The most beautiful pedestrian route in Caceres’ old city leads across the wide green area, which begins at the Plaza de America and runs along the Avenida de España. Here there are elderly women sitting on park benches and nattering, mothers with prams, men playing chess, students drinking wine and tourists lying rather than sitting on benches with stretched legs at all times of the day, but especially in the evening. The small park is calm and peaceful, particularly because trees drown out the noise of passing cars and the twitter of the large number of birds in the trees is clearly audible.
Anyone looking for relaxation in Caceres is at the wrong place in May, because at this time of the year the WOMAD festivals are celebrated and streets are overcrowded with drummers from West Africa, dancers from South America, with people playing music on the pavement and with large groups of young people from all over Europe who have come to Caceres only for that event. The acronym WOMAD means “World Music and Dance”. Caceres is transformed into such a world each year at the beginning of May, and in 2009 for the twentieth time. During the WOMAD days, stages are set up at the Plaza Mayor, the Plaza San Jose and at the Gran teatro. Musicians and dancers from all over the world perform there from the afternoon until late at night. Salif Keita from Mali, who is now one of the most important African musicians, has been a guest at the festival many times. The Israeli singer Mor Karbasi has already performed in Caceres, as well as the band Paprika Balcanicus who brought the traditional music of the Balkans and Eastern Europe to the main European festivals. The WOMAD event aims to unite as many styles of music and dance as possible, and this is not only because the organisers want to offer unusual concerts and to arouse curiosity about unknown sounds and rhythms. The WOMAD and its nearly 20,000 guests want to celebrate together differences and cultural richness. The WOMAD wants to show that differences must not divide, but rather can bring people together - and are enjoyable too.
Rock music is also played at the annual Extremusika. The youth hostel El Prado is converted into a festival area for up to 30,000 visitors for three days. Guests spend the night either in tents on the grass area, which is as vast as a football stadium and was provided by the organisers, or at youth hostels. Extremusika has been running since 1998 and is now financed by the town in order to keep prices low. At the beginning a few rock and heavy metal fans used to come together in Caceres. Now the festival has been displaced to Merida, where there is more space for stages and tents for guests. Extremusika has since become one of the highlights of Spain’s festival agenda. And the programme line-up is evidence of its importance: not only up-and-coming bands perform, but also the biggest names of the music scene such as Toy Dolls, Ojos de Brujo, Molotov, Misfits and Bad Religion. With the performance of bands like Jethro Tull or Europe, the organisers show that the event is meant for everyone, even aging rock fans.
The Indie-festival Contempopranea is now enjoying great popularity. It has usually taken place for the last 14 years in July in the small town of Alburquerque in the province Badajoz. It is the scene for Spanish and international independent musicians like Lori Meyers, Sidonie, Russian Red and Lacrosse.
The two festivals for classical music, the theatre festival of Merida and the Festival Iberico de Musica, in Badajoz, are not less attractive. The theatre festival takes place all summer long. The place of performance is the well-preserved Roman theatre, which still has the same impressive acoustics as 2000 years ago thanks to its extraordinary condition. Plans for the construction of the theatre were conceived by the Roman architect Vitruv. Over the centuries, after the end of the Roman Empire, Merida’s residents let the theatre decay into ruins. Farmers used the theatre as a cultivation area for chickpeas. The auditorium was covered with earth, and the stages were also almost immersed by earth. It was only at the beginning of the 20th century that the residents recognised the richness lying literally under their feet and set to excavation. The restoration lasted until the late 1970s. The stage house is shining today in its old splendour, and the auditorium has a capacity of 5,500 seats. That is why Merida’s theatre festival has a great significance to the Extremeños of the Capital. It signifies the redevelopment of their region and the commitment of their residents. The organisers of the festival do their best to find productions, which can be played not only in but also with the theatre. Festival director Francisco Suarez regularly allows the performance of contemporary versions of ancient plays in the city at the Guadiana. For example, the production of Shakespeare’s Titus Andromicus by André Limas has already been performed, as well as the adaptation of Phaidra’s Myth for Dance and Music by Miguel Narros.