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November 28, 2014

Portuguese Music that isn’t Fado: Cante Alentejano

Don’t misunderstand, we love Fado: it’s beautiful, and it speaks so well to the Portuguese soul. But sometimes it seems like Fado is the only Portuguese music around, which just isn’t true. In fact, Cante Alentejano has been named a part of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Cante Alentejano

Cante Alentejano

Cante Alentejano is acapella, polyphonic folk music, similar in style to Sacred Harp singing in the Southern United States. Originally sung by agricultural workers in the fields, the songs tell of the beauties and hardships of life in the Alentejo, of hard work but also the importance of family, religion, community and love.

The songs normally begin with a “ponto” who sings a solo (or a duet with an “alto”, singing in a higher register) and is then joined by a choir of voices filling in the melodies. The origins of Cante Alentejano are not fully known, but it shows influences of both ancient Greek and Arabic traditions.

During Portugal’s dictatorship, Cante Alentejano was used as propaganda, since it was supposed to show how wonderful it was to be a simple, unschooled peasant. But the singers wrote lyrics filled with double meanings, undermining Salazar’s scheme. “Grandola, Villa Morena”, a famous piece of Cante, was used by the Movimento das Forças Armadas as a signal to launch the 25th of April Carnation Revolution.

Currently, groups dedicated to Cante Alentejano keep the tradition alive, both in the Alentejo itself and in whatever part of Portugal–or of the world–that they live in.

As of November 28th, 2014, Cante Alentejano is considered a part of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage, meaning that efforts will be made to preserve this important style of folk music for future generations.

To learn more about Cante Alentejano, watch the video that was submitted to UNESCO, which explains the history of Cante, and also what makes it unique:

November 6, 2014

Portuguese Music that isn’t Fado: Loucos de Lisboa

Don’t misunderstand, we love Fado: it’s beautiful, and it speaks so well to the Portuguese soul. But sometimes it seems like Fado is the only Portuguese music around, which just isn’t true

Portuguese Music - Ala dos Namorados

Portuguese Music – Ala dos Namorados

This Portuguese band, Ala dos Namorados, broke up a few years back, but the song is a classic. It’s called “Loucos de Lisboa” (The Madmen of Lisbon) and speaks elequently of the interesting, different and sometimes downright strange people you meet on the streets of Lisbon. Yet it’s the people of the city who provide the unique character that’s so easy to fall in love with!

The chorus says:

These are the madmen of Lisbon,

Who almost make us belive,

The earth turns back on itself,

and rivers are born in the sea…

The pictures are also lovely. Congrats to Hugo Guerreiro, who made the video.

July 7, 2014

Carlos do Carmo (Lisboa, Menina e Moça)

Fado singer Carlos do Carmo is the first Portuguese performer to win a Lifetime Achievement Grammy. The song Lisboa, Menina e Moça is one of his best-known.

Carlos do Carmo, Lisboa Menina e Moça

Carlos do Carmo, by José Goulão, via Wikimedia Commons.

Carlos do Carmo was born in 1939, in the Mouraria–Lisbon’s most emblematic fado neighbourhood. His mother owned a fado house and was herself a singer, so that music always played a part in his life.

It was not until the mid-1960’s, however, that Carmo began to perform and record fado. He became famous not only for his voice but also for the way he mixed traditional fado with international influences, including bossa-nova, jazz and French ballads.

In his 50-year career, Carmo has recorded hundreds of songs and mentored several other famous fado singers. He also played a significant role in the campaign that made fado part of  UNESCO‘s World Heritage Cultural Patrimony.

Lisboa, menina e moça, was originally recorded in the 1970’s, and remains one of Carlos do Carmo’s most famous songs. An English translation of the lyrics is provided, below. Enjoy!

I won’t even try to translate the title, since the subtleties of the Portuguese terms are completely lost in their English counterparts. “Menina” is an unmarried girl–often a child–while “moça” implies a young woman who has come of age. The charmingly risqué lyrics play upon the way the whole city hovers between seductive grace and bewitching innocence.

Lisboa, Menina e Moça
by Paulo de Carvalho

No Castelo[i]                                                      On the Castle[i]
Ponho um cotovelo,                                       I place my elbow
Em Alfama[ii]                                                    On Alfama[ii]
Descanso o olhar.                                            I rest my gaze
E assim desfaz-se o novelo                          Always unrolling the skein
De azul e mar.                                                    Of blue, of the sea.
À Ribeira[iii] encosto a cabeça                  I pillow my head on the Riverside[iii]
Almofada                                                            The cushion
Da cama do Tejo[iv]                                       Of the Tejo’s[iv] bed,
Com lençóis bordados à pressa                 With sheets hastily embroidered
Na cambraia de um beijo.                            On the cambric of a kiss.

