Sunday, August 02, 2009

La Mar de Músicas

I spent two weekends in July at the Mar de Músicas festival in Cartagena. I've been in Cartagena for this event most years since 2002 and I have to say that the city has changed dramatically since then. The first time I went there the town looked terribly neglected. Buildings in the centre were crumbling and that part of the city seemed to have become something of a ghetto for immigrants whose labour was no doubt making someone wealthy. Down by the seafront things weren't much better and I left with the impression of a city that was being allowed to decline whilst the new uglier housing was developed in the outskirts. That's not what I think anymore, the area around the port has been transformed in recent years with one part dedicated to a new museum, and alongside it there is a string of bars and restaurants facing a marina.

Other major buildings have been rehabilitated, and the roman theatre has been turned into a proper museum too. The wharf that has been constructed to provide a berth for cruise ships strikes me as being a bit optimistic but maybe I'm wrong and the city does appear on cruise itineraries. Some of the local restaurants have now sort of translated their menus into English for the expected tourists and there is a greater choice of places for eating and drinking than there was a few years ago. There are even some souvenir shops selling goods of the plastic flamenco dancer variety, although one shop I saw was offering thimbles decorated with a picture of Jose Maria Aznar! That's a must have for my currently miserable collection of political kitsch, but the shop wasn't open when I passed.

The transformation is striking and the city is becoming a much more pleasant place to spend time in. In any case the Mar de Músicas festival makes it worthwhile visiting. The stages are set up on the hill overlooking the port and being up there on a July night listening to music is one of the things I like best about summer in Spain. The variety of music they programme is impressive. In two visits this year we have seen Emir Kusturica, Spanish rapper La Mala Rodriguez, Calle 13 from Puerto Rico, Jamaica's Buju Banton, Oumou Sangare from Mali as well as musicians from the Congo, Algeria and Morocco. The concert featuring La Mala Rodriguez and Calle 13 was much better than I expected considering that I'm not a big fan of rap music. Like Aznar with speaking Catalan I prefer to rap "en la intimidad". Oumou Sangare for my money was the best of the bunch and if you like African music then her latest CD is as good an investment as you can make.

The concerts don't start before 11 at night, so during the day we usually get the bus down to Cabo de Palos and spend the day by the beach. The sea was a bit rough last Saturday with red flags waving, the waves also seemed to bring in an unhealthy quantity of small jellyfish. Things got calmer on Sunday. Lunch down there consists of fantastic grilled sardines, calamar a la plancha and chilled beer followed by a well deserved siesta. La Manga may not be the prettiest beach in Spain, but there are much worse places to be on a hot summer's day. Colombia is the featured country for next year's event, explaining why we got given straw hats and free cava at the last concert of this year's edition.


Anonymous said...

I can only hope that plonk they were dealing out wasn't one of those treacherous and unconstitutional Catalan products yet again... never mimd the straw hats, that's obligatory summertime standard issue for sunburnt guiris and the like.

As we all should know nothing beats sparkling wine from the châteaux around Quintanilla de Onésimo in terms of true Spanishness and sheer quality, best drunk very chilled and "en la intimidad"

Graeme said...

Maybe the cava was Colombian, the straw hats were definitely South American style. To be honest I just accepted it in good faith, kept quiet and put my hat on.