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Spain: The annual Manresa fest

This year’s report on the Fira Mediterrània de Manresa finds me once again trying to capture the torrent of events and concerts that make up this citywide festival. I previously focused more on the concerts, but this time around, I decided to cover a bit more of the culinary and street life.

Although it has its charming old section, Manresa’s main attraction year round is the monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat, carved out of the mountain that overlooks the city, affording a remarkable vista of Catalonia.

But I’ve yet to visit the monastery because the festival keeps me hopping. With more than 300 events to coordinate, I imagine the Fira staff has only about two weeks rest after the dust settles before getting back to work for the next one.

That is not to say there is no time for a visitor to just sit and relax. With its broad avenues, quiet plazas and narrow side streets, Manresa is sprinkled with restaurants and wine bars, where one can always slow down with something savory, liquid or solid. During the festival there is an entire avenue set aside for dining al fresco, and one can also stroll at a leisurely pace, sampling from the local food booths.

The festival brings in all kinds of talent — for example, Toumani and Sidiki Diabate of Mali were there to enchant with the rippling sounds of their kora duets — but there is a definite emphasis on Catalan and Iberian culture. There is music, dance, theater and all kinds of street entertainment.

There was a beatbox concert with full orchestra backup, and there was a lyrical choreographed dance piece performed by elderly women. There were rides and entertainment just for kids. I was consistently surprised and entertained by it all.

This is a not a festival set up in a field somewhere with tents and bandstands. The old town is the setting for this celebration, and the locals most definitely participate spiritedly. It is a civilized and happy efflorescence of culture and fellow feeling. And with Barcelona only 50 kilometers away, it is an event worth planning a trip around.

Building a variation of a Catalan human tower. It’s a sample of Manresa goings-on seen in the above video.

Building a variation of a Catalan human tower. It’s a sample of Manresa goings-on seen in the above video.

This blog, photo and video are by Michal Shapiro, a musician, producer, journalist and videoblogger specializing in international music and culture.  She has produced numerous critically acclaimed world music CDs. Her videos, which she shoots and edits herself, can seen on Huffington Post, and on her own site, http://worldmusicandculture.com