Jazz’aqui – o jazz português em Berlim

Music

I’ve previously written about the Brazilian influences on Berlin jazz scene, I’ve recently written about März Musik, but I’ve never mentioned about the Portuguese jazz presence in the beautiful city I currently live in.

As March is one of these weird, in between months, bridging the everlasting winter sleep with the springtime euphoria, a Friday evening with free jazz sounds was in line with my moods. That’s why I decided to get to know the Portuguese Jazz Festival: Jazz’aqui.

Jazz’aqui was also a good occasion to visit one of the most emblematic jazz clubs in Berlin – Kunstfabrik Schlot, situated in not-so-obvious location of Mitte.  I chose the night of a ‘minimal jazz’ bateria performance and Slow Is Possible playing mostly cinematic jazz.

I was enchanted by its playful and enigmatic dynamics – once very sleepy, then painfully intense, like lucid dreaming. Since I learned that the band consists of musicians coming from various parts of Portugal, I realized how their regional inspirations may come into play. I travelled in my mind to remote parts of Northern and Central Portugal, like the mountainous Bragança or Guarda region, where I spent two weeks during my first trip in 2007.

Then, the music took me on the way to the dramatic coastline of South-West in the winter, where I had a chance to travel in 2011 while studying in Faro.

Finally, carried by rather scary sounds, I landed somewhere in the tiny towns of Alentejo, maybe sneaking in to one of their traditional churches made of human bones.

And the concert ended up, leaving me wondering how little it takes to travel without moving, when the sound and imagination kicks in. As well as, that the music discovery is endless, without the borders of space and time.

 

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Lisboa does not love?

Personal, Travel

First of all: this post is all about love. My everlasting love for Lisbon.

Secondly, it is about sustainable tourism, gentrification and all the negative things that make me think if I should continue writing this blog ever more.

Lastly, it is about the sadness about losing the authentic touch for which I initially fell for when I decided to move to that city, and re-visit almost each year.

So what happen this month? I had a chance to travel to Oporto where not so much changed and then spend a couple of days in Lisbon for the Lisb:On festival and visiting my friends and favourite places.

While I’m very interested to see the rising number of people talking about Lisbon’s unique atmosphere, as well as observing the interest of the investors in the start up scene out there that make the city a living entity attracting expats and creative workforce, I am very worried about Lisbon’s entering solely commercial path.

I’m tired about being bothered by street selling, exactly the same like in Rome, Barcelona or Venice, being approached by tuk-tuk drivers (what does it have to do with Lisbon anyway?!) or being treated like a tourist anywhere I go. Even if I know the city well and speak Portuguese. And don’t act out like a prototype tourist. Website Lisboa-Does-Not-Love.com lists the reasons why massive tourism is destroying the city and its morale and acts as the code of conduct while in Lisbon, but will it stop the massive tourism craziness?
I had to spit out my frustrations about the changing landscape of one of my beloved cities, and pose an open question: should we advertise for places we think are unique? Of course the sole act of visiting will not destroy the well-kept secret, but the scale of reach out via travel/lifestyle blogs may actually lead to it.
That’s why with mixed feelings, I’d like to leave you thinking about which direction can Lisbon take to prevent from becoming another tourist-fuelled city like London, Barcelona or Venice? I care too much about Lisbon to simply never visit again, as this replicates the scheme for which I moved out from Barcelona and hope never be forced to relocate from Berlin.
I love all Lisbon, much as I do love Barcelona and can’t keep falling in love with Berlin. What I’m just pretty sure about is that they don’t love massive tourism.

After the rain comes sun in Porto

Travel

It’s definitely high time to re-visit the city of Oporto, or o Porto in Portuguese (and hence the English name, I guess). My Lusofonetica project has been running for over 2 years now (can’t believe it flies so fast!) and I simply can’t believe that I haven’t found time to share my impressions about this beautiful place.

I’ve first visited it in 2007 during my Inter Rail trip around Europe combined with taking two weeks off in the Beira Alta region to sample a live of a volunteer-archeologist in the tiny and extremely hot village of Coriscada which I guess this deserves a separate post itself. I traveled to Porto via very spectacular train ride alongside the Douro Valley which I’d recommend everyone to take. Since then I paid three more visits in Porto, but unfortunately they were mostly related to connecting flights so literally ‘flying visits’.

During these short stays I managed to soak only a sample of the city’s atmosphere and indeed, to feel the glorious difference between the North of Portugal and the South. Contrary to the famously changing weather, I always got a very warm welcome from the bar or restaurant owners, and I made very good experience with the people from Porto whom I’ve met all over the world.

