres Jimenez Diaz which is also now called Parque de los Verdiales.

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.

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. The traditional headgear and multi-coloured finery makes this a particularly festive event.

This authentic competition, which celebrated its 57th edition in 2021. The organising association is sponsored by Malaga Town Hall for about 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 competition has improved infrastructure with a permanent stage in the auditorium in the park complimented by plastic chairs, catering and portaloos. In spite of being recognised as a 'Bien de Interés Cultural de España' in 2010 it makes no concession to tourists such as signage or explanations adding to the discovery flavour. The Verdiales festival 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.

Pevious locations

The best known and most natural festival site was that used from 1988 to 2010. This was withing the grounds of La Venta de San Cayetano until the Venta (roadside cafe) closed due to the construction of the A-7 motorway. Many still lament the loss of this natural location. In 2010 and 2011 it was held in Recinto Ferial of Malaga.

In 2012 it was moved to 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 criticised by both bands and spectators leading to a long debate in the Malaga Council Chamber in Nov 2013.

It was hoped that it could move in a permanent location in the Parque de Andrés Jiménez in Puerto de la Torre, although the need for a weather proof venue delayed this. Consequently since 2013 it was held in a marque at the nearby Feria Ground, Puerto de la Torre. Malaga.

In 2020 the festival was cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic and instead a 'Tribute to the Verdiales' was held at the Teatro Cervantes in Malaga city.

Finally in 2021 it finally moved to a permanent location in the Parque de Andrés Jiménez in Puerto de la Torre.

If you are unable to attend at this time of year go for the smaller Fiesta Tradicional de Verdiales, in Benagalbón, Rincon de la Victoria, and Villanueva de la Concepcion on or about 21st September.

2011 Video

As can be seen on the video below, whild the competition is taken place other pandas break into sponteneous practice in every corner of the park.

Booking.com

Admission

Free

Location

Auditorium in Parque Andres Jimenez Diaz also called Parque de los Verdiales.