Last night I went to the Panigiri festival in the village of Megalo Papingo. Before we even left our rooms in Mikro Papingo we could here the music playing through the mountains. As we walked up the cobblestone streets we now not only heard music, we heard laughter and talking and children.
Walking into a large and warmly lit courtyard the focus pulled instantly into the center where sat a circle of men, all playing various instruments. There was a clarinet and a violin and a guitar and a vocalist in the center.
I was surprised to see they were all electric, plugged into a common mixer and feeding several large speakers surrounding their small circle, or else playing directly into microphones. It made sense that they would want the music magnified, for the whole square to be able to talk and laugh without overpowering the music, but it did not fit the image in my head of a village festival. After only a few minutes I was taken with the music, it was calming and exciting at the same time, you don’t know if you want to sway along or jump up and dance.
Right when we arrived there had been a large number of people up and dancing, all in the traditional circle style we’ve all seen in movies and probably never actually experienced. It was amazing to see a community united through dance in such a way. A few apprentices got up and joined in on one of the songs, though most of us still felt too much like outsiders. After encouragement from Ianthe, I decided to join in on the next song. I waited a bit and watched the dance so I could pick up the step, then hopped on in.
I was doing well and the dance was slow, however halfway through the dance changed, the tempo quickened, and not surprisingly I could no longer keep up. Then a woman one person over from me leaned over and started telling me the steps and reassuring me that I was doing just fine, all in English. Once again, I picked it up and was able to join in and have fun. The dance was meditative and communal rather than boisterous. It ended, we applauded, and she introduced herself as Angela then asked where we were from.
I have never seen someone’s jaw literally drop the way hers did just then. Finding out I was from California, and my friend from New York, was apparently much farther than she had ever expected anyone to travel to get to her little village. She even came over later to talk with us and asked if we were with the theatre. She wanted to know when the show was and how she could see it, and I won’t be surprised at all if we see her again. I don’t think she ever realized just how much she had done for me, being so kind and accepting to a complete foreigner who was a little in over her head at that festival. She easily could’ve ignored us, or even gotten angry at us for joining and not knowing the steps, but instead she welcomed us and allowed us to partake in her culture, creating a memory we will always have and a perspective we otherwise never would have gained. So, thank you Angela, for truly making my night. Though the music and the drinks and the view were all spectacular, it was you that allowed me to enjoy it as a local and not an outsider.