So almost in one week from now I’ll be in Porto again, this time for 2 (!) days, hoping to compare my impressions from the previous stays, eat delicious francezinha, wander around the wine cellars, and potentially hit one of their clubs in search of the electronic music originated from ‘the London’ of Portugal.

Why is it so? As I mentioned, it rains here much more often than in the other parts of Portugal, and the light/style of the city somewhat reminds England. It’s also due to the historical presence of the British entrepreneurs which were involved in setting up the most famous port wine companies in this region, that the city has this vibe.  It has long history of influence by the industrial architecture (like Tour Eiffel of Paris), and been a centre for economical development of Portugal. It’s also been an important cultural centre – and a good example of it could be an impressive Casa da Música.

So I hope to come back with a fresh set of thoughts and observations, hopefully on the sunny side this time: até logo o Porto!

 

Stay True – Boiler Room in Portugal

Music

In my last post I mentioned a lot about how Afrolusobrasilian culture is present in Lisbon. You may also have noticed that I am getting regularly inspired by the Portuguese capital when it comes to sound searching.

I am very happy to confirm that in September I’ll be visiting LISB:ON festival, where I will have a chance to see Brazilian artists like Marcos Valle or Azymuth, not so easy to spot at the concerts these days. This festival, being a part of a summer project called Jardim Sonoro (pt. Sound Garden), will also attract other ambitious electronic music producers such as Matthew Herbert or Dixon, and here is why I would like to dedicate a short paragraph to electronic music in Portugal.

Since currently I’ve been living in Berlin where electronic music can be heard even in grocery shop, no other place on Earth can compete with DJ line ups and a density of EDM producers per square km. However, world can definitely be grateful to Lisboa – Luanda connection for bringing in some truly crazy rhythms to the dancefloors.

Lately, I have taken part in the music production showcase with Dengue Dengue Dengue who were also hosted by the local Boiler Room edition Stay True. More of the inspirational sounds can be seen from its archive:

Stay True: Portugal edition took place a month ago and besides the Dengue Dengue Dengue duo hosted Buraka Som Sistema as well as DJ Marky  whose Boiler Room back in Brazil is already unforgettable classic of its kind.

I am definitely looking forward to re-discovering Lisbon (I can do it anytime anyway at anytime) at my own bpm pace, simply enjoying the musical and cultural diversity.

I hope that thanks to the initiatives like Stay True this city will get even more visibility for the music aficionados.

 

 

All…garve pt.3: Barlavento

Travel

May is already here, summer is forthcoming soon (even in Berlin!), and I am still not done with describing one of the most charming locations in Europe: Algarve in Portugal, where I was lucky to travel and live for a while.

So far I have dedicated most of the entries to the Leeward, Eastern side of the Southern Portuguese coast, given my sympathy and know-how of Faro and Olhão regions as well as Formosa river’s natural wonders.

The other side of this wonderful 100-km coastline stripe: Barlavento (eng. Windward), on the West, has been traditionally recognised by the surfers, beach testers and festival-lovers (famous festival Sud Oeste, taking place: as the name says: in the South-West Portugal). Infamously, this part of Algarve has been also known as the land of the massive tourism and disappeared child called Maddie few years ago that made this region a pretty bad press. With or without the scandal’s impact, I would avoid places like Portimão or Albufeira which are huge beach resorts with soulless architecture for rather lazy, all-inclusive kind of tourism. Sad places to see in such an authentic country like Portugal.

Coming back to the wonders of Barlavento, I would name a few: coming there outside of the season would be probably the most beautiful experience, since massive rocks and strong winds, while few people around create altogether a very dramatic and picturesque atmosphere.

My to-do list would include wandering around little towns with rich history, such as Aljezur, Lagos or Sagres (famous also for being a name of one of two most popular Portuguese beers!). For the romantic spirits, I would absolutely recommend facing the sunset at the most South-Western tip of Europe: Cabo de São Vicente. Whereas villages like Raposeira or Porto das Barcas would be on my surfing paradise list.

Last but not least, even in the surroundings of Lagos, one can find very particular beaches – among the numberless and funnily-shaped rocks. Beware that Barlavento: as the name indicates is the land for wind-loving people, but if you do, you won’t be disappointed by the natural diversity of this coastline.

 

All…garve pt.2: Sotavento

Travel

Following up on my post about Far Out Faro, I would love to focus on the Leeward (port. Sotavento) side of the Algarvian coast. This part of the region includes Faro itself, but also picturesque towns like Tavira, Loulé, Olhão or Vila Real do Santo António, bordering with Spain by the Guadiana river.

