Saturday, April 4, 2015

Semana Santa Trip Part 5 (Finale): Ronda

Better late than never, right? This weekend makes it a year since I was last in Ronda, during Easter weekend. It is easily one of the most gorgeous villages in Spain. From the time I visited during my first trip to Europe in the winter of 2011, I swore I would go back. I happened upon an excellent quality leather belt my first time there, and have worn it nearly every day for the past four years. It was time to get some more, and at the same time witness the processions of Semana Santa.


Mmmmmm....fresh mushrooms.
     After sucessfully finding the same store I had visited years prior and buying belts for myself and others, I stood on the side of the street and watched the Easter procession go by, complete with Jesus on the cross, Mary, censers, men and women in uniform and plenty of music.

     Andalusians really take these processions seriously. They happen every day throughout the week leading up to Easter, and the closer Sunday gets, the longer and more elaborate the processions are. After watching for a long while, I decided to find a place to camp before dark. I looked across the valley and saw an old bell tower in the distance, and set my sights on it.

Sunset over the mountains
     After a very long walk, I arrived at the base of the tower as twilight gave way to night and the music from the town turned mournful.

Ronda from a distance
From the inside of the tower
     Camping alone in the dark outside a rural village made me quite aware of my surroundings—I wasn't sure of the security of my selected campsite, but decided it would probably be okay. I fell asleep to the sounds of crickets up close and brass instruments accompanied by percussion in the distance.
     At four a.m. I was awakened by the procession, still going strong. The sound of drums rang out along with the piercing voice of a singer performing a saeta—a religious flamenco-inflected song performed during Semana Santa. I will never forget the wonder of waking up to the song and looking out of the tent across the valley to the twinkling lights of the old town of Ronda.

Pardon the length of this photo. I felt the panoramic view added context. 

     I awoke again at sunrise and took in the lightening forms of the mountains and the town with its famous bridge, known as the tajo. Paco de Lucía, the famous flamenco guitarist, composed a rondeña (flamenco song form originated in Ronda) named after the bridge. 

El Tajo
     As the sun continued to rise I walked back into town and, that afternoon, took the train back to Madrid, thus concluding a memorable Semana Santa in Andalucía. Some experiences had such an impact on me that they found their way into the concluding song on my recently released album Evening Sounds. In a way, the album documents my two years in Spain. Though, perhaps more accurately, it attempts to capture the essence of a time that will remain forever at the core of my experiences.

You can listen for reference to the four a.m. drums below, as well as the influence of the rondeña flamenco song form.