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1 first heard of 'The Verdiales' as a dance about twenty years ago. A professional Spanish Dancer, Aguedita Sarasua, taught it and danced it on the stage. Her dress was green with white strip es, with two frills at the bottom and a green band under each frill, puffed sleeves with a frill and a plain green fichu. This surprised me, for green is not a favourite colour among peasant people in southern Spain; though in northern regions of the Peninsula it is an accepted colour for skirts, it 'brings bad luck' in the South, and the Verdiales had a distinctly southern flavour. This dress made me wonder. As time proved, it was a correct folk costume. No one could say where the dance carne from or provide any information about it. Its formation made me suspect it to be ritual. It took some fifteen years of research to find out that Verdiales is the name of a type of olive with a pointed end, which is a110wed to ripen that is, blacken - before gatheting. The tree which bears it is a110wedto reach its fu11 height. When the Verdiales olives are ripe the branches are beaten with very long, flexible rods to bring the fruit down. It is then picked up and swept into ta11 baskets and taken to the oil-presses for processing. Amongst other places in southern Spain, the Verdiales olives grow a11about the broken country around Málaga, right up into the sierras, where each village has its own festive days, regional costume and a group of local musicians ca11eda panda. A panda is a band of musicians in ritual costume who perform harvest thanksgiving with ritual dance, song and music. Vi> to about the nineteen-forties, the Verdiales was danced by ritual men only, but ~ince then, when it became the fashion for towns-people to dance folk dances, girls have been admitted in the dance, and now appear to have taken over most of the dancing. However the pand.as are still ritual men's performances and in 1950 the Verdiales competition at the inn ca11ed Venta del Tunel x
THE VERDIALES FESTIVAL IN MÁLAGA is reputed to have been instituted on the 28th December, when the Mayor of Málaga goes up there to distribute prizes to the winners. Some eight years ago, it was said, this competition was little known except by the pandas. Since then it has been organised 'for tourists'. But a competition between vilIages is said to have existed long before that. 1 decided to go and see this festival in 1971 and arrived in Málaga four days before the time to ascertain exact details as to hour, place and transporto Information was very hard to get. The head of the Dance Section at the Sección Femenína (an official body of women who are state-supported and have, amongst other duties, the task of investigating and preserving local folk dances), told me it started at 4-p.m. on 28th December. But when 1 arrived at 3.30 p.m. the place was already crowded to overflowing. It had started in the morning. A bus goes along the river Guadal Medina ('river of the city', in Arabic) up the hilIs a few kilometers from Málaga to a new dam, and where a wide road is being built to connect Málaga with Ronda. High up in the open fields out in broken country on the slopes of the sierras, about a mile beyond the dam, is a bend of the river with a flat promontory. There the Venta del Tunel was bustling and thronged with people on this one day of the year. The railway bridge passed the river gorge there, and the old road went through the railway tunnel, hence the name of the inn. The Venta del Tunel was an international meeting place with closely packed crowds that day. There was no room to sit or rest; even the over-hanging cliff-tops were thickly lined with spectators, and the narrow winding road on either side of the Venta he1d three rows of stationary cars. Moving traffic had hardly room to crawl through, and was in danger of edging the parked vehicles into the gorge. A coach tried to make its way up but succeeded in bringing a11traffic to a complete standstilI. It seemed wiser to wa1k. Crowds continued to arrive along the narrow road and across the fields, a11jostling one another, shouting and e1bowing their way through the seemingly solid wall of humanity. The members of the pandas carried their own instruments while the supporters brought baskets of food. Drink was found at the venta. Any admirer of a panda would buy a bottle of wine or spirits, and present it to the group, with a straw through the cork, and in 330
THE VERDIALES FESTIVAL IN MÁLAGA return would expect to have verdiales played for him after due refreshment. The bottle was passed from hand to hand, then at a sign from the leader they struck up. Each song lasted some three to four minutes, then after a rest they started again however close they might be to the next panda. This was sometimes as little as two yards away and at times five or six pandas could be heard at once! A panda is made up of a leader, a flag-bearer and the instrumentalists who may also sing. The leader held a rod of office, entwined with coloured ribbons with a tuft of them at the tipo The flag-bearer carried the flag of his panda high above the crowd as a rallying point for. panda members and supporters; the flags differed in size and designo The chief instrument was the pandero a very large, round tambourine some eighteen to twenty inches in diameter. Two guitars were usual for accompanying with simple chords; a violin never