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The conch shell sounds. The sea’s roars are an inconsistent echo in the first foothills of the mind when the panda descends from the mountain. Getting in the square crowded with people along with the violins and cymbals challenging the last cicadas of summer. The music gets louder. Another panda arrives and his mayor throws a feathered arrow over the head of the bravest guitar warrior. Los Montes have been transformed into a wonderful rave at Benagalbón square. The shock burns and the flame can beat all possible cloud omens.

The tassels of verdiales hats move like a Cuban santón moves his lucky charms. There is no rain that can beat them. The sun is reflected on the crystals attached to the fighters’ caps and it seems that, thanks to their reflections, a thousand colored birds were nesting on the walls of the whitewashed houses that surround the clash.

The music rises and rises in its rhythm until someone sees the fall of a proud God. Faces change faces; some win, others lose. But then, there will be the return game. Over the golden corner of dawn, when the cords loosen their tension and all of this is more like a foil duel. The beast of the crowd has been tamed in the square and the corners of the old Benagalbón are waiting for the most faithful ones to the party. The sweet wine runs out in the afternoon. It’s the turn of the fight of the near ones, the verdict that hurts the most. The muses hold on to the throats to caress them; “Vengo de los Verdiales / de los verdiales vengo / vengo de ver una novia / que en los verdiales tengo”. The almond blossoms crown is already lying on the sidewalk.

We are remembering the old ones, the young man will call out. You will see specters like sweet Ramos pies between drinks and drinks; El Povea, present; Enrique España and Luis Gámez, present; los calderones, present. Palomillo, Lagartijo, El Raicero and Rubio de las Casillas, Cinco Reales, Juan Medina, los Romero, Pitele, Miguel Romero Esteo, Lolita la del Arroyo de la Adelfa, Quintín, el Sardina… present. Pepito Molina, Pavarotti de Benagalbón and Carlos Fernández preparing as Achilles the last of the Trojan takeover on that sidewalk. Mayor, flagger, conch, dancers, violin, three or four guitars, three or four cymbals, the formation is consistent; and if you come from above, a laud or bandurria… Oh, so you know.

Benagalbón will again be full of pandas this Saturday when the beaches will already be abandoned like candles that have stifled their embers. It will be time to take the road back to fall, take the eastern slopes of the mountains and climb to catch musical oranges in the town square. There will also be judges, the four chosen by the steps of the church, the people roaring at the feet of pandas, looking for the photo, perching on a balcony that so many people suffer and suffer. Silence! Thus Santo Pitar is entering the square. The opponent who replies. The sound that rises and falls as in an infinite Ferris wheel that displaces the afternoons. Those afternoons that smelt like salt under dull lights of September.

There will be children who run through the maze of the elders’ legs. The tambourines will sound rough like lions that will shed the last surviving geranium of the summer. The black roof tiles of the whitewashed houses will be missing the smell of burnt sugar from the first alfajores fighting against winter. They will arrive soon. A bit of aguardiente and borrachuelo. Los Montes are celebrating. Those two pandas have not found each other in the lost paths of life through the inhospitable nights of history. Now, they do not stone them, crowds are those who come up on buses to enjoy this holy displaced of ‘fools’ here and there. Fellini is recording the scene from his cloud balcony with Nino Rota.

The chocaera turns almost twenty-five autumns. This party is here each September the third and this year remembering Juan Breva. One hundred years from his leaving. Cantaor de reyes who stopped the frenzy of the party and turned the verdial into malagueña. Present. All the guitars are raised, love swords that the earth throws to heaven. There will be a chatter even in the saddest house in Benagalbón. It is not a common festival in Andalucía either. Six thousand people will enjoy a parade of pandas, a range of craft stands selling local products. Applauses will be raining, petals of burning wax will be raining. Shhhhh. The conch comes. The party starts.

Francis Mármol

Journalist and music researcher.

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