The show must go on!
In spite of torrential storms during this year’s Fête des Vendanges at Banyuls-sur-Mer, the Fanfare Bands played on, à la Titanic. Basil Howitt reports.
15th Fête des Vendanges, Banyuls-sur-Mer, 9/10th October 2010
Recently we went to this weekend event where no less than 5 bandas were strutting their stuff in appalling conditions. Although the event turned into a disastrous deluge, the bands played on, Titanic style, for as long as possible. You can see and hear most of them playing below – though not necessarily in Banyuls.
This year, instead of enjoying all this, we sat in our hotel room and watched monstrous, apocalyptic waves crashing into the rocks before invading the shore. Our taxi to the station the following morning just managed to wade through thick piles of foam on the coast road. The driver Denis, a native Banyulenc, said he had never seen anything like it.
The punters made the best of the weekend by drowning their sorrows at the many stalls offering free tastings of Banyuls wines, glass in one hand and tasting notes in the other. On the Sunday many of the tasting stalls were transferred indoors to the Salle Bartissol up on the hill. Banyuls is known especially for its rich, sweet and sticky aperitif and desert wines, though can also boast some fine dry table wines. One of the most popular caves is the Cellier des Templiers.
However, for the many stallholders selling regional food products and hoping to make their annual killing, the weekend was, according to the proprietor of our fine hotel El llagut, “un désastre”. Imagine humping all your stuff maybe 50 miles, setting up, selling nothing and going home soaked and out of pocket. At least we could console ourselves with the hotel’s excellent and reasonably priced meals – justifying its bib gourmand accolade in the Michelin Guide.
The musical roots of the fanfare go back to the military bands from the 15th century onwards. Nowadays fanfares appear in many parts of France, Belgium, Italy, Spain and Eastern Europe, primarily at fêtes, dances, fireworks displays, sports events, marriages – and even Balkan funerals. The bands also give concerts in front of sitting audiences. In the UK their nearest equivalent must be the brass band – somewhat less flamboyant but still very appealing.
Fanfares have a wide and eclectic repertoire, taking in military music, popular song, rock, tango, waltzes, popular classics, specially composed works… As one regular reader has pointed out, “there is often an element of anarchy in their shows. They dress outlandishly, poke fun at bystanders (I can vouch for this!), do unusual things, sometimes surreal.” There are also surely remnants in today’s fanfares of the Commedia dell’arte – the Italian travelling troupes performing burlesque and comedy, masked and unmasked, from the 16th century onwards.
Five fanfares appeared this year at Banyuls.
Each member of Taraf Goulamas – virtuosos all – wore a battered fedora, the more battered the better, pushed back on their foreheads, cultivating the gypsy look. Before their impressive instrumentals began there was a vocal rendering in chorus of a fiddly tune which gave way to a full blast of the same tune on the brass, sousaphone included.
You can see and hear Taraf Goulamas [here->http://www.taraf-goulamas.com/video.php]. They are in outstanding form as they play for Patrick Sébastien’s France 2 programme, Sébastien et les Gitans (Toulouse 2008).
They appear twice more on the same page: in Jazz à Vannes (August 2008), and in a festival gig at Sibu in Romania where they combine performance with preparing snails!
Les Enjoliveurs (The Tall Story Tellers)
A crowd in front of the Hôtel de Ville was held spellbound by this excellent band who on this occasion sported a jolly version of a vigneron’s garb, probably that of a mediaeval guild. They wore purple and grey with extravagant cushion-shaped, tasselled hats and aprons – all except one, that is. He was wearing a flat cap and suddenly leapt on to wooden blocks and performed a tour-de-force tap dance.
They describe their music as a well-judged blend of farandoles and tarantellas imbued with jazz/electro.
The other three bands appearing in Banyuls were not ace professionals but played with infectious gusto and enthusiasm. You may disagree with me – so do listen and judge for yourself.
[God save the cuivres->http://www.godsavethecuivres.com/principal.html] (=brass bands) – Fanfare Punkistol de Toulouse
[Transfrontalière de l’Amor->http://www.myspace.com/latransfrontalieredelamor] – Fanfare Festif Fanfarlouf
Finally here is a selection of three other fun bands working in the Languedoc-Roussillon:
[Les Canaillous (The Rascals) de Millas->http://www.lescanaillous.fr]
Some of the most important gigs in this band’s calendar are the [Ferias or bull-fighting festivals at Millas and Céret->http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIf1g5zI8Ds
This is quite a different kind of band, kindly brought to my attention by a regular reader, Susan Glenn. Tobrogoi describes its music as “le tzigan-africansound”. According to the band’s website “tobrogoi” is an irregular Hungarian verb meaning “to go somewhere on a mobylette”!
© 2010 Basil Howitt
[(Basil Howitt has also written
[Life in a Penguin Suit->Life in a Penguin Suit] (Camerata Productions 1993)
[Love Lives of the Great Composers->Love Lives of the Great Composers] (Sound and Vision 1995)
[Grand Passions and Broken Hearts: Lives and Lusts of the Great Composers->Grand Passions and Broken Hearts: Loves and Lusts of the Great Composers] (Robson Books 1998)
[More Love Lives of the Great Composers->More Love Lives of the Great Composers] (Sound And Vision 2002)
Walter and His Daughters: The Story of the Carroll Family of Manchester (Forsyth Brothers Ltd 2005)