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A Traditional Spanish Drum Parade: San Sebastián Tamborrada

On the 20th January at midnight the city of San Sebastián in Spain starts celebrating its patron with the most important drum festival in the whole country, the San Sebastián Tamborrada.

Are you curious about what is behind this incredible event?

In order to understand the origins of the Tamborrada we need to go back to 1813, when British and Portuguese troops tried to regain control from the French Army and the city of San Sebastián was sacked and burnt to the ground. In those days, soldiers would march around the city playing drums and the locals started mocking them using barrels and any kind of utensils instead of real drums.

At the beginning, the Tamborrada was related to the Carnival and people used to wear fancy costumes without respecting any specific code, but things changed quickly.

The sociedades gastronómicas (culinary clubs) played an important role as they formed many bands which take part in the celebration and that significantly affected the festival: nowadays there are two groups, the tamborreros who wear soldiers uniforms and play drums and the cooks who play barrels.

The festival starts when the flag of the city is raised at the Old Town Hall in Plaza de la Constitución, on the 20th at midnight, and goes on for 24 hours. The opening is the March of San Sebastián, composed by Raimundo Sarriegui in 1861; after that, hundreds of drum groups (around 125, which means roughly 15.000 drummers) play as they parade through the city streets. In the morning of the 20th there is also a nice children’s tamborrada: the students of several schools wearing different uniforms go around the city playing drums and entertaining people.

This is a really evocative celebration which gather a huge number of people playing and enjoying this important day together.

Fascinating, isn’t it?

If you want a full immersion in the local culture, the Tamborrada is definitely the kind of event you should take part in!

In the meantime, have a look at some nice pictures of the event here.

 

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