failed; and two men playing platillos'little plat~s' in name, but in reality small brass cymbals. Some pandas had a bandúrria and one guitar. The leader might require any one of his group to sing a verse or two, but unless he made a sign there was no singing, but the instrumentalists might play at his command. At a call from the leader the members of a panda disposed themselves in a tight ring, facing each other; as there was no conductor they had to look at one another all the time, and this arrangement made that simple. Then they struck up at a signal of the leader's rod. The two platillos-players, situated on opposite sides of the ring, watched each other and played in perfect time, complementing each other's beats. The timing was generally excellent within a panda. Indeed I could not distinguish any panda as being better than any other in matter of timing, rhythm or quality of performance. These men became completely absorbed in their music, and the pushing and the nudging, the shouting and the clamouring of the crowds left them indifferent to everything around them for, united in spirit, they belonged to another world. The pandas were judged by a panel of official judges who sat in the open exposed to the same amount of noise as the crowd. How they acquitted themselves of their task was difficult to understand. Several self-appointed 'helps' advised them too. Perhaps the words were regarded as the more important part of the songs
THE VERDIALES FESTIVAL IN MÁLAGA for, apart from the natural differences in voices, the music seemed to have little variety within its quick 3/4 time. The words were mostly about love, often as would be sung by a disappointed lover. For instance: '. . . and 1 shall have her in spite of her mother';
'. . . your promise vanished like running water in a stream'; and
'. . . even the horse wept . . .'. The pandero, the loudest and most important musical instrument, led the panda, and the others seemed to follow. The pandero - a tambourine of about twenty inches in diameter, as described above, and some three to four inches deep, had a calf-hide head on one side with two snares under it. The frame was made of split chestnut wood with three little slats to keep it in shape and hold the skin; it had at least two or, more usually, three rows of jingles -little concave tin discs about 2} to 3 inches across, facing, in pavis all round the frame. This made it heavy, so the thumbhole was not sufficient to hold it by and a strip of cloth wound round a string supported the left hand. It was held vertically, the left hand at the bottom, the right beating in any of three ways: the tips of the fingers towards the centre; the thick part of the thumb striking the rim, or the fleshy part of the fingers beating the skin near the rim. The panderos were painted green and had coloured ribbons wound round part of the rim. They were hand-made, so that they differed from group to group. The panderos were played two strokes to the beat that is, six strokes to one bar in 3/4 time. Every now and then the player's thumb ran up and round on the skinhead near the edge of the frame, and made a continuous roll as on a large drum, in order to stress some rhythm or to end a phrase. Every time the frame was struck, the jingles sounded, adding their metallic ring The pandero-player moved around within the circle while the others stood still on one spot. He often sang as well as played but in every case he leaned over to the right at an angle of nearly ninety degrees, and his face was often distorted into a grimace. Every now and then he would straighten himself up only to start leaning over again to the right. AlI pandero players did this. The platillos, or chocal/as as they are also called, seemed next in importance. These pairs of cymbals certainly made enough sound to drown all other instruments except the pandero. Platillos varied between three and five inches in diameter, they were very heavy
FESTIVAL IN MÁLAGA
long string was firmly knotted - the other end being wound round the player's hand. The two platillos-players stood, as already mentioned, on opposite sides of the ring, and with a platillo in each hand struck them vertically up and down, at times inclining one of them slíghtly in order to vary the sound. The men watched each other closely so as to strike in perfect time with the pandero player. They therefore emphasized the pandero rhythm and to my mind it was these platillos that made the verdiales so characteristic. The violin played the introductory melody and accompanied the voice when the singer burst forth, resuming the melody at the end of the verse. Its sound, relatively so feeble compared with the percussion could hardly be heard in all the hubbub. It was played like a modero violín, which it was. The guitars just played simple accompanying chords, as mentioned. The members of the pandas all wore a dark suit with a white shirt and no tie. On their heads they wore the gorro de Verdialesa straw hat covered with paper and artificialflowers, and a profusion of streamers down their backs to the waist, attached to the brim of the hato The flowers were chiefly roses and caroations, but other flowers were introduced such as the marguerite, the eglantine, and some bell-shaped flower 1 did not know. The eglantine the five-petalled rose - was represented and arranged to edge the brim of the hat with festoons of glass beads below them going all round the brim. Pine cones painted silver, miniature tambourines, star-fish and several mirrors also adoroed the hats, which looked like 'domes of flowers' on the men's heads, almost hiding the identity of the wearers, whose dusky features and bright eyes were barely visible under the bead festoons. When not playing their instruments the men would carry their hats over the arm by a band but, at a call from the leader, up would come all the hats again. From afar they looked like beds of flowers. It was these gorros de Verdiales that proved the purpose of the verdiales festival. The womenfolk wore modero dress. There was practically no dancing on the 28th December, for it was a competition for music and verse only. Borne couples danced,
