If music festivals could be used as a barometer to measure the fortunes of its host city, then we would say that the gods are smiling on Barcelona. The year-on-year growth of Barnasants, an annual tribute to the art of lyric writing and song composition that veers strongly towards Catalan and Spanish musicians while always finding space for singer-songwriters from around the globe, which is now celebrating its 15th edition, continues apace: this year there will be almost 40 more performers appearing than in 2009, a greater number of venues and, for the first time, prizes will be awarded.
Barnasants has always been about honouring the hard work and talent that go into an artist writing their own songs, both words and music, in the face of the success of those ‘factory-made’ acts, who just turn up to the recording studio, looking pretty, to sing whatever they’re told. The ongoing success and interest in the event, which has been defined as a ‘strategic festival’ by the Generalitat as part of its policy to restructure the music sector here, demonstrates that the discerning listener appreciates the chance to hear musicians who don’t require playback or auto tune to get them on stage. And the return of singer-songwriters who have taken part in Barnasants in previous years and the interest of new names to perform here suggests that the musicians are just as pleased to find that captive audience.
This year’s festival can be split up into three main sections: local musicians, international artists and special events. In the first, stand-out acts include Cesk Freixas, who took part last year and will be opening this edition at the Auditori; he’s been lauded as one of the up-and-comers of the Catalan cançó scene and will be presenting his latest album La mà dels qui t’esperen (The hand of the people who were waiting for you). From the new kid on the block to one who’s been around it a few times: Victor Manuel. The Spanish singer first appeared on the scene in the late Sixties and, with his wife, the actress and singer Ana Belén, is associated in the minds of many with the country’s transition to democracy.
Of the international artists appearing at Barnasants, many come from Latin American countries and hence sing in Castilian; these include the Argentinean actress and singer Soledad Villamil, who recently appeared in the film El secreto de sus ojos with Ricardo Darin and here presents her newest album Morir de Amor. Presumably not singing in Castilian will be Irish performer John Spillane whose repertoire includes songs in English and Gaelic, while his most recent hits have been compilations of popular Irish songs taught to schoolchildren, which will doubtless strike a chord with many brought up in the Emerald Isle.
The special events include a tribute to the 50-year career of Raimon, who has been one of the leaders of Catalan songwriting ever since he appeared at the height of Franco’s dictatorship with songs such as ‘Let’s say no’ and ‘I come from a silence’. He performs at the Auditori on March 25th, with a selection of his own tunes and some from significant Catalan poets and writers from the past, whose words will be paired with Raimon’s music. There will also be events to mark the Centenary of the Mexican Revolution with performances from various musicians from the Central American country including María Inés Ochoa, and an homage to the late Chilean singer-songwriter Victor Jara, with his widow inaugurating an exhibition of posters from a selection of Jara’s concerts.
Barnasants 2010. XV Festival del Cançó
January 15th to March 28th