Playing Bagpipes in the Forest: Fiesta de Carboeiro

5 a.m: Hiking up a dark hillside, listening to the echos of bagpipes and tambourines. The monastery sits quietly in the field below us all, right next to the crowd of assorted dancers, musicians, and inebriated singers. I was leaving my final foliada in Galica–intoxicated and footsore, both signs of a good one!

Back up, you say. What is a foliada?

A foliada is something spectacularly unique to Galicia. It’s a mix of folk concert and dance party, usually community-based. Sometimes, there are hired musicians, but it’s often just a gathering of people and their instruments, playing traditional music and dancing the old dances into the wee hours of the morning.


Now, traditional Galician music is NOT the stereotypical Spanish music. Instead of Spanish guitars and flamenco-ish styles, Gallego music includes bagpipes, tambourines, and a variety of drums. Surprisingly, the above group of 10 bagpipers actually sounded fantastic! Unlike the loud and vaguely obnoxious Scottish bagpipes that make appearances all around Hollywood, Galician bagpipes are softer and more musical.


Now, this particular foliada took place in and around a medieval monastery. During the day, the musicians played and the people danced. My friends and I came down the hill and listened to some music, as well as the story-tellers in the church. We also did some shopping, admiring the hippie-folk Gallegos and their cool earrings, bagpipe accessories, and assorted junk.

Now, my friends take Galician dance classes and were able to dance with the best of them…well, not the best of them. Because there were quite a few old men and women who were utterly SCHOOLING everyone with their dance moves.
However, my friends can dance. I cannot, but after hours of watching, I decided to give it a go–and wow it was fantastically awkward! I didn’t step on any feet, and I faked my way through the steps.

Throughout the night, we drank cheap wine and beer and danced some more. At some point, we decided to gather up used cups and get free beers (Yeah, that was a thing at Carboeiro–woo for alcoholics and their sustainability!).
About 5 a.m., most of us decided it was bed time, and so we hiked up the hill to our cars. However, I must add that the fantastic Quila and Alyssa decided to stay at the monastery–until NOON the next day!


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