Music and the Catalonian Revolt: Geraint Rhys' Vibrations

Music and the Catalonian Revolt: Geraint Rhys’ Vibrations

Vibrations is a short documentary by Welsh musician Geraint Rhys. Shortly after releasing his song ‘Visca La Terra’ about the Catalan independence movement, he travelled back to Barcelona to understand the role music played in the build up to the October the 1st referendum.

My connection with Catalunya has existed for almost ten years now. I first went there in the summer of 2010 to visit some Catalan friends and fell in love with the place immediately.

Like Cymru, they too are a nation within a larger state, with a separate sense of history, belonging and place which grounds the population in a familiarity and stability. Also like Cymru, the quest to re-define itself is an on-going process wrought with contention, conflict and confusion.

Since that first visit, I have travelled back numerous times to play gigs, speak at political debates and to visit friends. Each time, the murmurs towards self-determination have grown stronger to the point where now the agenda of independence is very much at the forefront of everyday life. Walking around the streets of Barcelona today, you will see the cultural traces of protest everywhere. From pro-independence flags draped on the balconies of people’s homes, to stickers on lampposts urging the importance of Spanish unity, the streets are very much the stage that this movement is being played out on.

Being a political musician, I am drawn to the art of protest. No place is absent from sound, and I have always been fascinated with not only how music and sound are influenced by a place, but also how those sounds can equally shape a place. This is why I decided to travel back to Barcelona in the week before the October 1st referendum for independence, to understand the extent music and sound played in the days leading up to the vote.

Music’s presence is inevitable in any political struggle, wherever you are in the world and in this piece, which is my debut short film, I wanted to show not only how music was integral in bringing people together and for creating spaces of solidarity, but how it was also used as an amplifier of people’s histories and emotions. Mixing interviews with a narrative that I wrote after returning from Catalunya, the piece shows the power that the vibrations of sound can have in instigating a revolution to challenge state power.

The conversations with people on the street revealed that music is more than just a tool of defiance, it is a universal language, an embodied experience that has the power to infiltrate minds, bodies and souls unlike anything else.

I don’t think anyone could have predicated the scale of disproportionate violence that occurred on the day of the vote, and I think releasing this film now has a deeper poignancy because it emphasises the optimism, hope and peacefulness of the campaign leading up to that violent day.