The Sounds of Fallas 2019

I’ve shared a bunch of photos of different things during Fallas this year. Mostly, other than the bands for the processions, it’s been more of a visual feast. But Holy Batman! It’s loud around here and you can’t really appreciate it until you’re there in person. But I’m going to try to help you get a taste.

Today, I did two things I swore I wouldn’t do. The first was to head down to the Ajuntamento and experience the final and largest Mascleta of Fallas. But my Irish friend, Donna, invited me out with friends she has in town. So I went. WOW! It was a visceral experience. Its not just an assault to your ears, but your entire body. The booms go through you and rattle your belly. You feel it through your feet. I can’t really describe it adequately so I recorded it and sent it to Jeff in Germany. He loved it! NOT. I wanted to wear earplugs I brought but those around me told me not to and to keep my mouth open or I would pop my ear drums. It’s just that bad. If you listen to the audio file it’s like a symphony. There is true art to this pyrotechnic orchestra. You’ll also see the Town Fallas – which this year was celebrating women and street art – my fav. Her construction costs about a million US dollars.

But then we were walking out of the square and came upon another BONUS!! mascleta that was being fired off by a local Fallas organization and presided over by their Fallera, who would light it. I took some photos so you could see how the fireworks are made (in a local work shop) and how they hang them off the ground. Each one is strung together expertly and they fire in a sequence. And it’s the loudest thing I have ever heard. The bonus mascleta was worse than the one in the town hall square because we were so close. I only recorded a little of it. It went on for 5 full minutes.

We did a few other things like lunch and a tour of my favorite church. Then drinks, and I started for home. Only I realized it was now 9pm and it was time for La Crema – The burning of all the Fallas. The infantil near me was being prepared to light up so I stopped to watch before the smoke got so black I abandoned my spot. It was still a fun gathering of the community – even though I disagree with the environmental impact of it all. And I learned the song of Alboraya that they sang while it burned.

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Now I am home. It’s a war zone out there tonight. I am adding one last video so you can hear what is going on outside my home. There will be no sleep tonight – I am very sure. But I don’t care. I ‘did Fallas’ today – like a local. Tomorrow we sleep!

Effigies and Processions

The last days of Fallas are upon us. It started slow with neighborhood processions – my favorite – that are more homegrown and organic, and don’t possess all the flash of the grand processions with the 100’s of Falleras and Falleros marching to the town hall on floats. Or the one to Our Lady of the Forsaken at the Cathedral square to create her flower cape and dress.

Below are some of the processions that we encountered by happenstance here in Benimachlet. One over morning coffee. Another an evening children’s procession. And then an irreverent adult procession presided over by our local Fallera. Why? Who knows?

Starting on March 11th and running through the 15h, Falla are being erected all over the city by the local groups that raise money for construction, and build them in workshops in every barrio in the city. Designers are hired who have studied this at University. They are the real stars of Fallas, along with their pyrotechnic cousins with degrees in building and blowing up things during the daily mascletas at Placa de Ajunament. Since Jeff is leaving for London to hang with a friend – then on to Germany for a few days – and finally to the US for a couple of weeks, we decided we needed to go out and see what they’ve put together before he flies the coop and leaves me to fend for myself these last few days of Fallas.

I’ve included some of what we’ve seen under construction so far in the following pictures. We’ve yet to tease out the theme for this year but I’m sure as more and more go up it will become obvious. My vote is Women’s Empowerment but some have been confusing so I’m not sure. Many of the larger ones are further along than those of less wealthy areas. Some of them have corporate sponsors and you can tell they were able to hire better designers. But we’re enjoying watching them all go up no matter how intricate.

Each day this week, I’ll head to a different neighborhood and take more photos. I took them from multiple angles as they’re 3 dimensional and have interesting characters on multiple sides. I especially like the Infantils – those small ones that are done for the children. They’re usually very intricate and have a lot more detail than the larger effigies. They seem to go up last, for whatever reason. So stay tuned for those. But until then, enjoy what we’ve seen so far and I promise more to come each day before the judging this weekend.

One Man’s Graffiti…

It’s true, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And art is a subjective thing, determined by personal preference. I wasn’t always a fan of the ‘Graffiti Arts’. Those who wield a spray can in pursuit of the perfect surface on the street. Mostly, it’s just seemed unsightly or a scourge on an otherwise lovely neighborhood. But that has changed.

When you move from an area of the world that is new, always scrubbed and more suburban sprawl than urban grit, you expect everything to be shiny.  You can’t wrap your head around why anyone would take up a can of spray paint and write their initials on a wall near your home. Or on the roll down doors of the shop where you buy your fruit. It takes too much effort – and I’m essentially too lazy. Or perhaps just not artistically talented.

Sure, there’s Banksy in London. I’ve gone to Brick Lane to see some of his stuff. And there’s the artist in Paris, Invader, who does the tile art hearkening back to the 70’s and 80’s video games. But those are of a more elevated, celebrated ilk. The average street artist is a true stealthy pioneer. Laying his message through images and graphics that are unique to him, or her.

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We’ve lived here for 4 months now. And that’s long enough to begin to notice that we have a new graffiti artist. The person has a decidedly different style than our previous artist in residence. Jeff pointed it out right away when we were walking to the store recently. Then we started seeing their stuff on a few other doors.

Graffiti in Spain is just a thing. Especially in big cities. And it seems that the shop owners have decided to embrace the inevitability that their roll down doors – the eyelids of the city – will be tattooed with some sort of image. So many of them have hired their own graffiti artists to create messages that more closely reflect their brand. It looks cool and it fits in with the aesthetic.

My favorite is this one. The exterminator whose images of pestilence and message referencing ‘The Plague’ seems particularly on the nose. No ambiguity here.

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Some of the images can be seen across the city. The woman with multiple sets of eyes is everywhere. Sometimes she’s just a floating head. Sometimes attached to a griffin. That artist gets around. And the bird decrying ‘Street Art’ is also a frequent visitor to buildings in the old city.

The little guy with the telescope is everywhere on the bottom of buildings, sort of secretly placed there, just watching. He, along with some ‘little houses’ are messages I’ve yet to decode.

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Then there are those that seems to be expressing a preference for a certain lifestyle. These tend to be more detailed so the viewer can’t miss their meaning. They’re less traditional graffiti and more traditional art – in my mind.

And finally, in the school of the greats – there seems to be this guy. He’s everywhere here. The stealthy robot artist who is sometimes seen spraying at other people’s work or attacking a political figure with his spray can. But he’s always got his big artist’s heart right in the center.

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My appreciation for street art has gone up exponentially since I’ve lived here. Much like my appreciate for the work of a great tattoo artist. Perhaps its because I possess neither of these talents and I appreciate the rogue raw nature of their work. And while I love going to art museums and seeing the master works of fabled painters, it’s nice to know I can walk out my door for coffee and enjoy someone’s artistic expression in my own backyard.