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Belgium

Geography & Topography

Capital: Brussels

Population: 11,008,000

Area:  30,528 km2

Language: French, German, Dutch

Religion: Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim

Currency: Euro

History

Belgium, called officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state of Western Europe. Belgium was part of The Southern Netherlands,also called the Catholic Netherlands, which were part of the Low Countries controlled by Spain (1556–1714), Austria (1714–94) and annexed by France (1794–1815). With the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, the Austrian Netherlands declared their independence. French occupation in Belgium led to further suppression of the Dutch language across the country. French became the only accepted language in public life, as well as in economic, political, and social affairs. In 1814, Napoleon Bonaparte was forced to abdicate by the Allies and was exiled. The official independence of Belgium was declared on October 4th 1830. Today Belgium is a constitutional monarchy of which the current king is Albert II, the sixth king of the Belgians, since 1993.

Belgium is nowadays one of the six founding countries of the European Union and hosts a variety of international organizations such as: the European Parliament, the European Union Council and the European Commission, and the NATO. Belgium is surrounded by the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg, France and the North Sea.

Performing Arts

Music

Belgian music is divided in two parts as the country is divided in two linguistic parts: the Flemish part and the French part of the country. The music is strongly based on folkloric music for local brass bands and historic celebrations. Brussels owns one of the biggest museums of music instruments in the world since 1877 with more than 8000 different instruments.

Folk Music:

Folk music refers to a music incorporating elements of traditional songs or using traditional instruments (violin, bagpipe, etc.) in original compositions, but in traditional style. It is generally accompanied with dancers dressed in traditional costumes.

This type of music has been really famous in Europe and North-America during the 60’s and 70’s and has been evolving into ‘’folk rock’’ or even ‘’folk metal’’.

 

 

 

The most recognizable instruments in traditional Belgian music are:

The Harpsichord 

A harpsichord is a musical instrument that produces sound by plucking a string when a key of the keyboard is pressed. One of its unique features is that it is able to make vibrate several strings by using one single key.

Mostly used in Europe during the XVII and XVIII centuries, the harpsichord has been used in a large musical repertoire during this period. It has been used for many different type of music in Belgium but mostly for the folk music.

The Accordion

This is played by compressing or expanding the bellows whilst pressing buttons or keys, causing the opening of the valves which allows the air to come in. The air vibrates inside the body of the instrument and produces sound.

We press on the buttons of the right keyboard to play the melody and on those of the left keyboard to make the accompaniment.

This instrument appeared in 1829 and is known worldwide. It is used in many different types of music like folk music, traditional music or even jazz.

Some interesting facts:

  • In 1066, Huy became the first European city to receive a charter of rights, making it the oldest free city of the continent.
  • Although the exact number is disputed, Belgium makes over 800 different beers. Belgians drink an average of 150 litres of beer per year per person.
  • Belgium produces 220,000 tons of chocolate per year. That’s about 22kg of chocolate per person in Belgium.
  • Belgians tend to be liberal thinkers. They legalized euthanasia in 2002, and gay marriage in 2003.
  • Belgium has compulsory education up to 18 years old. This is one of the highest in the world.
  • Belgium was the scene of Napoleon’s final defeat, at Waterloo, south of Brussels.
  • The Law Courts of Brussels is the largest court of justice in the world (26,000 m2 at ground level).

More information on the Belgian community: