Ghanafest in Malta, Part 1: Flamenco Fusion

flamenco fusion at Ghanafest in Malta (1)

We really enjoyed ourselves in Malta, thanks to many people I need to thank — so many, in fact, that I must do it in stages. On our second day in Malta, we were driven around in the evening by a local academic named Robert. We’d made contact with him via the Couchsurfing website, and he’d already planned to bring us to a folk festival in Floriana (next to Valletta) called Għanafest.

Excerpts from the Visit Malta website:

Għanafest is a three-day manifestation of Maltese folk singing (known as Għana in Maltese) which takes place every year in June…. a unique opportunity to experience the different styles of għana. Besides Maltese folk music, the festival presents a programme of local musicians and ensembles.

Maltese folk singing has various genres e.g.‘Għana tal-Fatt’, whereby the singer recounts a story in verses that relate to a tragic past event. Another genre is ‘Għana spirtu pront’: two singers hit out at each other with sharp and witty retorts as one sings out and the other responds with spontaneously thought out lyrics; and ‘Għana fl-għoli’ wherein the stanzas are sung in an extremely high note /pitch remotely similar to a flamenco folk song – this singing is also known as ala Bormliħa.

A variety of foreign folk singers and musicians hailing from various countries in the Mediterranean also participate in this festival. Throughout the three days of the festival, there will also be a series of crafts demonstrations on various stands.

We spent the evening at the folk festival, where I shot a large volume of photos of the performers, mostly of the flamenco dancers who are part of a local dance group. On our way out, Robert introduced us to the organizer of the folk festival, who explained that the dancers brought the idea to him, since flamenco isn’t native to Malta but it could be performed to Maltese folk music. (There are a few short video clips of it at the bottom).

I wanted to devote an entire post to the ladies of the flamenco group, because they danced with such passion through several outfits and numbers. I love shooting dance, because performers become lost in the music and the movement of their bodies. It makes the photography much more about timing than anything else (I never use the burst mode), and freezing moments of movement which show how fully engaged the dancers are. It’s the expressions of rapture I aim for every time.

flamenco fusion at Ghanafest in Malta (2)

flamenco fusion at Ghanafest in Malta (3)

flamenco fusion at Ghanafest in Malta (4)

flamenco fusion at Ghanafest in Malta (5)

flamenco fusion at Ghanafest in Malta (6)

flamenco fusion at Ghanafest in Malta (7)

flamenco fusion at Ghanafest in Malta (8)

flamenco fusion at Ghanafest in Malta (9)

flamenco fusion at Ghanafest in Malta (10)

flamenco fusion at Ghanafest in Malta (11)

flamenco fusion at Ghanafest in Malta (12)

flamenco fusion at Ghanafest in Malta (13)

flamenco fusion at Ghanafest in Malta (14)

flamenco fusion at Ghanafest in Malta (15)

June 14, 2015
Album: Malta 2015

Just How Much Fish Does Portugal Eat?

grilling sardines in Matosinhos, Portugal

It goes without saying that the Portuguese eat a lot of fish, but I wanted some statistics to quantify and compare the consumption to other countries in southern Europe. I found a site called Helgi Library to feed my inner graph nerd even after it’s been retired from active duty.

Fish Consumption Per Capita in Portugal

click to view the Portugal index in Helgilibrary (you can also add more countries)

As you can see, Portugal is far and away out-eating Italy, Greece, and Spain in the fish department, except for that steep downturn from around 1972-1979, which included a dictatorship and events leading up to — and the fallout from — the Revolution of 1974. Consumption has yet to reach levels of the late ’60s (that is, if they ever do), but it certainly ramped back up again around 1985 at a rate that rivalled the downturn.

I threw Japan in the mix for comparison since it is a large-scale consumer of fish, although on a per-capita basis, it is in fourth place after the Maldives, Iceland, and Kiribati (according to a 1999 Fisheries White Paper). Interesting how Japan’s per-capita consumption is currently declining while Portugal’s is increasing.

Then, because I started wondering how it compared with Canada, I made another chart with Canada and added the World stats, too:

Fish Consumption Per Capita in Portugal

click to view the Portugal index in Helgilibrary (you can also add more countries)

Only at Portugal’s lowest rate of fish-eating did it even come close to Canada’s higher points on this chart. However, there is a worldwide trend of eating more fish, which I’m going to guess coincides with an overall decline in meat consumption worldwide, for health reasons. But that’s a chart for another day. For now, I can tell you that if you love fish, Portugal is the place to be.

