The Holy Innocents’ Day, the city of Málaga invites us to enjoy the Festival of Verdiales , an ancient fandango which has arrived at our days keeping its naturality, spontaneity, dynamism and multiculturality.
The 28th December, Holy Innocents’ Day, in the city of Málaga it’s celebrated the Festival of Verdiales , a sung and danced old fandango typical from the Montes de Málaga range. In order to do so, in El Puerto de la Torre a marquee is mounted with a stage inside, where act the different Pandas de Verdiales, which compete in three distinct categories: Almogía style, Montes style and Comares style.
However, although the competition is the festival’s main reason, it isn’t the most charming element from the celebration. Outside the marquee, under each Panda’s stand, these practice their musical pieces, known as luchas or revezos, while they’re gazed by the people who come around in heaps. The musicians, dressed in a flower hat decorated with colourful bands, make a circle surrounded by the spectators which is generally formed by a violin, some guitars -or even bandurrias or lutes-, a tambourine, some cymbals and castanets. Moreover, the ensemble is completed with the “alcalde” (mayor), who is the director, the responsible for choosing the singer with a colourfully decorated bar and, therefore, setting the lucha ‘s beginning and ending. Even so, this musical form is executed to be danced; consequently, when the dancers dance, although the musicians keep forming a circle, the people make room for the dancers.
On the other hand, on the occasion of the party, another marquee is mounted. This one serves as a bar where paella, migas and pig feet, among other delicious plates, are cooked. Furthermore, the food is served with vino de los montes (wine from the mounts), a sweet wine typical from the land of los verdiales, which couldn’t be missed in a folkloric celebration. Beside the marquee-bar, some tables are arranged to have a snack and lunch while listening to the cacophonical music.
This fandango not only stands out for its wild rhythm, its ternary beat and its instrumental variety, but for its purity and antiquity. Although its origin is undefined, what is known is that los verdiales are one of the oldest musical forms from the Iberic peninsula. The fact that they were born and developed in an isolated rural area in the middle of the Montes de Málaga range is the cause that los verdiales did not evolve nor academize, keeping its spontaneity and its own personality. This is the reason why los verdiales are considered as a pure and living musical form. The isolation that was given by the mountains has made los verdiales keep almost all its features, from the harmonies, instruments and rhythm to the lyrics, the dance steps and clothing. The most characteristic garment is the flower hat decorated with colourful strips that the musicians wear. Since los verdiales come from the countryside and the peasants didn’t have enough economic resources to afford expensive and sumptuous dresses, their clothing has always been simple. Nevertheless, although the dressing was a secondary and free element, the villagers tried to dress with their best clothes to sing and dance los verdiales. In men, has predominate the white shirt, black trousers and red sash; whether in women the same, but instead of wearing trousers they were in skirt. However, nowadays, women can choose if dress in trousers or skirt.
Regarding its historical origin, it is very difficult to know because of the variety of multicultural elements that possess los verdiales. Along history, Andalucía has been inhabited by many nations, which collected the old inhabitants’ influences and left their own mark for the followings. From this cultural mix were born los verdiales. We know, for instance, that the use of cymbals is a feature from the Phoenicians, while the melodies and lyrics could come from the Muslim moaxaja (muwashshah). On the other hand, it isn’t a coincidence that the most important celebrations occur precisely in Saint John and Christmas, during the summer and winter solstices, as Romans did.
Thanks to the geographic position of the small and white villages from Montes de Málaga, such as Almogía or Comares, which have made possible the conservation of los verdiales, we now have the opportunity to be able to stare in the city of Málaga itself, a traditional party that has become one of the most alive, natural and dynamic folkloric forms in Spain which keeps being transmitted from parents to children.