Sound of Spain
Granada Festival Internacional de Musica y Danza
May 2007 - Barcelona’s festival offerings seem to get better with every passing year. There’s Primavera Sound with its solid rock line-up; Sónar, arguably the daddy of dance music events; and the theatre and music extravaganza, Festival Grec. Last year, the scene got even more crowded: newcomer Bestival staged a seriously credible line-up of rootsy blues, jazz and world music, while Summercase made its debut with a promising programme of rock, pop and dance.
However, Spain’s a big country, and there’s a whole lot of fun to be had in every corner of the country. Whether your tastes are ballet or breakbeat there’s something on offer; the only question is how many of those offerings your euros will allow.
Now in its 13th year, Benicassím is Spain’s answer to Glastonbury: a three-day bonanza of rock music with a healthy dose of dance music, drawing 30,000 revellers from all over Europe to a small seaside town near Valencia. While the logic of hosting an outdoor camping festival in the blazing July heat is dubious, the line-up is undeniably tempting: this year’s offerings include international heavyweights from the grandiose stadium rock of Muse to the eclectic techno of Carl Craig, name-checking the Arctic Monkeys, the Klaxons, Bright Eyes, the recently reformed Dinosaur Junior, Iggy Pop and the Stooges and a wealth of others.
The heat alone makes surviving Benicassím a feat of endurance, although there’s some respite to be had on the beach near the festival site. Canny locals tend to rent villas rather than going all-out for the festival experience and camping; for festival devotees of any nationality, Benicassím ‘07 promises to be another sweaty weekend of beer, bands and dancing in the sunshine.
Just remember to pack some sunblock.
San Sebastian Jazz Festival
The genteel Basque town of San Sebastian might not appear to have the smoky, jazzy glamour of New York, Chicago or Paris, but it’s certainly got something special. For over 40 years, Jazzaldia has been a fixture on the international jazz circuit, drawing legends such as Ray Charles, Miles Davies, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, and Charlie Mingus.
The festival offers a bit of everything, from beard-stroking art-jazz to big band, from gospel to meditative piano trios. There’s plenty on offer for the serious aficionado, but Jazzaldia isn’t overly purist in its attitude—there are also parties on the beach and in plazas, where danceable, upbeat jazz mixes with reggae and ska. This year’s lineup is as star-studded as it is wide-ranging, gathering together Neneh Cherry, Marcus Miller, Madeleine Peyroux and Elvis Costello, as well as the Gotan Project and dub hero Horace Andy.
Europride—Madrid Gay Pride Week
This year, the biggest event on Spain’s gay calendar is even bigger and more flamboyant than usual: Madrid’s Pride event has been chosen as the Europride event of the year, drawing performers, activists and party seekers from across the continent. The week-long festival, which attracts over a million visitors of all sexual orientations, features debates, round-table discussions and awards ceremonies concentrating on gay issues, while night-times are dominated by concerts, theatre performances, and party after party after party.
Most of the action takes place in and around the hip gay district of Chueca (often referred to as ‘the Soho of Madrid’), but the week culminates in a huge, exuberant parade through the city, with spectacular carnival-style floats leading the revellers. As a bonus, most events are free, meaning that this is a pretty cheap week for those who are organised enough to book hotels in advance.
June 22nd-July 1st
Granada Festival Internacional de Música y Danza
Granada’s highbrow contribution to Spain’s crowded festival calendar has a serious pedigree. Since its earliest incarnation in 1883 as a series of symphonic concerts marking Corpus Christi, the festival has mushroomed into a major cultural event, staging over a fortnight of ballet, opera, orchestral events and choral concerts in some of Spain’s most beautiful buildings. Now in its 56th year as a fully-fledged festival, many events are staged in the patios, gardens and palaces of the Alhambra, Granada’s stunning Moorish palace complex, while others are held in the Cathedral or in ancient monasteries.
This year’s festival celebrates the fin de siècle connection between Spain and Paris, examining the cosmopolitan, international ambience that drew Spanish composers and artists to Paris, as well as the raw, untamed—and untamable—nature that French composers of the time celebrated as something quintessentially Spanish. As every year, the Granada festival programme features the cream of Spanish orchestras and dance troupes; this year it also hosts the Orchestre de Paris, Béjart Ballet Lausanne, and the Ballet de l’Ópera de Bordeaux.
June 22nd–July 8th
Mar de Músicas Festival
Over the past decade, the sleepy southern port of Cartagena has been steadily building its reputation as the host of one of Spain’s biggest world music events, the Mar de Músicas. It’s not quite WOMAD, but the month-long festival casts its net far and wide, bringing everything from Polynesian women’s choirs to drum groups from Timbuktu, from Brazilian samba to Senegalese singers.
At the time of going to print this year’s performers had not yet been announced, but the invited country is Mexico. Previous editions have featured gigs by some of the finest musicians on the international scene. The names may not mean much to many readers, but musicians like Malian Afropop singer Salif Keita, Brazilian bossa nova star Bebel Gilberto, the uplifting husband-and-wife team Amadou & Mariam (also from Mali), and the ethereal Senegalese singer Baba Maal are all superstars on the world music stage—and with good reason.
The setting for Mar de Músicas is no less spectacular: the city’s Roman ruins and amphitheatres and ancient Arabic castles form an other-worldly backdrop for the artists.
July 6th-28th www.lamardemusicas.com