A colourful verdiales band. / Salvador Salas

Joy as the celebration of a music and dance tradition unique to Malaga returns

The festival of the ancient Verdiales, a custom originating in the mountains close to the city, was cancelled last year due to Covid-19

J. SOTO / N. HESKETH

The annual Christmas festival of Malaga’s distinctive Verdiales folk music and dance took place in the city suburb of Puerto de La Torre on Tuesday this week.

“This is the most special day of the year,” beamed Antonio Pozo - who goes by the nickname of Panchurro and at 91 is the oldest of the regular participants in this Fiesta Mayor de Verdiales event.

Verdiales is an ancient, rural music and dance tradition originating in the mountains surrounding Malaga and in the Axarqúia. It is still practised competitively today.

At this week’s events, 12 of the groups - which are known as pandas - covering the three traditional styles, (Montes, Almogía and Comares), took part.

Panchurro used to play cymbals in the Santa Catalina panda, which adopts the Montes style of performance, but after a fall several years ago, he has moved on to singing to the violin.

“This fiesta gives me a dose of life; I’ve been enjoying the Verdiales since I was little,” he explained.

This was the 59th time the festival was held and this year there was even more enthusiasm as the Covid-19 pandemic had halted it in 2020. Almost 5,000 euros in prize money was up for grabs and for the first time a special auditorium built for the occasion was being used.

Ahead of the start of the performances, Malaga Mayor Francisco de la Torre said how pleased he was to see them all there. “I have always felt that [the Verdiales] are so ‘malagueño’ and so part of us,” he added.