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La tamborrada guest post written by Elena

This is the name of one of the most charming and joyful festivities in Spain. It takes place in San Sebastian, capital of Gipuzkoa, the closest province to France along the Cantabrian seaside. The event is divided in two parts, one at night for adults and the next day in the morning for kids.

It can’t be determined with historic accuracy in which year the first tamborrada went out into the San Sebastian streets. Some people attribute its origin around 1836 to the drumbeat made on buckets by maids and their companions (artisans and soldiers) while waiting for their turn in front of one of the three fountains that supplied San Sebastian with water and others think that the origin is from the carnival.

So, people from all ages are concerned about the importance of this day january 20th when the deep proud and happiness of being born and/or be part of the life in this beautiful place, well known as “la bella easo”, is loudly expressed by performing a parade with rolling drums and barrels and the special songs composed about 100 years ago.

Among those performances, the two representatives songs are “sheshenarena” by Santisteban and the hymn of San Sebastian by Sarriegui.

The participants of the parade are grouped by his “gastronomical associations” or less traditionally, by neighborhoods. It’s important to know which of these gastronomical associations are the more ancient in the tradition because some of them are the protagonists for historical reasons.

For instance, la tamborrada started from the association “La Fraternal” premises until 1830. Next in chronology, it was “La Union Artesana” and nowadays there are more than 100 different groups.

Those groups have different roles:

  • there are men dressed in fancy colorful military uniforms with the same style that Gipuzkoan soldiers during the Independence War against the Napoleon’s troops - some of them are the orchestra and the rest, the drummers
  • there are women dressed in typical clothes, as “aguadoras” who will play barrels
  • a group of both male and female cookers dressed in white with a high cooker hat who will play barrels too.

All those tamborrada groups play coordinately thanks to a figure that plays the role of orchestra director (and the rehearsals since summer time), it is one of the cookers, his baton is a huge spoon which is moved up and down while the music sounds and the drumsticks hit each other or playing alternatively the drum at the rhythm of the song. The audience (majority citizens) always knows the lyrics and sings with joy, emphasizing the tribute to themselves.

Well, I hope I’ve been able to transmit you the feeling of harmony that some of us feel till tears. There is much more to say and to know but you will have to ask when you go there.