On November 8th, our Fira Mediterrania de Manresa hosts took our international group of journalists and bloggers to the iconic Montserrat Monastery. As you drive towards Montserrat, you see a single large mountain, rising up in the horizon. The monastery sits high up the mountain and you can reach it several ways. The most popular are the tren de cremallera (zipper train) and the historic funicular. We boarded the funicular, which gives you spectacular views.
Montserrat is still a working Catholic monastery with Benedictine monks. We were provided a guide who informed us about the history of the monastery and the life of the monks. The majority of the monks have daytime jobs at the monastery.
The performances in the chapel by the boys of Escolania de Montserrat are very popular. The Escolania is one of the oldest music schools in Europe. The marvelous boys choir is composed of sopranos and altos.
Montserrat is the home of the famous Llibre Vermell de Montserrat (the Red Book of Montserrat), an important manuscript collection of devotional texts that includes late medieval songs.
The Virgin of Montserrat appears traditionally as black and is known popularly as La Moreneta. At the local gift shop you can buy religious merchandise as well as delicious gourmet food and sweets.
The Montserrat Mountain also has an esoteric side. It attracts new age followers seeking vital energy and UFO watchers gather there annually claiming that it is a UFO hotspot.
We took the funicular back down and drove to Monistrol de Montserrat, a small town at the foot of the mountain. There, we had lunch at a restaurant called La Barca where we had local wines and a selection of tapas, including local specialties like butifarra sausage, the always popular pan tomaca (pan con tomate or tomato bread) and a colorful mix of yellow and black-colored calamari rings. The restaurant is located at Carretera de Abrera A Manresa, km 13, 08691 Monistrol de Montserrat, Barcelona, Spain.
Later in the evening, it was back to the Fira Mediterrania de Manresa. The official showcases included Aka Balkan Moon, a collaboration between Belgian progressive jazz band Aka Moon and Bulgarian musicians. The lineup includes Fabrizio Cassol onsaxophone; Stéphane Galland on drums; Michel Hatzigeorgiou on bass; Tcha Limberger on violin & vocals; Fabian Fiorini on piano; Nedyalko Nedyalkov on- kaval; Tima Nedyalkov on vocal; Vladimir Karparov on saxophones; and Stoyan Yankolov on tupan.
Catalan music was represented by Duet Tenora I Acordió & Quartet Insólit presenting A la Sirga. This work brings together Perepau Jiménez (accordion) and Jordi Molina (tenora, a Catalan shawm) with a string quartet.
One of the highlights that day was the concert by flamenco-rock pioneer Kiko Veneno, who gave a special concert featuring many of his hits, accompanied by his band and a string orchestra called Cordes del Món.
Salao Flamenco Eléctrico is attracting attention with its mix of flamenco vocals and electric guitar. Salao is a young flamenco singer and Flamenco Eléctrico is led by electric guitarist Jordi Bonell.
Also that evening, La Canalla performed their unique mix of jazz with Spanish copla. From Toulouse (France) Lou Davi and Pythéas played Mediterranean music with Middle Eastern influences combines with trip-hop electronics. Catalan singer Névoa presented her take on fado blended with jazz and global music elements.
In the Off-Fira Showcases, Le Parody represented Madrid’s underground scene. The duo features Sole (Madrid) on vocals and ukulele and Frank (Cuba) on trumpet and bass.
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.