Arenaria Festival – the celebration of ethnic culture

Despite the summer slowly getting away, there is still one of the most fantastic events of the season to come. On the 8th, 9th and 10th of September, the seafront of Crotone will be turned into a festival stage. The Arenaria festival is new and is organized in Calabria only the 2nd time, but it has already become an anticipated event which everyone talks about.

The slogan of the festival opens its key idea: granelli di tradizioni locali, which stands for “grains of local traditions”. Each of the performances taking place in these three days is dedicated to a specific area of Calabria and its peculiarity, cultural codes, and traditions. There are going to be music and dance performances, master classes and lectures, presentations and theatrical shows, food stands and degustation of local products, as well as educational and entertaining activities for children.

This event is going to be one of the greatest celebrations of southern Italian culture and traditions, finally taken out of family houses in the countryside and brought to the city streets – to celebrate the roots, the land and the culture which makes the South what it is.

The has met the art director and the mastermind of Arenaria Festival – Pierluigi Virelli, a Calabrian musician, specializing on traditional Calabrian instruments and folk music traditions.

Pierluigi Virelli (photo from personal Facebook page)

 – What inspired you to come up with the idea of this festival?

For more than 10 years I’ve been researching about the traditional music in Calabria not only by learning how to play the traditional instruments but also living, working and sharing long periods of time with shepherds and peasants. This way I had the opportunity to observe directly how the musical instruments are used and constructed using natural materials; how music, chants, and dances are performed and included in the rituals as well as having a deep insight into the oral tradition which is the most important part of the rural tradition in Calabria. Also, as a musician, I’ve participated in many festivals and I’ve seen many concerts which have been advertising themselves as traditional but involved modern drums and electric guitars. This is not how it should be done. These two main reasons brought me to put together all my knowledge, expertise and network and build up a festival, which would display three enjoyable evenings for everyone to know and enjoy how things, music, parties, dances, and chants were originally performed in Calabria.

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 – What audience is this festival for? Who are the people you’d like to see there?

Arenaria will take place on the seafront of Crotone, and I’m extremely happy about this location as this will give the opportunity to all kinds of people which are not usually in touch with this type of arts to enjoy them perhaps for the first time. As for the audience, I’d love to see in these three days I would definitely say families, youngsters, and kids. There will be activities and shows for everyone, from the historical and anthropological discussion to mosaic labs and puppets shows.

 – How can this festival interest the foreign visitors? Do you think it would it be a valuable experience for a person who comes from outside of Italy and is not familiar with the culture?

There will be the opportunity for a foreign visitor to see many local traditions, which are not often displayed this way, and to understand where the peculiar temper of the people of the south comes from. The evenings will not be closed with a concert in a modern way. Instead, there will be a festa all’abballu – a dance, where dozens of players and dancers stay together in a circle. The dance is led by the mastru abballu – the master, who is there to teach the dance to the participants and make everyone feel comfortable in the celebration. There will be the dances of the giants, and the pyrotechnical donkey, two very old traditions, which are not often displayed in public and many other interesting things. I just want to invite everyone to visit Calabria because this is one of the wildest and authentic destinations in Italy, which can give an amazing experience to anyone who’s looking for something real.

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