La Flama de tot un Poble en Moviment

 

Take a look at this video:

Stunning or what? As it is a campaign film for independence, I am going to have to ask you to put your hand on your heart and compare it with the Scottish National Party campaign film which is currently showing at that party’s website. If you had to say which is more captivating and highly absorbing, which would it be? Be honest. There is no contest, I venture to suggest. Regrettably, the SNP video seems to me to be in comparison a not conspicuously successful attempt to be both cool and inclusive.

Populated by more or less seemingly isolated and stiffly artificial characters affecting to be inspired by a more or less culturally alien sort of pop song which, however popular it may or may not be with a certain age group, certainly lacks trans-generational appeal and seems to represent nothing so much as a peculiarly perverse rejection of native culture. The Catalan film, on the other hand, is boldly authentic, richly symbolic and evocative, full of communal interconnectedness and emphatically and wholly convincingly real people who are tremendously easy to relate to. It is generationally inclusive and contemporary while asserting cultural identity and inherited and indeed cherished cultural tradition. It is a presentation and a demonstration of an inclusive national community working together, whereas the Scottish effort is a relatively feeble representation of not so much a convincing reality as an aspiration which is not shown to be well founded.

What the masterful Catalan demonstration of how the medium can be the message shows, on the other hand, is a popular art form known as a lip dub, which, as you are probably aware, although I was not until recently, is a kind of happening which does not, of course, simply happen. It has to be organized rather carefully, and the more people who are involved in it the more carefully organized it plainly has to be. Yet the end result is meant to give an impression that a degree of spontaneity is involved. A whole bunch of folk are assembled to mime to and in some imaginative manner communally perform a recorded song and have quite a lot of fun while doing so. In the Lip Dub for Catalan Independence shown above no fewer than 5,771 people (a world record) were brought together to mime to and perform a popular Catalan song, La Flama (The Flame), by the group Obrint Pas (Breaking Through), as part of the independentist election campaign for the recent parliamentary general election in the autonomous community of Catalonia in the north-east of the Castilian kingdom of Spain. This historic election took place on November 28th and was duly won by Catalan nationalists. An account of the election result, to which, unsurprisingly, not much attention has been paid by the UK media (out of fear of contagion?) appears at Newsnet here.

The song La Flama was chosen for this campaign event because the flame which is its subject and hence the theme of the lip dub is the flame of national sentiment which somehow did not die out in Catalonia after that country lost its independence when it was defeated at the siege of Barcelona in 1714 during the War of the Spanish Succession. As Catalan is a Romance language and thus relatively approachable, here are the lyrics:

No et limites a contemplar aquestes hores que ara venen
baixa al carrer i participa,
no podran res davant un poble unit alegre i combatiu.

Amb l’espurna de la historia,
i avançant a pas valent,
hem ences dins la memoria,
la flama d’un sentiment.

Viure sempre corrent,
avançant amb la gent,
rellevant contra el vent,
tranportant sentiments.
Viure mantenint viva
la flama a través del temps,
la flama de tot un poble en moviment.(bis)

Amb columnes de paraules,
i travessant la llarga nit,
hem fet de valls, mars i muntanyes,
els escenaris d’un nou crit.
Viure sempre corrent,
avançant amb la gent,
rellevant contra el vent,
tranportant sentiments.

Viure mantenint viva
la flama a través del temps,
la flama de tot un poble en moviment.(bis)

A rough translation into English appears here.

La flama a través del temps, la flama de tot un poble en moviment (the flame kept alive down the ages, the spirit of a nation on the move) is what is represented in the lip dub, which opens at a point in the distant past, from where the flame of national sentiment is snatched by a modern-day Catalan youth and transported through time, through the ancient narrow streets of the town of Vic, past representations of Catalan history and culture, including the traditional building of human castles, which is apparently very popular and is a televised sport, past the giants and the bigheads and the flag-waving and the brandishing of gigantic symbols, a Catalan peccadillo which is noticeably reflected in the Catalan-designed Scottish Parliament building. The flame passes through the generations to the present one, the representative of which ultimately carries it into the present day by bringing it into the main square of Vic, holding the flame aloft before a vast cheering crowd, which is brandishing more Catalan flags than you can wave a stick at and chanting “I-inde-independència!” (a very common chant in Catalonia these days), as a line of people at the back are gradually seen to be holding up large white letters of the alphabet forming the word independència, whereupon the song comes to an end and a rendition of Els Segadors (The Reapers), the Catalan national anthem, erupts. Banners are waved. The people cheer, and giants and bigheads representing Catalonia’s past are discerned in the midst of the throng, which fills the square, which is the heart of the town, just as the flame of national sentiment is the spirit of the people, which is overflowing.

The Lip Dub for Independence is a self-evidently powerful demonstration of national solidarity intended to reach out to the world to let it know that Catalonia has survived as a nation despite Castilian efforts to suppress it and oppress it. Furthermore, it is becoming more assertive. Soon its new government will take over in Barcelona, and demands for greater autonomy will be made by an administration which could hold an independence referendum if they are not met, a referendum the result of which will be foreshadowed by the result of the unofficial locality-by-locality people’s independence referendum which reaches its climax in Barcelona on April 10th, in time to astonish the world and alarm Madrid and possibly even grab the attention of the Scottish electorate as it gets ready to vote in the Scottish general election of May 5th, when the UK government’s AV referendum may, of course, just possibly be hijacked, as recommended by . . . Bella Caledonia, to assert the inalienable right of the people to determine the constitutional future of their country, as the people of Catalonia have done by taking matters into their own hands. As they say there, and keep repeating, in very loud piercing voices, “Som una nació. Nosaltres decidim!” (We are a nation. We decide for ourselves!)

