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Manresa Revisited from Michal Shapiro on Vimeo.

This year’s report on the Fira Mediterrània de Manresa finds me once again trying to capture the torrent of events and concerts that make up this city-wide festival. My last report was concert-centric, but this time around, I decided to cover a bit more of the culinary and street life.

Although it has its charming old section, Manresa’s main attraction year round is the monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat, carved out of the mountain that overlooks the city, affording a remarkable vista of Catalonia. But I’ve yet to visit the monastery because the festival keeps me hopping; there is something interesting happening somewhere, all the time. With over 300 events to coordinate, I imagine that the staff of the Fira has only about two weeks rest after the dust settles before they are back to work for the next one.

That is not to say there is no time for a visitor to just sit and relax…With its broad avenues, quiet plazas and narrow side streets, Manresa is sprinkled with restaurants and wine bars, where one can always choose to slow down with something savory, be it liquid or solid. During the festival there is an entire avenue set aside for dining al fresco, and one can also stroll at a leisurely pace, sampling from the local food booths.

The festival brings in all kinds of talent — for example Toumani and Sidiki Diabate of Mali were there to enchant with the rippling sounds of their kora duets — but there is a definite emphasis on Catalan and Iberian culture. There is music, dance, theater, and all kinds of street entertainment. There was a beatbox concert with full orchestra backup, and a lyrical choreographed dance piece performed by elderly women. There were rides and entertainment just for kids, and I found myself consistently surprised and entertained by it all.

This is a not a festival set up in a field somewhere with tents and bandstands. The old town is the setting for this celebration, and the locals most definitely participate spiritedly. It is a civilized and happy efflorescence of culture and fellow-feeling, and with Barcelona only 50 kilometers away, it is an event worth planning a trip around.

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Kiran Ahluwalia: "Hayat" from Michal Shapiro on Vimeo.

The night was blizzardy, and the going was rough by car or by foot. This did not keep anyone away, and the house was packed. Kiran opened up this concert with the first song from her latest album, “Sanata” (stillness)

Lyrics & Music: Kiran Ahluwalia
Arrangement: Rez Abbasi

Life drifts in its own shadow.
Dragging along lounging sighs, life o life.

Those who speak my tongue are unevenly scattered.
Still, I collect conversations. I may run into someone.
I’ve been your refugee, life o life.

It’s wasting away, chasing ideas of love, my friend.
Those first sighs, that first story, life o life.

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Le Vent Du Nord perform "Lanlaire" from Michal Shapiro on Vimeo.

Le Vent du Nord (The North Wind) is one of Quebecois’ premiere exponents, and they performed a rousing set at Roulette as part of a “French Connection” series presented by Robert Browning Associates. They are innovators in the tradition, who as one might say, “know the rules, then break them.” The setting of “Lanlaire” combines a straightforward singing of the song with the expected foot stomping, with an arrangement of subtle sophistication.
My apologies up front for shaky camera work- when a band has complex arrangements, is spread out on a stage, and every member sings and plays, it is quite a task to second guess who is going to be singing or soloing, and where to focus. My monopod and I were doing quite a dance throughout!

from La Part du Feu

Did you know Lanlaire, whose death we’re mourning
Others like him we rarely see, we don’t see at all
Barely out of the womb, instead of crying and moaning
He was already making rounds, singing in every hall
Go Lanlaire yourself, so much people called him

Lanlaire Lonla, go Lanlaire yourself, Lonla you!

He was sent to college to learn Latin
He was sacrilegious and libertine
And whenever the stern master condemned him to old bread
His usual meal, he would tell him in Greek
Go Lanlaire yourself – that’s all he knew

He was told to leave or stay, the life of a soldier is too frugal
A doctor too modest, a merchant too loyal
So you’d rather be a notary, but it’s a costly position
Since you have no skills, be a lawyer, a stockbroker
Go Lanlaire yourself, the Devil was there

His wisdom he put only in allowed pleasures
Often with a new mistress but never changing friends
He was offered an agreeable wife with a sizeable dowry
Me, I’d go sell myself and be an idiot tomorrow, said he
And go Lanlaire myself, how do you call that

He did nothing of his life, so he did no evil
He was an envy-less poor, he lived on his native soil
He stayed single and didn’t even have children
If you think you’ll find countless heirs of his on this earth
Go Lanlaire yourself, they don’t make ‘em like him anymore.

from La Part du Feu, released 06 October 2009

The members of Le Vent Du Nord are: Nicolas Boulerice, Simon Beaudry, Olivier Demers and Réjean Brunet.

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Here’s where you’ll find my weekly original world music video blogs that appear on Huffington Post, as well as an archive starting in April of 2009.

This is also the place where you will find video that is exclusive to my site. I’ve traveled to places like Uzbekistan, Morocco, and Taiwan and no matter where I go I have found amazingly talented and creative people working in every genre from the deepest traditions to the cutting edge.

It’s been incredibly rewarding to interview them and to capture some of what they do on video. Enjoy what you see and hear, and let me know what you think. I welcome your feedback.