and of machine-made brass. The variation in size gave a variety of sound. There could be two sizes of platillos in the one panda. Each platillo or cymbal had a hole in the centre through which a
THE VERDIALES FESTIVAL IN
while another man was improvisingsome few steps - one to
each beat within another ring, waving his flag as a bullfighter treats and waves his cloak to en~ce the bull, back and forth, making graceful 'figures-of-eight' to the side back and front. Apart from these two, there was a group of young people dancing some children's singing game with hands linked in a ring, that had nothing to do with verdiales. This festival had started in the morning, had lasted all day and
a Seguidillas Sevillanas within a little ring, going round each other
would continue the whole night - so everyone said - till the early hours of the next day. Then only, so I was told, would the pandas and their supporters ride home by coach or, which was the more usual, walk the several kilometers home 'after everyone had had a lovely time'. I did not stay to see it through for there was nowhere to sit except the wet gravel or the muddy grass.
PROBLEMS AND INTERPRETATIONS;
We shall now go over the various items that made up this festival and consider their implications. First, the site. Why was the Venta del Tunel chosen for the music competition? This may be because it was a convenient halfway house between the several villages around Málaga where the verdiales olive is cultivated; it appears to have been a relay for horses in olden times due to its proximity to Málaga. Also it lay on the main road through the gap in the sierras, inland. However, if one takes the site into consideration, it becomes clearer. In antiquity sacred spots were chosen if they combined a cliff
or high place overlooking a winding ,'snaking' river
to bring vivifying waters
river represents the snake, a fertility symbol, which was thought
cavern in a rock face
to the crops - and if possible to a representing the womb of Mother Earth.
Although I did not locate a caveor cavern, the other two conditions were present at the Venta del Tunel. The pandas are well organised; the leader sees to rehearsals during the year and is responsible for the welfare of his panda. Pandas never play unless directed to do so by the leader. New words are made up by local poets and versifiers. The musicians do not say: 'Vamos a tocar' (let us play, or we're 334
THE VERDIALES FESTIVAL IN MÁLAGA going to play), which is the usual formula, but 'Y amos a chocar' (we're going to strike - the chocallas or platillos). This implies that the chocallas or cymbals, were the most important instruments from the rhythm or sound point of view, or perhaps they originally were when this rite was evolved. Otherwise the verb 'chocar' would not be used. In Andalucia, the south-west of the Peninsula, platillos are little used apart from the Yerdiales. They are played one couple in each hand, in dances like the Zorongo, and Zambra, both of which bear Arabic or Berber names. Then they are called 'chichines' . Across the Straits into Morocco, among the Berbers of the Adas and Ante-Adas mountains, very similar cymbals are used for percussion. There, three are played at once: two in the right hand and one in the left to strike the other two. They are handmade brass cymbals almost the same as for the verdiales, with a string through the centre wound round the left hand but attached to thumb and middle finger of the right. (This information was provided by Mr Iain Adam). The great size of the pandero and the number of jingles found on it makes it heard from afar. Tambourines are used all over the Peninsula but none reach this size. Certain tribes in Morocco make similar ones but with the hair still on the skin and no jingles. Goat-skin is more resistant than sheep-skin, but both are used for the head. A tambourine is well known as a moon symbol and among Egyptian dervishes and in the Near and Middle East and Central Asia shamans use tambourines. It is an essential part of a shaman' s stock in trade for it acts as his 'horse' to take him to the other worlds.1 The violin and guitars were practically inaudible out in the open compared with the percussion instruments, so seem unlikely to have belonged to the original set up of verdiales music. Perhaps they replaced a louder instrument like a shawm or flute, or possibly a bagpipe. Stringed instruments never fit in with loud percussion in an outdoor performance. In Aragón, where stringed instruments have been adopted for outdoor dancing (possibly since the Moors), they require some twenty mandolins, guitars and bandúrrias to make sufficient impacto There is some mystery here which remains
