Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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The Protest Music of the Placa Catalunya

May 22, 2011

No playing of music for me last night. I am expecting a busy next two days on that front, as most of the jams in Barcelona happen on Sunday and Monday night. So last night I interviewed Unax Noga, also known as Max, who organizes the open mic at the George Payne pub.

I interviewed Unax on camera for that open mic documentary I am working on, and learned he is from the Basque region – thus the name – and that he recently came to Barcelona to do a masters in sound engineering. He is also a musician and as you can hear from the video I made of him singing at the open mic the other day, he has a great voice.

But the point of all this is that his girlfriend, Lore, was also there yesterday and we spoke a little, and she asked me if I had been to the Placa Catalunya on this trip and seen all the demonstrators. I said I had not. It was just down the street from the George Payne, though, and I decided to check it out after dinner. What I found blew me away. This was, as planned, kind of like the demonstrations in Bahrain and other countries on the other side of the same Mediterranean whose shores are only a few hundred meters away at the port of Barcelona.

These people, said Lore, were protesting the current political and economic situation in Spain in a peaceful protest. I sympathized with her and said, “Yes, with 20 percent unemployment….” She quickly pointed out to me however that for the young people in Spain up to about age 24 – Unax’s age – unemployment was more like 40 percent. [Since I first posted this I have learned that in fact the unemployment rate in Spain was 21 percent, with the under 25 rate being more than 44 percent! That is almost half of young people under 25 have no job.

Crap. No wonder the Placa Catalunya was so full of young people. The protest was indeed peaceful, and the feeling was one of controlled tension. There was music all over the Place too, and the banging of casseroles that I have heard since I arrived in this city, which I did not at first understand the meaning of. Now I do. Protest song.

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