Lisboa menina moça, menina:                   Lisboa menina e moça, menina:
Da luz que meus olhos vêem tão pura,   In this light my eyes see you, so pure,
Teus seios são colinas, varina,                   Your breasts are hills, oh fishwife
Pregão que me traz a porta, ternura.      Who carries tenderness, to my door.
Cidade a ponto-luz bordada,                      A city embroidered in light,
Toalha a beira-mar estendida.                   Tapestry stretched out by the sea.
Lisboa menina e moça, amada,                 Lisboa menina e moça, beloved,
Cidade mulher da minha vida.                   City-woman, love of my life.

No Terreiro eu Passo[v] por ti                   In the Courtyard[v] I pass you by,
Mas da Graça[vi] eu vejo-te nua.              But from Graça[vi] I see you unclothed.
Quando um pombo te olha, sorri,            When the pigeons see you, they smile,
És mulher da rua.                                            You are a woman of the streets.
E no Bairro mais Alto[vii] do sonho        And in the Bairro[vii] of highest dreams
Ponho fado que soube inventar:               I place what fado I could invent:
Aguardente de vida e medronho              Firewater of life and liquour
Que me faz cantar.                                           That makes me sing.

Lisboa menina moça, menina:                   Lisboa menina e moça, menina:
Da luz que meus olhos vêem tão pura,   In this light my eyes see you, so pure,
Teus seios são colinas, varina,                   Your breasts are hills, oh fishwife
Pregão que me traz a porta, ternura.      Who carries tenderness, to my door.
Cidade a ponto-luz bordada,                      A city embroidered in light,
Toalha a beira-mar estendida.                   Tapestry stretched out by the sea.
Lisboa menina e moça, amada,                 Lisboa menina e moça, beloved,
Cidade mulher da minha vida.                   City-woman, love of my life.

Lisboa, no meu amor deitada,                   Lisbon, lying upon my love,
Cidade por minhas mãos despida,           City undressed by my hands.
Lisboa menina e moça, amada,                 Lisboa menina e moça, beloved,
Cidade mulher da minha vida.                   City-woman, love of my life.

———-
[i] Refers to the Castelo São Jorge, above the city;

[ii] Alfama: a neighborhood just below the Castle;

[iii]The Avenida Ribeira das Naus (lit. “riverbank of the ships”) is a street that runs along the river Tejo;

[iv] Lisbon is nestled in a curve of the Tejo river;

[v] The Terreiro do Paço (lit. “courtyard of the palace”, also “paço” and “passo” are homonyms) is a plaza next to the Tejo;

[vi] Graça: a quiet neighborhood near the center of the city;

[vii] The Bairro Alto (lit. “high neighborhood”) is an area near the center of Lisbon, known for its bars.

May 17, 2014

Meo Out Jazz

Stop by the Praça Martim Moniz, Saturdays at 5pm this summer, for Meo Out Jazz: live concerts in a newly-hip setting.

Despite its central location and delightful fountains, the Praça Martim Moniz has a reputation for being scrungy, and even a little shady after-hours. 

But the city of Lisbon is trying to change that. A year or so ago, they set up kiosks–with shaded dinning areas–selling food from around the world, in the hopes of playing on the Praça’s already international flavour. (The area is thick with shops owned by Chinese and Indian merchants, as well as ethnic grocery stores.) 

New funky sculptures (including a colourful dragon winding in and out of the pavement), help brighten the area, as well. In the summer there are lounge chairs by the fountain and music piped in.

Meo Out Jazz 2014This year the city has gone one step further, bringing Meo Out Jazz to the square. Every Saturday afternoon this summer, live outdoor concerts have been organized in the Praça Martim Moniz, starting at 5pm.

Other Out Jazz locations include the gardens around the Torre de Belem, and several different parks around the city. Click here for the full program.

March 22, 2013

Portuguese Music that isn’t Fado: Deolinda

Portuguese Music that isn't Fado

Deolinda

Don’t misunderstand, we love Fado: it’s beautiful, and it speaks so well to the Portuguese soul. But sometime is seems like Fado is the only Portuguese music around, which just isn’t true.

Here is “Um Contra o Outro” (One Against the Other) by Deolinda, a young band that mixes the traditional with the irreverent.

It’s a great song for spring, as well. The chorus says (paraphrase):

Get out of the house,

Come with me

Out into the street,

Come on!

Forget your responsibilities.

No matter how much you might win,

You lose the most if you stay in!