Who manages a colla?

So, up to this point, we have a bunch of people climbing up the shoulders of other people, to the point that a child climbs up all this bunch of people and raises his hand.

That’s really impressive, and beautiful. And all the people who sees castells for the first time gets shocked. Really. If you come to Barcelona for La Mercè’s fiestas (the week following september 24, they raise castells on Sunday) the only thing you will hear on Sunday at Plaça Sant Jaume will be Japanese girls’ yellings. And I guess you might know how acute they can be.

Castellers de Barcelona performing a 4d9f in Plaça Sant Jaume, Barcelona,  for La Mercè fiestas
Castellers de Barcelona performing a 4d9f in Plaça Sant Jaume, Barcelona, for La Mercè fiestas

Anyway, it’s obvious that this mass of people needs someone who manages them. In the sense that they need somebody outside the castell, telling them how they are climbing, who has to climb and when, if the castell is stable or not, to give them support… and much more! Continue reading Who manages a colla?

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What are a “Gralla” and a “Tabal”, and what are they used for?

Before answering this question, let me remember that a casteller is not necessarily someone who is in the pinya or who climbs up the tronc all the way, but someone who participates in an active way in a colla castellera.

Gralles and tabals
Gralles and tabals

And a way to participate is playing the casteller tune as a “graller” or as a “tabaler”. Gralles and tabals are not only used in Castells, but they are a very important part of them. Continue reading What are a “Gralla” and a “Tabal”, and what are they used for?

What is “fer pinya”?

“Pinya” in Catalan means “pineapple”. And “fer” is the infinitive of “to do” or “make”. So “fer pinya” in English means “doing pineapple” or “making pineapple”.

Yes. Sounds silly, I know.

I warned you that castells has a lot of lingo that not even all the Catalan people handle, but “fer pinya” is more than an expression used in castells. Let me explain first what the pinya is.

Catalan politicians "fent pinya" for the referendum about the independence of Catalonia. Photo: Vilaweb
Catalan politicians “fent pinya” for the referendum about the independence of Catalonia. Photo: Vilaweb

Continue reading What is “fer pinya”?

What is a “colla”?

In Catalan, “colla” means “a group of people”. Simple as that. In the casteller environment a “colla” is a team. And something else.

These are the Tirallongues de Manresa, a Colla Castellera. Good people.
These are the Tirallongues de Manresa, a Colla Castellera. Good people.
This is a "colla" of gangsters.
This is a “colla” of gangsters.

So say it in other words: castellers belong to “colles castelleres”, and colles make castells. Like footballers belong to football clubs and these teams play football with other teams… You can get the idea. Continue reading What is a “colla”?

What does “seny” mean? Why did you choose such a long header for a blog?

“Strength, balance, courage and common sense” its just the translation of “Força, equilibri,valor i seny”. The – unofficial – motto of the castellers.

It’s something like “The Internationale” for the workers, the “Gaudeamus Igitur” for the students or the Hipocratic Oath for the doctors. “Força, equilibri, valor i seny” are nothing but some words that identify a whole community. In this case, the castellers.

The enxaneta, the acotxador and the dosos wear helmet for their safety. This is seny. PHOTO: Castellers de Sant Cugat
Casteller children (canalla) wear helmet for their safety. This is “seny”. PHOTO: Castellers de Sant Cugat

The motto comes from “Els Xiquets de Valls”, a poem written by the composer, politician and founder of the choirs’ association movement in Catalonia Josep Anselm Clavé. It goes like this: Continue reading What does “seny” mean? Why did you choose such a long header for a blog?

So, What is this blog about?

This blog is about Castells. Maybe some of you have heard already about that weird catalan tradition: People piles up over the shoulders of other people, in order to do a human structure topped by children. Have you seen Brad Pitt’s “World War Z”? When they are in Israel and the zombies begin to climb up the walls? It’s more or less the same, but with (not really) sane people, more stylish and with a band of musicians around, joining the castell. Actually, I’m pretty sure that this kind of stuff was invented in a crazy summer night of partying and wine binging, but I can assure you that there is nothing more exciting than watch, or even participate, in one of these human towers.

I am afraid you’re not really eager to participate in one of these human towers…

Even more, doing a castell it’s not only about the piling up of the people. It’s something more. It’s a whole world. It’s not only a tradition, and it is not only one of the sickest hobbies anyone can have. It is almost a cult. Even worse than trainspotting, sugar packet or doll-collecting, or triathlon-running (this last one it’s getting more and more annoying). It’s a family. It’s a lifestyle. It’s a claim of being Catalan. It’s a vindication that anyone can be Catalan if they want to. So I am warning you. We’re going to talk about serious stuff here.

Furthermore, as there has not been a single blog about castells and its world in English language before – as far as I could spot. Although, I am not going to cheat you. I am not doing this because I had own initiative and one boring afternoon I sat in front of the computer and I said to myself “I am going to entrust my castellphilia to the English-speaker world!”. Not like that. Actually I am doing this as an exercise for my English lessons. Yeah, that’s right. I have a master’s degree in Australia and I am still doing English lessons, so what? They are for free (I will tell you about that someday), and I always can learn something more. Actually this blog is kinda like homework, but without the “kinda like”.

Castells are a whole world, but I will try to be as plain as possible in my explanations and I will try to to my best and if you have anything to say to me – where can I improve my English, what are my failures, how can you get in touch with people who do castells… – just send me an email. I will be very pleased to read your queries and answer them.

Welcome, and enjoy!