Photo: Lluis Companys Olympic stadium, this Saturday December 2nd, 2017 (Credit: El Punt d’Avui archive)
By Guillem Vidal, Barcelona
50,000 people, according to figures provided by the National Assembly, defied seven degree temperatures yesterday afternoon in Montjuïc to fill the Lluís Companys Olympic Stadium for the Concert for the Freedom of the Political Prisoners. The concert that served to fund the “solidarity bank” with which fines and bails are paid, and also to send the message, “You are not alone,” to the prisoners of Estremera, Alcalá-Meco and Soto del Real, as well as the President and the counsellors of the Generalitat, exiled in Brussels. During the event, which lasted three and a half hours, we heard from the relatives of Sánchez, Cuixart, Junqueras, Romeva, Mundó, Borràs, Forn, Bassa, Rull and Turull, and videos were uploaded from Brussels by the four counsellors and Carles Puigdemont. In his, the president said that initiatives such as yesterday’s concert “help keep hope alive, to persist and to continue fighting for the dream we are committed to.” Oriol Junqueras, in the letter he sent, railed against a “pre-election witch hunt” and asked the Spanish government “if what the voters express will be accepted, or simply neglected.” Agustí Alcoberro, Vice President of the ANC, warned that tomorrow, whatever happens at the Supreme Court, we will have to continue fighting for freedom and the closure of the open cases. “We are a people who fight while singing and sing while fighting,” he reminded the crowd.
Dozens of musicians of different ages and styles did just that during the concert, which began at 2:05 p.m. with the Americans Sound of Thunder playing their heavy metal version of Els Segadors [The Reapers – Catalan National Anthem] – “Catalans, Catalans, we are here!” said the singer, Nina Osegueda, daughter of a native of Terra Alta who emigrated to the United States in the seventies – and that ended three and a half hours later, with all the musicians accompanying Monica Green to Tots Junts Vencerem, an adaptation in Catalan of ‘We Shall Overcome’, a hymn of civil resistance popularized by Joan Báez and Pete Seeger. Among other things heard or seen on the day, were constant shouts of “freedom”; historical videos of Rosa Parks sitting in a bus for white people; video of President Companys saying “We will suffer again, we will fight again and we will win again”; a cutting imitation of Toni Albà [a pro-independence comedian] – which caused a few whistles when, sarcastically, he said that Sabina, Loquillo and Serrat [prominent pro-union musicians and actors] had wanted to come to the concert, but the line-up was already full, and songs, some of which have long become much more than songs, to those listening.
There were many classics: By Lluis Llach: Júlia Jové and Salva Racero sang “Que tindrem sort” (May we have luck); Cesk Freixas, Pau Alabajos, Borja Penalba and the former deputy of the CUP David Fernàndez, sang “L’Estaca” (The Stake), and Beth, “Pais Petit” (Small country). By Raimon, Freixas and Alabajos performed “Al vent” (On the wind). Maria de Mar Bonet, and three young voices, Gemma Humet, Judit Neddermann and Paula Valls, revived “L’àguila negra” (The Black Eagle). By Ovidi Montllor, the group Ovidi 4 sang “Sageta de Foc”, and Quico Pi de la Serra, accompanied by Amadeu Casas, got the crowd singing “Si els fils de puta volessin, no veuríem mai el sol” (If those sons of bitches wanted it, we’d never see the sun). Another classic, “La gent vol viure en pau” (The people want to live in peace), was performed by The Dharma Electric Company, who really got the crowd jumping with “No volem ser” (We don’t want to be) and put a beat to one of the chants which, in the last few decades has become a mainstay of street manifestations: “Els Carrers seran sempre nostres” (The streets will always be ours). “The streets have always been a th cradle of utopia!” said one of the Fortuny brothers after a speech in which he expressed solidarity with Roger Español, the man who lost an eye during the Spanish police violence of the first of October against voters [due to a rubber bullet].
There was plenty of time for more modern hymns, too, (Èric Vergés, Èric Vinaixa, Oriol Barri and Joan Rovira performed “Invincibles” (Invincible), Els Catarres, and Montse Castellà, Ivette Nadal, Aitor Xeic and Miquel Cubero, performed “Esperança”, by Txarango); comic songs for entertainment such as a “Libre” by Nino Bravo performed in song format by Oques Grasses, Bonobo and Itaca Band, and unusual collaborations such as those of Els Amics de les Arts featuring Orfeó Català – who, to a stadium filled with crowds brandishing mobile phone torches, played “Louisiana o els camps de cotó” (Louisiana or the cotton fields)” – and The Impossible Band, a supergroup with the best known faces from Sopa de Cabra, Els Pets, Gossos, Lax’n’Busto, Glaucs and Whiskyn’s, playing hits such as “Camins” (Paths), Llenca’t (Get going) and Corren (run!).
It came to an emotional close with “Els Segadors” (The Reapers) improvised by the tens of thousands of spectators who filled the stands with yellow, and the certainty that music makes us feel stronger and more free.