Leeward coast is particularly close to me, as during the time I lived in Faro, I was often visiting the neighbouring towns, as well as inland points of interest. Worth mentioning that I stayed for a couple of weeks in the village called Pechão on a volunteering service for the local communities, preparing the international part of the anual Festa. If you visit this region between spring-autumn, you will be amazed by the quantity of festas, local festivities, for different reasons: fishing season, cattle growing, and much more (and even more abstract – as there is always a good way to celebrate good times!). Many of these festivities are closely linked with the Catholic festivities (like name days of various Santos, patrons) but they incorporate a lot of ludic elements.

During my stay in Faro and Pechão, I was exposed to some very forward-thinking manifestos of the left wing activists, promoting well-being and equality on different levels. Worth mentioning that this part of Algarve is interesting for various, often borderline awkward reasons. The traditions of building bone chapels in small villages, the architecture showing years of different impact of various cultures and religions as well as food are very recommendable.

Moreover, Algarve is not only, as majority may think, the picturesque coast. Bordering with Alentejo you may find gems like Pego do Inferno, crystal clear waters waterfalls on the hilly trekking path. If you have time, I would recommend cycling around the region, as my Portugal-loving friend does it actually quite regularly!

Last but not least, you might consider taking a local ferry to several islands around Faro and Olhão where you can watch birds (including storks and flamingos!) and enjoy the remoteness. And, oh well, the sunsets… Or this dog, selling cigarettes in the local loja (port. grocery store).

If you are still not done with the beauty of the South of Portugal soon I will take you on the trip to the West side of the coast: Barlavento.

All…garve part one: far out Faro

Travel

It’s been over 5 years ago I made an experience of living almost literally by the Atlantic Ocean shore in Faro, where the South-Western European continent ends. It was a pretty stress-free life of an Erasmus student in what we used to call ‘Iberian California’, even though at the end most of us had to come back to some sort of adult life. I was lucky enough to host my parents and friends from Poland, Chile, UK and Spain during these months which made it even more special.

Lately some friends who are going to drive through South of Portugal asked me to describe my favourite places I collected and saved in my memories during these couple of months. I have to say that going through my photo collection evoked strong, beautiful freeling and  that even though time has passed, Algarve stays in an important place of my heart.

First of all,I’ll describe the major town of Algarve: Faro, principally known for the international airport where most of the tourist arrive and reach their resorts. Boring, distant from the sea and pretty catastrophically planned – this is how it seems at the first glance. Well, having lived and studied there for a good couple of months, I started to love it in a very special way.

It was definitely the smallest town I’ve ever lived in (around 100K inhabitants if you count in students of the University of Algarve), so this was an interesting experience itself. You could literally recognise everyone on the streets, and get to know local ‘characters’ very easily, which can be an interesting thing to live for a city person, like I am.

Good thing was that it was very convenient to discover inland, leeward and windward Algarve, taking EVA buses (yes, they are monopolists in Algarve with all of its characteristics, but they can get you pretty much everywhere), trains (if not on strike which was a thing to often do in 2011 at least) or the best way: your own car or bike. Portugal, especially in the South has still a very strong ‘driving culture’ , which may come as a shock to people used to commute by bike everyday (again: like I do). And the breathtaking views of the coast and neighbouring Alentejo simply calls for a bike ride!

Tiny, but picturesque city centre of Faro is full of cafeterias and bars, some of them back in a day were still pretty local, and inspired by the students culture. Remember that Thursdays are typical days for Portuguese students to go out and ‘sentir, viver, cantar a noite linda‘ (to ‘feel, live and sing the beautiful night’ – no other words could describe better the wit of it!).

If you are careful, among the typical Algarvian architecture you’ll notice places with patios and terraces with life music, jazz jams and poetry evenings, and world-class street art pieces. There is a beautiful park where you can chill from Algarvian heat, and if you are lucky, you will meet a peacock waving its tail, as if he wanted to cool down the air.

Last but not least: you should visit the Island of Faro, where the beach is, as well as take a chance to discover the Formosa river’s lagoon, with the plethora of fauna and flora (and flamingos!). Which leads us to the chapter no. 2: Leeward Algarve, to be continued soon.

Ilha de saudade – the sad stories from Cabo Verde

Travel

I have written quite a lot about the cheerful, colourful and paradisiac side of Cabo Verde. I believe there are even more adjectives to describe the archipelago, given that there are 10 islands, each of them of a very special characteristics. Yet there is one thing they have in common: the remoteness, from the African continent, not to mention the other parts of the world.

