Megaplayback – A Fresh Look at Village Life in Spain

In Cudillero, a fishing village in Northern Spain, a white-haired señora looks up from sorting the day’s catch. She stares at the camera as the music begins, and her lips start to move, synching (more or less) to Gloria Gaynor’s famous first line, “Once  I was afraid, I was petrified….”  The camera advances with the song, past ladies mending fishing nets whose lips also move to the lyrics of “I Will Survive.” Young women join in, classic Spanish beauties with flowing dark hair who pass along a basket of shimmering fish as they sing. The camera is in constant motion, taking viewers through the narrow, colorful streets of Cudillero, past locals of all ages and vocations. The participants do their best to sing along, their actions choreographed to the music. Fish are clearly the local protagonists, and even a hake takes a star turn in the hands of a fishmonger-cum-puppeteer. Sparkling cider (the fermented kind) flows freely.

I came across this video while channel surfing one summer evening in Murcia. I had to pause  – the scene was goofy yet earnest. The entire village seemed to be involved, having a good time while showing off local culture and traditions. This was a display of a quality I love about Spain, the fact that traditions are taken seriously, but not to the point of becoming staid.

Cudillero, population 5885, was competing with other small villages across the country (of between 5,000 and 10,000 inhabitants) for the chance to win 30,000 euros on Megaplayback, another experiment in reality TV. Participants had three minutes to prove their village was “the liveliest in Spain,” and that they knew best how to have a collective good time. They had to select a song and produce a video in a continuous take, and their movements were to be coordinated to the music. The final product should, according to contest guidelines, “sacar todo el sabor del pueblo” – bring out the full flavor of the village, showing viewers what makes the place special.

Megaplayback has ended – it was far from a chartbuster – but you can still watch the final videos on YouTube. Catch the winning submission, a rousing rendition of the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” by inhabitants of San Adrián, a village in Navarra, a region in Northern Spain. Or see some of my other favorites, including the videos of Alcalá del Valle, in Cádiz, Andalucía; Carnota, in maritime Galicia; and Añover del Tajo, in the central region of Castilla la Mancha (even the mayor has a cameo in this entry). All of the videos have their charm, really, and make for a novel way to armchair travel in Spain.

TIP: For now, you can still find a map of participating villages on the official program site.

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