June 3, 2015
Album: Portugal [Spring 2015]

Porto, Granito e Sonho: Street Theatre On Rua Das Flores (photos)

Porto, Granito e Sonho: Street Theatre On Rua Das Flores (1)

This is a pictorial continuation of yesterday’s post of video clips from Porto, Granito e Sonho, a series of theatre performances between São Bento Railway Station and balconies above Rua das Flores depicting the history of Porto and brought to life by Locomotiva, a six-month arts project by the City of Porto. It was a production on a rather grand scale, with five directors and around 400 theatre performers (professionals and students) from ACE Escola de Artes / Teatro do Bolhão and other performing groups such as Alunos da ESAP, Coral Amigos da Música de Espinho, Coral de Letras da UP, UATIP, and more. Although the video clips do a better job of showing theatre than photography, these performances yesterday were very physical and musical — you wouldn’t need to know Portuguese to enjoy them.

Locomotiva’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/portolocomotiva

What I also find interesting is how well Rua das Flores is set up for this kind of theatre, with balconies on most floors. It made me wonder how easy it was to arrange access to the balconies, since the street is now flourishing with businesses and some of them are short-term rental apartments. It’s mostly a pedestrian street, and the crowd watching the performances from below weren’t given notice where the performers would be next, it only later became apparent that the action flowed from the train station down the street towards the river.

Rua das Flores has seen tremendous growth over the past few years, with extensive renovations turning the street into a hive of commercial activity. When I first arrived, Rua das Flores was fairly empty, but now it’s one of the busiest streets in the city, buzzing with tourists and trade. I hope no matter how busy the street gets, that it keeps the balconies open for street theatre.

Porto, Granito e Sonho: Street Theatre On Rua Das Flores (2)

Porto, Granito e Sonho: Street Theatre On Rua Das Flores (3)

Porto, Granito e Sonho: Street Theatre On Rua Das Flores (4)

Porto, Granito e Sonho: Street Theatre On Rua Das Flores (5)

I have always made a point to focus on the arts in this web space wherever I’ve lived, but I do so especially here in Portugal. Why? Because there is this tendency for governments to cut arts funding in time of economic hardship and Canada is guilty of this, but that is not the case here in Portugal, a country where you’d expect the governments to cut all funding indefinitely. Instead, there are cultural events happening all the time, and the municipalities and regions in Portugal continue to promote the arts to a degree I’ve never seen in Canada, where event producers must turn to the private sector and beg corporations for sponsorship. Of course, arts stories like this don’t ever make it to the news, so readers outside of Portugal who rely on news never get the full story of what it’s truly like to be here. Little blogs like mine exist, in part, to fill in the gaps.

Porto, Granito e Sonho: Street Theatre On Rua Das Flores (6)

Porto, Granito e Sonho: Street Theatre On Rua Das Flores (7)

Porto, Granito e Sonho: Street Theatre On Rua Das Flores (8)

Porto, Granito e Sonho: Street Theatre On Rua Das Flores (9)

Porto, Granito e Sonho: Street Theatre On Rua Das Flores (10)

Porto, Granito e Sonho: Street Theatre On Rua Das Flores (11)

June 27, 2015
Album: Portugal [Summer 2015]

Porto, Granito e Sonho: Street Theatre On Rua Das Flores (videos)

Porto, Granito e Sonho: Street Theatre On Rua Das Flores

My errands in Porto today led us to a street theatre event in the city centre called “Porto, Granito e Sonho”, performed around São Bento Railway Station and Rua das Flores. Afterwards, we also bumped into a friend while we were having dinner in Miragaia and stayed late, which means I have just one photo for this post and the rest are video clips taken by my phone until I have time to upload the pictures. (Because I’m older now and everything seems to take forever.)

(There are four video clips below, which you may not be able to see if you view this in an RSS reader.)

June 27, 2015
Album: Portugal [Summer 2015]

Malta’s Love Affair With Signage

signage in Malta (1)

Malta gained its independence from Britain in 1964, but there are remnants of Britishness around the islands — especially in the capital of Valletta. One of those cultural quirks is the British love for signage. Polite signage, but signage nonetheless. I didn’t take photos of every peculiar sign, but there are enough here to give you an idea of what I’m talking about: littering, cleaning up after dogs, keeping the noise down, (no) parking, what’s allowed to enter and when, and my favourite one down at the bottom… a hand-written sign.

signage in Malta (2)

signage in Malta (3)

see the cat?

signage in Malta (4)

signage in Malta (5)

signage in Malta (6)

June 14-15, 2015
Album: Malta 2015