FolkWorld Live Review by Marcus Metz

XVII Festival Internacional do Mundo Celta

Ortigueira, Galicia, Spain, 13th - 15th of July 2001

Photo by Marcus MetzMore than 70.000 people gathered in the pouring rain...

One of the worst summers in the past 30 years turned the Northwest of Spain as well as the North of Portugal into a rough and wet landscape. Weather statistics proof that the rain fall of July 2001 exceeded the annual average by 200% while 50% of the holiday makers cancelled their bookings! Visitors to the annual Festival International do Mundo Celta in the nice fisher port of Ortigueira, situated at the eponymous "ria" (a beautiful estuary), have been welcomed by loads of heavy showers and highest temperatures of 22 Celsius - together with sandy beaches and tall cliffs the whole environment reminded strangers very much of the North-West of Ireland in the middle of a nice summer. Thin rain ponchos (for 100 Pesetas or 60 Euro-Cent only!) were available in the town to give some shelter - but still people enjoyed the atmosphere of Spain's largest folk festival, maybe the most important music festival in the whole autonomous region of Galicia.

Gaitas, photo by Marcus MetzThe annual folk festival has been run by the municipal Escola de Gaitas (piping school) and became bigger and bigger over the years. Due to the support of local and regional bodies as well as commercial sponsors the festival has many well-known acts on offer - without any entrance charge at all. There's even a free bus service from the camping site to the town centre.

On Friday the 13th of July 2001 the first international act to be performing on the main stage was "Klmn Balogh & the Gipsy Cimbalom Band" from Hungary replacing the scheduled Swedish act "Vsen" who played right after the Hungarians. Balogh and his friends did a great job to cheer up the masses, while the performance of "Vsen" didn't seem to harmonize with the character of the huge open-air festival. I got the feeling that their rather lone Nordic fiddle sound got lost in Ortigueira. One of Galicia's new stars, the bold Mercedes Pen, came up on stage after "Vsen", showing an innovative performance: exceptional, up-front and loud perhaps not everybody's cup of tea but quite successful. "Texedor" from Asturias (the region east of Galicia) showed up as Friday night's last act and they did a mighty job, perhaps one of the best performances at the festival. Although they presented a rather pure line-up their great pulse got right into the guts!
Before the end of the performance people where driven away by heavy rain again.
It's been reported that a Northern German visitor couldn't find his tent in the darkness and had to spent the whole night in a toilet on the camping site.

Oskorri, photo by Marcus MetzSaturday afternoon saw several pipe and drum bands marching through Ortigueira, those included the Scottish "Coldstream Pipe Band" and "Bagad de Nantes" from France as well as Galician pipers. After the performances it was nice to see musicians swapping instruments - a young Galician guy borrowed a Breton bagpipe to play an Irish reel.

"Oskorri" from the Basque Country took over the main stage at the harbour around 11 p.m. Their show was very relaxed and professional, they even invited a group of local female singers to join them. No doubt you could feel that there was the experience of decades on stage. Another remarkable live act that night was Irish accordion player Sharon Shannon (together with the Kane sisters on fiddle). She played many pieces from her Diamond Mountain Sessions album, including muneiras from Galicia that got a fantastic response by the audience. Galicia's "Luar na Lubre", one of the regions most successful bands, finished Saturday.

The festival ended on Sunday night with performances of "La Bruja Gata" from Madrid, the traditional band "Na La" from Galicia and the French-Canadian "La Bottine Souriante", the latter being yet another outstanding act.

Despite of the merciless weather in 2001 ... one of the best places to be, if you're fond of "Celtic" music performed by really professional artists.

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Photo Credit: All photos by Marcus Metz

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