I was always attracted to remote islands, and even more when I read the book from Judith Schalansky. As she said in one of the interviews “Islands, especially those that seem most remote, are perfect places. They capture your imagination. For people who feel stressed, the island is an ideal image of a place where you can find peace, and where you can finally concentrate on what is really important. Maybe that’s where the question originates: What would you bring to a desert island? Each utopia wishes for a new beginning, for a chance to do everything differently. All it takes is untrodden territory and an answer to the question: Is another, better life possible?”.

Is it always the case though? Cabo Verde was uninhabited until the discovery and colonization by the Portuguese explorers in 15th century. Since then, they became an important shipping and commercial route, also when it comes to the shameful slave trade. This shed light on many people of Cabo Verde asking for their actual origins.

During my stay on the Santiago island, I was also faced with rather unusual place to visit during holidays: a concentration camp. I never heard about the concentration camp on the beautiful location like this, and more about the camp that was running for over 40 years. It was build in Tarrafal in 1936 by the authoritarian government of Salazar and was torn down only with the independence of Cabo Verde in 1975. There is an interesting documentary (“Memories from the camp of the slow death” – due to severe and dry conditions) about the survivors of the camp, mostly political prisoners from the former Portuguese colonies, e.g. Guiné Bissau, São Tomé or Angola:

The feeling of saudade – longing, separation (knowing that the majority of the Cabo Verde inhabitants live in diasporas outside of the archipelago: mostly in Paris and in Lisbon) is also reflected in mornasthe musical style originated in Cabo Verde or in the look of homeless dogs, wandering around from the town centres to the beaches, and all you need to do is to carefully get acquainted with them as you go along.

Thinking about it a bit more in-depth, Cabo Verde lays nowhere and at the same time, at the crossing of the routes from East and West, North and South and the influences of other cultures and political issues were reflected on this very special islands.

 

Grandola jazz

Music

Thanks to the XJazz Festival in Berlin I discovered a very interesting musician: Studnitzky and his composition ‘Grandola’. I fell in love with these sounds from the very beginning:

Grandola, a Portuguese town located in the Setubal municipality, has got its place in the history of music for some other reasons though. I was visiting these wonderful region in September, on my way to the controversial settlement on the Troia Peninsula. Grandola became a symbol after the non-violent 25th Aprtil of the ‘Carnation revolution’ thanks to the song performed by Zeca Afonso. ‘Grandola Vila Morena’ tells a story about the fraternity among the people of this town and was broadcasted at the outbreak of the peaceful revolution in Portugal.

This song, associated with one of the brightest moments of the Portuguese history has some uplifting lyrics about the brotherhood.

Grândola, vila morena
Terra da fraternidade
O povo é quem mais ordena
Dentro de ti, ó cidade
Dentro de ti, ó cidade
O povo é quem mais ordena
Terra da fraternidade
Grândola, vila morena
Em cada esquina um amigo
Em cada rosto igualdade
Grândola, vila morena
Terra da fraternidade
Terra da fraternidade
Grândola, vila morena
Em cada rosto igualdade
O povo é quem mais ordena
À sombra duma azinheira
Que já não sabia a idade
Jurei ter por companheira
Grândola a tua vontade
Grândola a tua vontade
Jurei ter por companheira
À sombra duma azinheira
Que já não sabia a idade

Trojan Horse was a Unicorn and lived in Troia

Travel

What is the connection between a remote peninsula in Alentejo and a well-known digital art conference? Well, both relate to the Trojan Horse. The conference and collective are named after a Trojan Horse (who) was a Unicorn, and its anual venue takes place in this remote, peninsular location of Troia in Portugal.

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I was invited there last week to meet a bunch of concept artist, illustrators and animators from the film, entertainment and gaming world. It took me only two days to interview about 70 people and see their portfolios, some of them presenting pretty interesting (or at least: quirky) stuff.

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The place itself is also specific, to put it this way. Three years ago there was nothing more than a fishermen village on this enchanting peninsula South of Lisboa Metropolitan and Setubal anyway, surrounded by the Sado river estuary and Atlantic Ocean. Then, the luxury resort was built and although architectonically it’s not that much of a disaster, it has a strange feeling.

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This is what happens often in places that offer great climate and nature sights all year round: it attracts greedy real estate investors. Hopefully Troia was not entirely covered in concrete and glass, and the National Park of Sado River Estuary was preserved carefully.

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Being a complete sucker for Portuguese landscape, cuisine, language and what-not, I enjoyed my stay in the luxury village of Troia. Thanks to some tiny cafés and restaurants that remained there, as well as great companion of those who participated in the Trojan conference.

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