Miss W’s blog: The sounds of Dalt Vila
You may remember a few short months ago, I was waxing lyrical in this blog about the weird and wonderful scents of Dalt Vila, the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Listed Site I am lucky enough to call my home. And as the seasons have swiftly changed over the course of the past month (it feels like we only have two, sleepy winter and sassy summer) another one of my senses has pricked up sharply – that is, my hearing.
All of a sudden my tranquil paradise has become abuzz with noises, a wash of sounds, a spate of languages, the rumble of the cobblestoned jungle. It’s noisy, but I love it. The sounds of Dalt Vila are literally like music to my ears. The contrast of the seasons is what makes each one of them so special.
The day starts in Dalt Vila at around 7.30am, with the street sweeper and cleaner in the main restaurant square. His metal broom swish swishing like the beat of a snare drum in a techno track, just subtle enough not to wake you from your sleep, but just loud enough to make you aware he’s there (thank god – the pungent smell of the stray cats doing their business would not be nice in the steaming summer heat). Then he blasts his power hose, which can confuse you in your slumbering state into thinking that it’s raining – and creates confusion when you wake up to blazing sunshine!
Then from about 9am, there’s the rumble of the truck and van engines, as they cruise into the main square, delivering booze, fresh seafood, vegetables, ice and water to the many restaurants and little shops. The sound of beer and Coca Cola bottles clinking in their crates as they go from truck to kitchen is like a pretty little percussive alarm clock, complemented by the soft thud of boxes hitting the ground, the swoooosh sliding noise of van doors opening and closing and the gruff ‘holas’ and ‘gracias’ of the staff as they make their exchange.
As the day goes on, you start to notice the bells of the cathedral. Every hour, on the hour and half-hour, the chime strikes its deep, booming, echoey sound floating across the airwaves, adding a constant musical element to the day’s proceedings. Unless it’s a special religious occasion – and trust me there are MANY in Ibiza – when the bells are basically on repeat for hours on end. It can drive you bonkers if you let it (or if you’re hungover!) but I prefer to think of it as olde worlde charm. I like it. Plus, it means you don’t have to constantly look at your watch to tell the time!
From around 10am, there’s the pitter patter of thousands of tourist feet, as the busloads of walking tours are led through Dalt Vila, stopping to hear the history and legends associated with each point (in multiple languages). In the background, there’s also the constant deep boat horns echoing up from the port, and there’s the occasional chirp of the birds or a brake from a dog on a balcony or a rooftop, though the cats keep pretty quiet until about midnight, when the caterwauling of their mating games begins. You’d be surprised to know that there are roosters crowing at the strangest hours not just the mornings because in certain areas of Dalt Vila, it’s not unheard of to have backstreet illegal cockfighting – it’s not like people in apartments are getting treated to freshly laid eggs from their pet hens, sadly.
Musically, it’s a cacophony of sounds. Teenagers blast music from their iPhones on little tinny portable speakers as they sip from illegally bought bottles of rosado in the tunnels, usually listening to a combination of current pop music, your typical Bob Marley reggae sounds or heavy, heavy rock music (you can usually tell what type it will be by their t-shirts). The grown-up gypsy folk sit around on the cobbled streets strumming battered old guitars and wailing their desperately sad songs, while their children accompany them on homemade beat boxes, and when it’s time for a street party, reggaeton is the order of the day. You’ll also hear the sounds of ivories being tinkled – if you know which streets are home to certain composers and musicians – and saxophone skills being brushed up on, plus the ever-present throb of a techno bassline coming from my living room (when I’m not singing along to Frozen songs on DVD – yes, this happens. A lot).
As the sun goes down, the noise picks up as all the restaurants start setting up their terraces for the long evening ahead. Slowly slowly, the hum of voices in the restaurants rise up to my top floor apartment, interjected with the ever-present ‘ding’ of the bell from the kitchen windows signifying another order up (might I take this opportunity to add that the smells are just tantalising!). As more and more wine is consumed, the volume goes up a notch further, the hum of voices and languages is interjected by the obligatory singsong versions of ‘happy birthday’ and ‘cumpleaños feliz’ and the street performers start to set up.
First come the Capoeira crew. These burly, boisterous Brazilian brutes, who backflip their way through the old town, singing and playing percussion for hours on end (honestly, I do not know where they get that stamina!). I can now singalong with them, from start to finish (including the well rehearsed impassioned plea for spare change), as it’s exactly the same show, night in, night out. The you’ve got the guy who does acoustic Foo Fighters covers (LOVE this), the same long-haired Spanish dude who traipses the streets all year round, singing out of tune Pink Floyd ‘I wish you were here’ (I may give him 50€ to learn some Taylor Swift tunes over the winter), there’s the skinny little hippy playing the beautiful steel drums and on every Tuesday, there’s the HUGE Flower Power pre-party parade, singing all the 60s and 70s classics as they dance their way through the streets.
And of course, there’s the odd open-air concert or event throughout the course of the season which trumps all of the little local sound bites – starting with Medieval bagpipes, segueing into International Music Summit style techno and house beats, moving onto the world music vibes of the Ibiza Roots Festival and finishing up with the Ibiza Jazz Festival in August.
Then from around 2am, it starts to die down. The diners shuffle down the drawbridge, onto their next destination for the evening and the waiters begin the nightly ritual of carrying in the tables and stacking up the chairs, with a constant stream of banter between restaurants about where the night will take them. It’s roundabout now that the constant chink of glass bottles breaking as they go into the recycling container start to reverberate up into the fortress – a sound that is swiftly repeated in about an hour’s time, when the garbage trucks arrive and turn said containers upside down into their trucks.
The finale of the day’s Dalt Vila ditties comes courtesy of what I like to call the league of lost gentlemen, giggling, screeching, bitching and whispering (depending on the day) as they explore the little laneways, up the steep staircases and poking around every last corner in search of Anfora, Ibiza’s one and only dedicated gay club, which is hidden in a Dalt Vila – which surprisingly, is so soundproofed and silent from the outside, you wouldn’t even know how to find it if it weren’t for the LED lights at the entrance!