1 Mircea Eliade, Le chamanisme et la technique archaique de l' extase, Payot, Paris, 1959. 335
to be solved. In Turkey, for example, zurna and davul (shawm and drum) are customary for outdoor dancing in the eastern half of the country. Stringed instruments are never mixed with these two and right1y so. The pandero-player's way of making a grimace was reminiscent of flamenco singers extorting the last strand of expression from their bodies, or of a person in a frenzy or going into a trance. The closed eyes and constant beating of the tambourine brought to mind the devotees of Cybele, the ancient Near Eastern spring Goddess, who, dressed in leopard skins, beat drums and tambourines, and blew trumpets and punished themselves in a frenzy of endeavour to worship their Earth Goddess. The throbbing quality of the drurnming made the pandas oblivious of all but their playing. There are three main styles of Verdiales according to the regions in the sierras behind Málaga. These regions are: the Montes de Málaga (mountains of Málaga) that is, the hills north of Málaga; the Veléz region or the plains east of Málaga, along the banks of the river Veléz; and the region to the west of Málaga. The Ve1éz region claims to have originated the Verdiales music. There the tempo is much faster. In effect, this does not add to its charm. The music from the 'Montes de Málaga' seemed the most adequate style and tempo and repeated hearing confirmed the impression. It is beyond the scope of this article to give a technical description of the music itself; that is a matter for the specialist. The costume of the pandas is important, for the gorros de
Verdiales, these 'magic hats'
wearers to other ritual men dancers in Galicia, Almonacíd del Marquesado, Verín; with the English Morris Sides and Pace Eggers; with the Roumanian Calu!¡!aris and 'Bear dancers'; the Bulgarian Russalii; with some Yugoslav ritual women' s spring dancers, and with many others across the Continent. In an old photograph that I was shown some ten years ago, the Verdiales men wore white cotton shirts and trousers, a gorro de Verdiales, and held a stick in each hand. The colour white would fit in with their function as spirits of vegetation, or of the regeneration of nature, as their ritual seems to imply. The gorro de Verdiales bears further examination because of its symbolism. Among 'the folk' traditionally, a rose means a woman;
THE VERDIALES FESTIVAL IN MÁLAGA a carnation means aman; a marguerite is the pearl of the seaemblem of rebirth and connected with Venus (Aphrodite); a fivepetalled eglantine is a moon-flower, for the number five is connected with the moon and with water; the festoons of glass beads represent rain-drops, as in the case of the Roumanian Calu§ari's beads, which no doubt were on their hats for the same reason: fertility of the crops. Pine cones have represented plenty or fertility for millenia; starfish have five fingers so represent water and are connected with the moon; tambourines are moon symbols, as we have seen and also they are feminine symbols, while mirrors are prophylactic and avert evil influences. The mirrors were edged with lace or sewn with coloured material or fancy stitching. AlI these lucky signs were brought out to ensure plenty and fertility of fields and cattle through sympathetic magic. The numerous three-inch-wide coloured ribbons draped over shoulders and backs of the men indicated that they were, or wished to be, in touch with the spirits of the three kingdoms: the earth, the living world and the 'upper regions' or spheres. Many ribbons had five-petalled flowers embroidered on them. Questions as to where such gorros could be obtained always had the answer that the wives 'made them at home'. After the olive harvest thanksgiving dancing is as important as music. They go together. The dances are circular, the first two verses represent hexagons or octagons, both numbers sacred to the sun. The last two verses are of a 'spokes-of-a-wheel' formation, which too is a sun symbol, particularly as the last verse is a revolving wheel. The importance of the sun in this case is obvious. The steps are difficult and very tiring. One leg has to cross over the other quickly, while a rapid change of weight is made and the supporting leg is picked up at the back and twisted sideways in a peculiar way. Each village has its own version, just as it has its own costume. The Sección Femenína has a good collection of these costumes used by its own groups. They differ from the Málaga city .costumes which date from the sixteenth century when that fashion was widespread in the southem half of Spain. One village favours diagonals and lozenges of bright colours on a mustard ground. Others prefer more subdued colours. The loveliest was Aguedita's green and white striped dress which is still the costume of one village. 337
What 1 have described is a small part of the Verdiales festival as 1 witnessed it. That part suggests that there is much about the music, dance and implications yet to be studied that link this remnant of an obviously ancient agricultural rite with other rituals that once extended across Europe. With this aim in view, much ground was covered by the researches of Violet Alford who tried to map these rituals. So, limited though it be, 1 dedicate this paper to her, for it was she who first awakened my interest in folklore.
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