Saturday night on Piazza Ravanusella, the streetlights shine down upon a crowd buzzing with joyful people as they eat and dance together in the name of inclusion and diversity.
By Cecilie France Jarsmer
Three singing, almost chanting, men enter the stage. The buzz from the crowd slowly fades away with the beat of a repetitive drum. Dressed in white shirts and Persian scarves, the men leave the audience in a meditative state. For the untrained ear it resembles a prayer calling from a minaret. Haze and smoke flows across the square from the street kitchen. The music evolves to a rhythmical state and wide smiles spread across the faces of the three men as parts of the audience start clapping along. Their families are front row and they cheer and howl.
Dressed in different nuances of white from top to toe, Carmelo Roccaro, the president of the social cooperative Al Kharub, shares his ambitions with this vivid night: “I hope that people see how beautiful it is to live together with people that are not like you.” The event is part of Venti Mediterranei, a festival which celebrates Mediterranean food and culture. During the festival, food is in the center for political discussions and as a mean for inclusion of immigrants.
The air smells of fried meat and spices. Plastic cups brim with a violet, fruity Senegalese drink while plates with falafel and couscous fly over the counter in the food stall. A woman with her guitar enters the stage and sits down on a chair. She begins to play traditional Sicilian music that immediately brings you back to the feeling of a medieval bard. A child runs up to the stages momentarily stealing the show and interrupting her song. She and the audience chuckles together as a flustered mother retrieves her naughty son, and the folk songs continue. The image of a medieval bard is now replaced with a cabaret as the singer now accompanies her guitar with impressive whistling.
The festival is dedicated to 60 young immigrants, who Al Kharub has helped find jobs in the food and restaurant sector. The event is an opportunity for immigrants to meet people from Agrigento: “We hope that the community will get to know each other. Young people from Agrigento and young immigrants can meet here.” Carmelo Roccaro says. He is particularly thrilled for this event as it is the first time where many of the city’s organizations work together without competing: “Together we can do incredible things. We should be like the bees; everyone does important work, but we cannot do it without each other”, he says.
A man enters the stage carrying a beautiful large string instrument. The alluring music from the decorated instrument sounds like a mix between a harp, guitar, and banjo. As he plays, other musicians enter the stage one by one, and more and more layers are added to the music. In the end 12 band members in colorful clothing play festive world music while an individual from the audience sparks a light to the audience by dancing into the empty area in front of the stage. In an instant, the square transforms into a sprawling and vivacious dancefloor. A young woman enters the stage in a long yellow dress and as she begins to sing Bob Marley’s ‘Three little birds’ the crowd turns into a spontaneous choir. Everyone sings along to the famous lines: “Don’t worry about a thing ‘Cause every little thing is gonna be alright.”
Behind the stage Carmelo Roccaro is singing and dancing as much as his crutches allow him to. “We must find things we have in common and not where we are different”, he says. The women and the crowd start singing: “One love! One heart! Let’s get together and feel alright”, and it seems like the perfect soundtrack to this night.