In preparation for the Scottish general election, and the hijacked referendum, Scotland needs a campaign event and a campaign film as powerful as the Lip Dub for Independence, which to date has been viewed about 885,000 times since it was uploaded to YouTube on October 27th. Not as sensational as Susan Boyle perhaps, but not bad. Not bad at all, and the whole of Catalonia is still talking about it (as indeed am I), in between flag waving and building human castles and the like. Maybe Bella’s referendum idea could attract enough support for it to be comparable to the unofficial Catalonian independence referendum?  Perhaps a lip dub to publicize both it and the cause of Scottish independence could be organized. Maybe even more than one, as has happened in Catalonia? Cross-fertilization of superbly subversive ideas between sub-state nations is precisely what the Establishment does not want.

That is precisely why we should do it. Visca Catalunya. Visca Catalunya lliure! Saor Alba!’

Comments (13)

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  1. March For Scotland says:

    I think the nature of the Catalan people had a big part to play in this; dancing in the streets is a little less likely in Scotland.

    However, a Scottish equivelant of this campaign video is certainly possible. Why not? We should try anything and everything.

    An independence march is being held in Edinburgh on Saturday the 9th of April, and we’re hoping to get a few bands in too. It would be great if you could join us:
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/March-For-Scotland/154964501214868

    1. Certainly, taking account of cultural differences, one would not seriously be advocating that a Scottish lip dub for independence should slavishly emulate the Catalan one shown above, which, apart from the dancing, is extraordinarily intricate and would probably require a longer period of clement weather than one could realistically expect to have available to one in Scotland most of the time.

      Forget the dancing if you must, although I was rather looking forward to that. Let’s do a lip dub with folk walking briskly through the streets instead, then, or even cycling or for that matter sitting about in a café or bashing a few musical instruments about. Surely Scots could manage that. Catalans can:

      Good luck with your march in April. Over a million Catalans marched through the streets of Barcelona in July to assert their nationhood. I hope you get as good a crowd.

      1. bellacaledonia says:

        Actually as I was watching it reminde me of the High Street in Edinburgh – I imagined a Lib Dub through the closes with an outdoor ceilidh at the end…I dont recognise the stereotype of Scots as dour…dancing in the streets happens every Hogmanay?

  2. It occurs to me on reflection that, as I was driving from the airport past a hostelry in the Doric zone late one Friday night not long ago – before the snowflakes, admittedly – I distinctly spotted what looked like dancing in the street, although not tremendously well choreographed, I have to say.

    As for Hogmanay, well . . . actually a Hogmanay scenario might clearly be the very thing for a lip dub, complete with lumps of coal and black bun. Another thought that occurs is that the massed shenanigans in Princes Street at Hogmanay might be worth incorporating somehow, what with all the fireworks and the musical performances and the suitably lubricated assembly already dancing in the streets as if to the manner born.

    1. warnthewater says:

      Oh aye Frankly? Your article was great but H ogmany, whisky, shortbread and tartanry for our version? I think not.

      1. OK. I thought I was on thin ice there.

  3. bellacaledonia says:

    A contemporary ceilidh atmosphere doesn’t have to be ‘shortbready’ does it warnthewater? Point is: ‘we can dance if we want to.’

    One of the features of the Lip Dub Frankly pointed to was that it was ‘cross generation’ ‘authentic’ and lively. Hogmanay and ceilidh culture ticks all these boxes.

    Maybe just need the right music so maybe more Martin Bennet than Jimmy Shand?

  4. Ray Bell says:

    Catalonia has other problems, including a much splintered independence movement. It goes without saying that the SNP is not the only pro-independence party/group in Scotland, but it is miles ahead of all the rest – only the SGP seems to have managed to keep itself in the limelight, and even it has suffered a recent decline.

    One of the other issues, and a massive danger here, is that in Catalonia, the mainstream independence party has become too comfortable with devolution. The same has happened in the Basque Country. The SNP needs to be very careful that it doesn’t end up in the same situation.

    1. Splintered it may be, but the nationalist movement as represented in the Catalan Parliament currently has a majority which could be used to pass an independence-referendum bill, which is much more than can be said for the more unified Scottish independence movement at this time.

      Whether this will happen and, if so, when, remains to be seen, but one should remember that there has been for the past several months a constitutional impasse in Catalonia concerning its statute of autonomy. The party which won the Catalan general election on November 28th, the moderate nationalist centre-right CiU (Convergence and Union) has a mandate to ramp up the crisis by demanding more autonomy and apparently intends to do so, although the Spanish prime minister has indicated that these demands cannot be met. A referendum could well result from this, in which Artur Mas, the leader of the CiU, would vote for independence, according to statements which he made in the election campaign. This is a fluid and dynamic situation within an economic context which is rather special.

      I take your point about the danger of becoming comfortable with devolution, but the turbulence of current events resulting from the Great Recession, not least Spain’s fiscal and sovereign-debt problems, is ripping up comfort zones left, right and centre. “Events, dear boy, events,” as Harold Macmillan is said to have responded to a journalist when asked what is most likely to blow governments off the course that they would be most comfortable with.

  5. David MacGille-Mhuire says:

    This is super. Could anyone suggest a Catalan language website to me? Much appreciated.

    As an aside but related somewhat to the concept of “sub-nation state”, Japan is not the unitary, ethnically homogenous state that it likes to pretend to the world (and which myth is pedalled

    1. Links to Catalan language sites (enllaços de llengua) can be found at :
      http://www.softcatala.org/wiki/Enlla%C3%A7os_de_llengua

      By the way, thanks for your comments at my site. Sorry it took so long for them to appear.

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