Mikel Serrano, Board of Directors, Buenawista Prolleckziom’s
Photos B&W: Juxe
Translated by Olwen Mears
WHAT IS BUENAWISTA PROLLECKZIOM’S. A BIT OF BACKGROUND
The Buenawista Prolleckziom’s (BW) Musical Association is a collective of musicians and people from the world of music who, for nineteen years, occupied the building of the former offices of the Mayor of Buenavista, situated at Nº 2 Paseo Casares in the San Sebastian district of Altza. Since then, the Association has concentrated on accommodating and promoting music-based activities, particularly those of young people without access to an area in which to carry them out.
The forerunners of the current Association got together at the end of the 1970s after San Sebastian city council deemed the building in Buenavista unfit for further use and effectively looked the other way as regards any future activity that took place there. The first phase of occupation was when the “First Youth Assembly of Buenavista” (the Association’s first official title) and the Buenavista Residents Association took charge of the building.
From the outset the Assembly had a clear vision of what the space would be used for. The first band ever to rehearse there entered shortly after, to be followed some time later by others. Conditions were precarious, but the area turned out to be adequate and access to it was free.
In 1988 the Assembly decided to become a legally registered organisation, thereby formalising its own bylaws and enrolling in the Basque Government Register of Associations (on 18th March 1988). On 14th February 1994 the Assembly changed its title to the “Buenawista Prolleckziom’s Cultural Association” and in 1999, the Association entered the municipal list of Associations with the registration number 99/070 (14th April 1999).
Finally and for the very last time, on 14th February 2001 the Association changed its official title to “Musical Association” being solely committed to activities of a musical nature. The following fundamental objectives were established:
That Buenawista (BW) become a cultural benchmark for the development of multidisciplinary artistic projects, to be primarily based on musical expression. To foster activities that help bring new artistic projects closer to the people of San Sebastian and the greater area.
Provide premises and resources to young musicians to enable them to develop musical projects and experiments, interacting and sharing experiences with other such artists.
Promote projects by other associations and collectives who invest in contemporary music.
Create channels of communication and coordination, as well as access to equipment already used by similar groups working in related areas and extend these to the rest of the region.
The strong bond felt by the Association towards the building led to them making several upgrades, thereby rescuing it from a state of dilapidation and adapting it to their own requirements. Work to save the building, which had been in a state of total abandon, was carried out over a number of years.
MILESTONES. SIGNIFICANT MOMENTS.
In November 1991 the basis was established for a new joint effort between BW and San Sebastian council. Groups who at that time practiced in the rehearsal rooms at Buenavista took part in a series of concerts entitled “Los jueves del Principal”, an event promoted by the council’s Department of Youth. The initiative arose as the result of a local search for musical groups who could make up the concert programme.
In 1992 San Sebastian council, via a verbal agreement with the Department of Planning, headed at that time by Gregorio Ordóñez, confirmed the closure of Mogambo, a former disco situated on Calle Azkuene in Trintxerpe, which subsequently became available for organising concerts. No objection had been raised to our Association’s tenure in the former mayor’s offices and furthermore, despite not being granted rights as such over the property, we did receive recognition of the existence of BW and the activities that took place there. This gesture was taken as a crucial and decisive show of support for the future of BW and its activities, as well as for the future of the buildings.
Since then, Mogambo has become a classic “underground” venue in the city and has broken new ground. Approximately seventy concerts take place at Mogambo every year, where already several generations have worked to keep the spirit of self-management alive there. To this day, it continues to be a point of reference for both national and international audiences. Closely related to the sounds of Mogambo is the Etengabeko Zarata festival which has taken place annually for more than ten years having also become one of the city’s classic music events with a large and loyal following.
The 1990s were when the BW was at its most popular, with increased on-going and emerging activity. As a core attraction and key meeting place, the spirit of co-existence and off-the-cuff interaction that arose among those who frequented it proved to be the ingredients of an veritable hotbed in which to fuse together their varying experiences and artistic curiosity. Despite the diverse musical styles of the groups that rehearsed there, the sound and style of several of them, dubbed by the national press “Sonido Buenawista” (the Buenavista Sound) were greatly influenced by American punk-rock, Hardcore and Garage music. They included a long succession of groups that included La Perrera, Barrakos, Discípulos de Dionisos, Señor No, Nuevo Catecismo Católico, Teen Dogs and Astrozombies. These bands had a huge influence nationally on groups that formed subsequently and which continue to be well-known even today.
The last alterations carried out in 1994 gave the building the following lay-out: thirteen rehearsal rooms, arranged according to the building’s original structure so that the size and dimension of each room, fixed according to the emerging requirements for space (number of band members, amount of equipment etc) were different. Room sizes ranged from five up to sixty square metres. Four were located on the ground, while the rest were on the first floor.
One of the rooms, used as an office for the Board of Directors, had a small mezzanine and was about nine square metres in size. The total space used by the Association was 400m2.
Electricity was installed in all the rooms and basic safety requirements were complied with (fire extinguishers, ventilation etc). A telephone line was set up to provide access to a public phone, along with connection to the internet, as additional services for associate members, all of whom were given their own e-mail addresses. Significant activity emerged as a result of this service, given that the internet provided a key form of communication and expression. It is important to remember that back then the internet was only just beginning to be used on a massive scale.
