Category Archives: Basics

Are castells a competition?

Yes. And no. But yes. Let me explain it better:

Well, for me they actually have a certain degree of competitiviness, and a proof of it is that every two years a tournament is held: the “Concurs de castells”. This contest is set in Tarragona, where the colles who enter into the tournament compete between them, and we are talking about something like the Champions League of Castells. And I am not kidding.

(If you hit HERE you’ll find a Spanish video I couldn’t link properly where the news reporter says that the Concurs is the Champions League of Castells. Literally!)

Although, they say that the contest is split in three days, but I guess that we could talk more about three contests for each kind of colla. This is, during the season, the colles try to do their best and get classified for sunday, which is the day where the competition is for the biggest prices. So more or less the comparision with the UEFA Champions League is more or less correct, as the CL doesn’t start only with the group phase, but there are a lot of previous qualifying phases. By the same token, colles try to do their best when it comes to a Concurs’ year.

Continue reading Are castells a competition?

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Lingo

Last friday, when I just stepped into the local casteller the Cap de Colla tackled me:

— Hey Marc — he greeted me, while he was pointing to some fellow companions who were rolling a kids’ rehearsal in the middle of the room. — This is “fer pinya”. And that — then he pointed to the technical commission (I guess i talked about them once)— is “fer UNA pinya” or “fer LA pinya”.

Then I looked at him like the dog who looks a man teaching him to play catch. And then he told me again:

— I tell you because you mistook the difference between “to do pinapple” and “to do A pinapple”.

This is a template for a "three" pinya. Castellers in the technical team put the names of the people in the squares, to set them up in every place. PHOTO: Birreiros
This is a template for a “three” pinya. Castellers in the technical team write the names of the castellers in the squares, to set them up in their  place in the pinya. PHOTO: Birreiros

Continue reading Lingo

What is a Diada Castellera?

A diada castellera is the name of a gathering where colles build castells. Nothing more and nothing less.

This is a poster of the "Diada dels Quatre Fuets" in Berga. Featuring Castellers de Berga, Castellers de Barcelona and Castellers de Sabadell
This is a poster of the “Diada dels Quatre Fuets” in Berga. Featuring Castellers de Berga, Castellers de Barcelona and Castellers de Sabadell

Diades are held mainly while in the major festivals of a city, town or village, or because a certain festivity, or because on behalf or to honour a colla. This is, according to the CCCC, there are nowadays almost 90 colles castelleres all around the Catalan Countries, and there are, usually, around 53 weeks in a year. This means that last year 2013 castells reached a record with about 10.400 castells raised, as I stated in the previous post. Unfortunately I can’t tell how many diades have been celebrated to achieve this record.  Continue reading What is a Diada Castellera?

Are castells safe? Did you lasted so much in posting again because you fell off a castell and get really hurt?

Let me please answer first to the second question: I’m fine. Castells didn’t hurt me. It’s just that it has been Christmas holidays, I had troubles with my computer, I had to took it to the workshop, and I am a tad lazy sometimes.

About the first question, there is a huge concern about safety and health within the casteller environment. Castells are an amateur activity and an injury can inflict in the personal or professional life of the castellers.

Although, Castells are relatively safe. And when I say “relatively” it’s because there is no human activity, sport or tradition with risk zero. And castells, although it has improved its safety standards, are not an exception to it.

When a castell fells down, injuries may happen
When a castell fells down, injuries may happen

Continue reading Are castells safe? Did you lasted so much in posting again because you fell off a castell and get really hurt?

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?