Type of event: Festival, Competition, Encounter, Dance, Painting and Gastronomy exhibitions
The “Francisco Llirene” Gaitas National Festival began in 1985 and takes place every year during October in the Race National Holiday weekend. It is held in the Colombian village of Ovejas, department of Sucre, 120 km. from Cartagena de Indias. The Festival is organized by the non-profit organization having the same name as the Festival. As a member of the Caribbean Node of the National Network of Colombian Traditional Music Festivals, it is focused on the music from the West -Caribbean region on the country (Whistles and Drums). This Festival acts as Coordinator of the Caribbean Node of the Network.
Performance competitions take place within the frame of the Festival, such as: Best Performance by Gaita larga group (Amateur and Professional categories), Best Performance by Gaita corta group, Best Unpublished Composition, and Best Décima Performance. Activities like the Encounter of Gaita Schools, dance couples performances, and crafts, paintings and gastronomy exhibitions are additional activities.
The history of the Festival goes back to the pre-Columbian period when the Zenú ethnic group inhabited the territory where Ovejas is currently located. There, the Zenús built and performed with the music instrument known as Gaita or Chuana. During the Spanish Conquest and Colony periods the indigenous music instrument mixed with the drums from the black slaves and with the Spanish singing. The product of that mixture was inherited by the country people of the region, who made it sound during the wakes, giving thanks to their patron saint, Saint Francis of Assisi and to Baby Jesus for the harvest.
A Gaita group is a assemblage of people who perform this music genre in a melodious harmonic way. Gaita is a music instrument as well. The Gaita larga (Long gaita) group is made up of both female and male gaitas, tambor alegre or female drum, llamador or male drum, maracas and tambora (another type of bigger drum). On the other hand, the Gaita corta (Short gaita) group is made up by gaita machihembrada), maracas, tambor alegre or female drum, llamador or male drum and tambora. These music groups perform genres like Gaita, Porro, Cumbia, Merengue and Puya.
The Festival has the objective of ensuring the preservation of the music genre of Gaita. It was declared Ovejas´Folk and Cultural Heritage and Sucre´s Cultural Interest Heritage.