At the end of the 1990s, old rumours resurged regarding a plan for large-scale urban restructuring, the so-called Special Plan for Comprehensive Reform, which was looking at regeneration of the neighbourhood of Buenavista including demolition of the mayor’s former offices. The Association decided to confront the situation head-on and began a round of talks with San Sebastian Council (including the Mayor’s Office, Department of Town Planning, Department of Culture, Department of Neighbourhoods and Citizen Participation and the Department of Youth) with the intention of clarifying how BW fit into their plans. These talks went on for five years, between 2000 and 2005. Throughout this period, BW worked on a number of large projects, including Hasteko Hotsak, Bostmila and the so-called “Informative Events”.
NOW. MUSIKAGELA AND KATAPULTA
The provisional relocation of a section of BW’s activity took place in May 2005 as part of the Musikagela municipal rehearsal service in the Egia Kultur Etxea Culture Centre, a move which Buenawista Prolleckziom’s managed themselves. Meanwhile, the headquarters were moved to c/Katalina in the San Sebastian district of Eleizegi, where it remains to this day.
Towards the end of 2005 the erstwhile offices of the Buenavista mayor, which had witnessed the birth of our Association, become our emblem and our home, was pulled down. An area which had, over the years, become a true and socially recognised hub of communication and artistic creation and, above all, musical expression. This marked a turning point in the future of the Association. Demolition of the building represented the subsequent end of many of our dreams, hopes and memories, and rocked the very foundations of our Association. It was time to take take stock of the situation, including the number of members who would remain on board to develop a plan of action based on the aims and aspirations that continue to define us and keep us “in business” even today. The number of Association members was established at approximately 30, an inevitable consequence of having to adapt to the space provided by Musikagela.
It is essential to highlight that the number of Association members has always been limited according to the amount of available space, first in the former mayor’s offices and currently in those provided by Musikagela. However, we are aware that there is a much larger group of people who are passionate about pursuing music and are even performing gigs and recording albums, who nonetheless find themselves in a poor position as regards access to adequate premises in which to rehearse. There is concurrently a huge demand from within this group for a service that provides an adequate framework for musical activity and, as such, an enormous need to support initiatives aimed at acquiring them. Through experienced gained over time, BW’s mission has always been to meet the needs of those musicians and artists who tread the thin line between the amateur and professional worlds and who consequently face the dual problem of few resources and a lack of experience.
Following the demolition of our former home in 2005, Buenawista has established itself as a platform from which to respond to young musicians in and around Donostia undertaking different ventures and projects in various places around the city and breathing new life into venues meant for the creation of music. One initiative that particularly stands out is a programme of concerts held over the past few years in the Larratxo Kultur Etxea Cultural Centre. Nevertheless, the Association continues to urge for a single premises in which to come together under one roof; an area in which to accommodate and develop all future projects and activities.
In 2013, coinciding with plans to boost the service pioneered by Musikagela, Buenawista Prolleckziom’s launched the KATAPULTA platform project as a means of enhancing their support for the creation of music, as well as incorporating other creative disciplines into the Association’s activity besides the musical and audiovisual activity that had dominated up until then. Throughout its history, and as a result of the individual development of its members, the Association has come to include musicians with very varied professional profiles that include architects, film-makers, photographers, engineers, economists, designers and stage designers. Aware of the shortages with which the cultural scene is currently faced and the difficulties facing artists hoping to get their projects off the ground, we believe that a platform which enables them to develop their initiatives is tantamount. Therefore, the four main services that make up the platform’s value proposition have been set in motion. First: an agent to track down new talent and ideas; Second: a platform for the development of ideas and talent; Third: the Communication, Conveyance and Commercialisation (of ideas); and Fourth: the bringing together of ideas with the relevant people and organisations. KATAPULTA is a platform for the pursuit, development and promotion of creative talents founded on a network of agents of different disciplines and both public and private organisations to enable the maximum development of the creative potential that exists in our area.
POINT OF REFERENCE
Since its beginnings at the start of the 1980s up to the present day, BW has welcomed a multitude of musical groups, many of whom went on to forge successful careers, and have met the social and cultural requirements of several others:
Social in respect of the emphasis given to creating alternatives for a youth sector facing problems that can threaten or undermine their potential. Though the current outlook is noticeably more progressive and secure, the importance of such an alternative should not be underestimated. On several occasions, for many young people from the San Sebastian area, BW has represented an alternative option in terms of culture and entertainment.
Work carried on the building in Buenavista was a challenge that, at the time, was overcome in a spirit of cooperation and by combining forces. Several young people from diverse backgrounds, completely off their own bat, got personally involved in the task because of a feeling that they were working towards a common goal, were creators in a great joint project; a feeling that transcended the very uncertainty from which it arose and offered a real, serious and consistent alternative to their common and particular interests, as well as hobbies such as music. It is this spirit and these values which we believe we still have a job to encourage and promote, obviously applying and adapting them to the current panorama. An on-going example of this is the group that runs Mogambo, which has maintained the collective spirit inherited back in BW’s heyday and is a success story.
Cultural because of the importance of music as a cultural component to be valued in its own right, one that is strongly entrenched in our community’s traditions in all its forms and styles; Cultural because of the importance given to creating an accessible framework with which to enable the development of music and provide adequate conditions for those hoping to make it professionally. With the exception of the service provided by Musikagela – which, despite being pioneering in its field is still greatly limited – and barring a few cases dotted around the rest of the province, as musicians, we at BW believe the authorities have failed to propose any real or adequate possibilities for the creation of music and this is something towards which we will continue to strive.