The day the music died in Santiago de Compostela

New law in Galicia will ban live music in bars and clubs, threatening the livelihood of around 200 bands

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An outdoor gig in Santiago.
An outdoor gig in Santiago.óscar corral

As the Galicia region’s cultural hub, Santiago de Compostela has always been a go-to city for live music. But that is about to become a thing of the past after the Popular Party introduced a ban on concerts in pubs, bars and clubs across Galicia, effective from July.

The new law is, in fact, an amended version of a 2005 law that Santiago was largely exempt from thanks to its collaboration with the Cidade Vella Cultural Association.

We’re not asking for anyone to be allowed to make more noise, all we are asking is that musicians not be discriminated against Musician Valentín Caamaño

Now, however, the city is facing the same restrictions as the rest of the region. “If the regional government doesn’t backtrack before the law comes into force, it will result in the mass closure of premises and it will be the end of many live bands,” warn local music collectives.

Paradoxically, there are no similar restrictions on the playing of pre-recorded music and equally incongruous is the fact that city councils can authorize outdoor performances. “This law takes us back 40 years,” says musician Valentín Caamaño.

A member of the Live Musicians’ Association, Caamaño has been on the live music circuit for 30 years and never imagined that one day politicians would wipe an estimated 3,000 musicians from Galicia’s cultural map with their philistine policies.

“We’re not asking for anyone to be allowed to make more noise,” says Caamaño. “Nor are we asking for an extension of hours or to ignore seating capacity; all we are asking is that musicians not be discriminated against, and for places that have a license for amplified music to also be able to host live singers, pianists or bands.”

The amendment to the 2005 law has been a long time coming, but it has not, according to the association, taken into account the changes in the sector during that time. “Despite the sector’s transformation and despite the fact they were obliged to revise the law annually, the Galician government has not introduced a single amendment in 13 years,” says a Santiago city spokesman.

Collectives warn the policy could wipe off 3,000 musicians from Galicia’s cultural map

Santiago Mayor Martiño Noriega has expressed concern over the amended law and proposed a number of revisions, including the suggestion that each city council should be able to adapt the categories contemplated in the law to their own particular circumstances, and that live music should be deemed a cultural asset.

The regional government’s deputy premier, Alfonso Rueda, however, says that the matter is no longer open to debate, adding that Noriega only acted once the horse had bolted. “If a city council doesn’t know how to do its job, it’s not the regional government’s problem,” he said.

In spite of this response, musicians and businesses are still waiting for the regional government to make a U-turn. “The regional government has never listened to the music sector in Galicia and the law was drawn up behind its back,” says a spokesman for the association, which is urging businesses and local institutions to put pressure on the authorities to reverse the decision.

Until that time, musicians will be sticking to the great outdoors, at least when the weather permits.

English version by Heather Galloway

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