This weekend I went to the "Fira Mediterrània", a festival held in the nearby city of Manresa (the capital of the comarca - basically a county - where I am living) which consisted of music, dance and theatre from all across the Mediterranean. It was a great experience, and I got to watch and listen to some really good artists.
Although the events didn't start until 11am, I was in Manresa by about 9.20am due to the rather poor provision of public transport here on the weekends. Whereas during the week buses run between Artés and Manresa every half an hour or so until quite late, on Saturday this is reduced to a mere three buses going each way over the entire day! So my choices were either to arrive early or to arrive half way through all the events. Despite being on the verge of changing my mind when it was time to get up I dragged myself to the bus stop to get there before the start.
To be fair it was worth it. The main street of the city was lined with various stalls, ranging from local arts and crafts to various foodstuffs, and once things got going there were lots of people about, which combined with the several musical acts that played in the streets made for a great atmosphere.
I started the day off by going to a concert by "Grollers de Sa Factoria", a group from the Balearic Islands who played a mixture of funk, rock and folk music, followed by another group from the Balearic Islands called "Xaloc Música", who played a more traditional-sounding set. After these two concerts I strolled around the city listening to the aforementioned bands playing in various plazas, including a brass band listed as being from "Occitania" and another group comprised of musicians from France and the Maghreb. In a small plaza slightly out of the centre there was a concert which was described in the programme as "improvised song", which turned out to be five Catalans sitting around a table on a stage playing simple music and making up pretty nonsensical lyrics as they went.
As I was watching this (and considering whether or not I should queue for the free paella that was being offered) it began to rain heavily. This was probably only the third time it has rained since I arrived, so I can't really complain, but since it was on a day when I was outside and enjoying a festival it was a bit of a pain! I left the concert and found a sheltered place to have some lunch until the rain stopped.
The afternoon events started with a performance by "PerkImBa", a group of mainly young people whose name comes from the mixture of the words "Percussion", "Improvisation" and "Ballet". The name pretty much explains it all - the show consisted of an elaborate dance involving the use of drums and a few other instruments. I wasn't expecting much (I went as it was the only event on at the time), but it was actually a mesmerising and impressive performance. By the end there was a large crowd of spectators, and the applause lasted for a fair while.
After this I went to a really good concert called "Mar Mur", which was put on by a group of musicians from Italy and the Paisos Catalans. It had a unifying theme of immigration and the exchange of cultures across the Mediterranean, and lyrics in both Catalan and Occitan. I finished the day off with a concert by a Valencian singer who goes by the stage name of "Botifarra", and who is supposedly very well known here. It was another good concert, even if I couldn't understand the stories and jokes he was telling between songs (apart from the one joke he decided to tell in Spanish instead of Catalan). I returned today for a couple of hours with the family I'm living with to watch a couple more concerts by two Catalan folk groups, "21 BOuTONS" and "Randalleries".
It was all good fun, and very interesting to see different artists from the various cultures that surround the Mediterranean.
Incidentally, for those of you who have expressed jealousy at one point or another at the fact I am in a warm country, you can stop now. Winter has arrived in Catalonia, and it feels bloody freezing. Some areas have even had snow.