Verdiales & Festival of St Hilary – Comares, Malaga
A day out with a difference is on the cards for guests staying at our CLC World resorts on the Costa del Sol in January.
The lovely white village of Comares – set high on a hilltop and looking like icing on a cup-cake – is just over an hour’s drive from Fuengirola and, on January 13th every year, the villagers celebrate their patron saint, St. Hilary, with a grand festival. So, why not get out and about and sample some local Andalucian tradition?
The Comares villagers begin their saint’s day celebrations with a full church Mass, accompanied by musical bands and the women’s choir. A street procession then leads to the Plaza Balcón de la Axarquía where there is an orchestra and dancing.
For those who love music in all its forms, Comares is not just a pretty place! The village is famous for its traditional Verdiales music and recognises its importance in the delightful Plaza de los Verdiales where a beautiful tiled mural, plaque and statue pay tribute to the music.
During the St Hilary’s Day festival, Verdiales can be heard all day long in different locations, and the songs, instruments and dancing are sure to captivate visitors. Around noon – this is Spain, so don’t expect punctuality! – gigantic paellas are cooked out in the open and served with local wines, cheeses and cooked meats such as chorizo and black pudding. And as always in these parts, the fun goes on all afternoon, through the evening and well into the night.
Directions by road
From CLC World take the A-7 motorway towards Malaga and at J272 near Vélez-Malaga turn onto the A-356 heading north towards Alhama de Granada. At Trapiche, turn left onto the MA-145 and at Benamargosa continue on the MA-159 and afterwards the MA-169, which takes you into Comares.
The exact origins of Verdiales music are unknown. It appears to have a strong base in the Fandango style, certainly pre-dates the more famous Flamenco and may even date back as far as the Romans, since the main festivals still coincide with the summer and winter solstices. Its roots may also be found in the songs of the Moors of Al-Andalus who, when they finally left Malaga, bequeathed to the locals a unique style that was developed to eventually become the Verdiales – so-named in honour of the highly-prized Verdial olive grown widely in the region.
Traditionally passed down from parent to child, the Verdiales also draw comparisons with modern English Morris dancing – and ‘Morris’ might well be a derivation of ‘Moorish’. There are certainly similarities, particularly in the costumes of both musicians and dancers, with hats decorated with spring and summer flowers and clothes and instruments adorned with bells and coloured ribbons.
Verdiales groups are called ‘pandas’ and performances see singers and musicians huddle in a circle while the dancing goes on outside the group. Competition is fierce between pandas from different villages and Comares is justifiably proud of its own, which have developed a unique style, with faster rhythms and livelier melodies. Rarely playing on stage, the pandas traditionally prefer to wander around the village streets, stopping ‘minstrel-style’ for regular upbeat bursts of happy song and dance, involving violins, the unique Comares lute, guitars, cymbals and tambourines, which combine to reach a crescendo that eventually drowns out the singers!