sons da diversidade

If there’s one thing in Santiago that never ceases to amaze me, it’s the sounds. The sounds. The noise of life that can be heard so clearly throughout the city…

Last night, on the north side of Santiago, in a large concert hall, the sounds of Algerian pop music pulsed from the stage where famed singer Khaled was performing. There was a mandolin and the wailing of Arab prayers and French pop music and the cheering of the crowds and the clapping in unison of an audience moved to dance, all at a volume that could have broken barriers. It was a big party.

In front of the Cathedral, the sounds of voices rose and fell as a group of Eastern European students stood in front of the monument, and, with nothing more than an acoustic guitar and their own voices, sang their praises to their highest god in the middle of a crisp spring night. The uplifting hymn crosses briefly with the sound of a gaita (the traditional Galician bagpipe) sounding mournfully from under some stone archway nearby (sometimes it’s a harp or an accordion, but today it’s a gaita), and then the only sound that’s left is the clicking of shoes on cobblestone streets and the voices of passersby thrown into sharp relief.

Down a narrow street lined with the illuminated windows of restaurants bearing traysful of seafood and fish, a piper, dressed haggardly and almost always accompanied by an entourage of dogs, pipes a merry tune as he waits for tourists to throw money into the hat at his feet. The tune, reminiscent of the Scottish songs I heard so many times in Glasgow, fades as techno music takes over (the beat of which can be felt long before it is heard), spilling out of a cheap souvenir shop in an attempt to attract tourists. Then there is the traditional Galician music, trendy Spanish pop, and Caribbean reggaeton, all flowing over and under one another, creating a cacaphony of noise that assaults the ears of pedestrians, while at the same time creating a symphony of human life.

Father away from the city’s bustling center, on a deserted street in the middle of the night, the sounds of living echo across empty alleyways. There’s a baby crying, a dog barking, people laughing in time to a well-told joke, a bottle (most likely full of beer) breaking on a nearby sidewalk; the clinking of spoon to cup in the still-open cafes, the roll of gates being locked and curtains drawn, the mechanical creaking of the garbage truck, lifting heavy containers towards its mouth, the soft sweep of the street cleaner with his tree-branch broom, and the scrape of his shovel against concrete, the indinstict hum of a hundred televisions.

These are the sounds of the city. Sons da cidade.

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