Monday, October 04, 2010

bandas madness

Bologne bovine fair, a biennial fete, with the feeling of a county show but on a tiny scale.  The local farmers show off their cows and bulls, a smattering of stalls promoting local clubs and societies, businesses selling their wares and the suggestion of a farmers market, comprising eight stalls, I bought some locally made wild boar cured sausage which we enjoyed with our aperitifs, but unless cattle are a fascination, it wasn’t much to write home about.  Until the evening that is.

There had been an ox roasting on a spit all day in preparation for the fete meal, a huge affair that took over the sport centre and a large marquee.  It was billed as a meal for a thousand and it certainly wasn’t far off. Rows of tables were set out and laid up for the evening extravaganza which turned out to be spectacular.  Local bands called banda were the entertainment and they did an amazing job, hard to put into words but I’ll try.  There were probably eight bands from around the region including one from northern Spain, they took turns in performing early in the evening, each trying to outdo the previous performance, the music was very varied, from pop to jazz to more traditional tunes all as loud as you like and very catchy, many people were dancing as the beer flowed and the atmosphere warmed for the evening.  They played and played, the audience drunk and drunk and then, mid evening we were invited to take our seats for dinner.  Imagine how long it takes to serve a thousand people.  Bread, wine and water were already on the long tables and in good time a starter of locally produced melon and cured ham arrived.  The waiters transported them into the marquee on huge trays that held sufficient for each long table of twenty or so, they were efficiently passed down the rows of diners and the meal began.  All the time the bands took turn in playing, they gathered at the ends of the tables and filled the tent with music, it was that loud that you could bang a fork on a plate and not hear its sound, impossible for conversation, although between songs we managed to exchange the occasional comment.  The wine was initially a bit rough, but by the time the ox arrived it was going down a treat,  the same plates were used and huge platters of red beef circulated, accompanied by a delicious sautee of potato, lardons and vegetables.  The bands changed, often marching in with a louder tune and drowning out the current players, the performers didn’t appear to stop all night, they just kept on playing, we kept on drinking and the atmosphere kept on getting better.  The dessert arrived at around midnight and I knew that my ears would be ringing in the morning, I can’t imagine how they managed to keep getting louder and louder but they did.  Songs that I recognised, some that I didn’t some that the French sang along to and others that they didn’t.  As the meal came to a close many of the diners got up and danced, the old folk that were normally tucked up in bed by nine sat and tapped their feet in participation or suffered silently for the village, it was expected that everyone was there no doubt.  We eventually left, well fed and entertained at about two thirty in the morning, it was only a short drive home and yes, my ears did ring for at least a couple of days afterwards.

Google “Banda” if you want to experience the sound, choose a video clip, set your sound on full volume and you might just start to get the idea......

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