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Is there anything more metal than a correfoc?

Photo of a dozen people dressed in a red devil suit, with hoodies, black horns, a black bat drawn over their backs and the words Diables de Sants. They are all holding up powerful sparkling sticks, like a meter above their heads, and not like your regular birthday cake sparkles, more like the power of a thousand solar flares.
Not your typical birthday cake sparkles

No! 🤌 Not even close! There is nothing more metal than a Catalan correfoc.

It's 10 minutes past 9 and I am still shaking in awe and excitement for all the crazy things I saw today. 🥁 🔥 💥 🐉 👺 But it isn't over yet, is it?

I am right in the middle of Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia and the square is packed with people, costumes, gadgets, drums.

Today's events are related to the traditional celebration of Sant Medir, which is actually observed one week after, on the 3rd of March...

... best known for the tonnes of sweet and toffees thrown to the public from the horses, floats and lorries

Well, no traces of sweets, lorries, or even saints for that matter. Today's event consists of tabalada - drumming around the neighbourhood - and correfoc - burning stuff down the streets and plazas.

"Photo of the central plaza of Gràcia neighbourhood during the final act of the correfoc. There are dragons, and fire, and lightning sparkles shooting up the height of the 4 story buildings of the plaza
Bats and dragons, fire and blasts, heavy as f

The history of the correfoc is rooted in ancestral stuff going all the way back to the 12th century. 🤯 It has waned and resurfaced several times, most recently in the 80s with the arrival of Democracy. The commitment to keep traditions like this alive and kicking is a very Catalan story in itself. 🤘 Also metal as fuck.

The last of the obnoxiously loud and hazardous, yet beautiful and mesmerising, pyrotechnics has just been smoked out. Now the smoke is settling down.

But the drumming is still raging on. 🥁 Four different groups converged here before the grand finale and over a hundred people of all ages are having a grand tabalers jam session.

Baixeu! 👇 Baixeu! 👇

Someone screams from the middle of the jam.

And the jam goes quieter 🤫 as they play clicking sticks on the sides of the drums. And they literally get down. They duck, squat, playing softer and closer to the ground.

clickity-clack 🥢 clickity-clack 🥢

Then the surdos start banging a stronger rhythm.

And the tension is building up again.

dum! 🥁 dum! 🥁 dum! 🥁 .............

dum! 🥁 dum! 🥁 dum! 🥁 .............

That's when I notice, on the left, one other surdo player still ducking, and playing softly. 🤔 Why is he still hiding behind the drum? 🤔 And why isn't he actually powering through?

I see the person next to the shy drummer, clearly instigating them, pretty much pushing them:

Get up! Come on! Play with them!

So the dude, stands up and joins the dum! 🥁 dum! 🥁 dum! 🥁 ...

Wait... Is that me?

Pixelated photo of me playing the surdo dream among in the corner of a big drumming jam
Am I the shy drummer in the corner?

Yes, indeed. Aquell noi soc jo 🙃

Never have I lived a moment that would fit the HowWeGotHere trope more perfectly than this one.

The whole drum group comes back together, standing up, jumping around, screaming.

And in my little bubble, time is slowing down ... and I am thinking.

I guess I made some cool decisions along the way.

So what exactly brought me here, to this exact moment, this drum, this stick?

As the trope goes:

For that, we have to rewind back a year.

Long story short

One year ago I had just lived through the toughest winter of my life (so far 😅) and I had to make some radical changes in my life.

These changes involved a commitment to start playing music with other people but that didn't quite work as expected, so I had to dig deeper into my courage, and go out of my comfort zone.

I found the courage to ask the Tabalers de Sants to join. They are the percussion group supporting the Colla de Diables de Sants, the "devils and beasts" group of Barcelona's Sants neighbourhood.

Photo of the Tabalers de Sants group playing in the streets of Gràcia neighbourhood during the afternoon.
Tabalers de Sants, firetruck in the background

I have been rehearsing with them since the beginning of 2023 and I must be doing good 😬 because I was already allowed to play a couple of weeks ago, when several groups were invited by the organisers to drum from the sidelines of Barcelona's half marathon.

I had a blast playing with them while watch all those 🏃‍♀️ 🏃‍♂️ 🏃‍♀️ 🏃‍♂️ 🏃‍♀️ 🏃‍♂️ runners go by. Hopefully they were energised by both the great drumming and my occasional mistakes. 😬

Correfoc de Sant Medir

Tonight was different, though. Tonight was a full on correfoc! 🔥

They invited me to play, but I thought it was better to just get acquainted first. So I volunteered to go with them, help them load and unload the gear, take photographs, and record some video. And focus on the fire. Get in the thick of it and conquer my fear.

Photo of 2 surdo drums sitting on the floor.
These drums know what happens later

If I had a panic attack, I could just run away and go hyperventilate somewhere else on my own 😅 and not mess up the formation or disappear with a drum piece.

I eventually ran out of battery before the main event. I wasn't anticipating that they would play for so long. First in the evening walking up the Gràcia neighbourhood.

Then after dusk, walking back down, following the diables and the fire back to Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia.

Photo of a diable dressed with a horned hoodie, sticking his tongue out while a hands holds several explosive cartridges next to his face.
The sun has set, time to burn these down

No matter how close I got to the fire, the sparks, the loud blasts, I felt no fear at all. No negative thoughts, no phobias, no sweaty hands ... Adrenaline for sure. But above all, I felt bewilderment, wonder, admiration 🤩 and fooled around like a child, watching everything with the eyes of a child.

Photo of diables in the dark gathering around a fire source about to lit up their cartridges.
This street is getting lit

I can only wish I can come back a few more times. Playing with them for sure. But also again to capture some of this mayhem in all its glory with a better camera 📷 and even closer to the action. 🎥

Photo of 2 surdo drums sitting on the floor.
Gràcia es crema

Finally, after the final "burning" and devil's dance, the jam went on for a while. One of our surdo players had hurt his hand and had basically called it a day.

I picked up his instrument and took it back to the jam. Looking for someone else that might want to play it. But hoping to find no one and just hold on to it. I haven't even practices this particular type of drum, first time smacking it really hard - it fucking rocks, by the way 💪 metal as expected.

I picked up a simple rhythm and tagged along.

Get up! Come on! Play with them!

Ok! Gràcies! Moltas Gràcies!

🥁 dum! 🥁 dum! 🥁 dum!

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