Boa tarde! So I am writing this post in the comfort of the home of my relatives while watching a traditional Portuguese bullfight.
Side note: Portuguese bullfighting differs from Spanish-style bullfighting in a variety of ways. Portuguese bullfighting is very much about the spectacle, more emphasis on the cavaleiros – the horse riders (can be male or female) than the matadores or the bullfighters who end up killing the bull. For example, in one part of the spectacle, the bull runs wild and a group of the men hold the bull until he becomes immobile- a very Roman-like fighting style. In fact, in Portuguese bullfights the bull is never killed in the ring- they are usually killed by butchers outside of the arena.
This was due to one man who made it illegal to kill the bull in the ring- Marques de Pombal. A picture of his statue below.
He was the Prime Minister of Portugal credited with rebuilding Lisbon after the death and destruction of the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. (Another side note: this statue is a popular spot in Lisbon. After winning some of the Euro Cup games, news crews in Portugal would come to the statue area to interview spectators engaging in mass celebration. Also, this was one of the main areas for the Marchas Populares- you’ll see below. The statue is very well known in the city.)
There is only one small town called Barrancos where they killed the bull in the ring illegally so many times that the region was allowed to do so despite the law. Nevertheless, sometimes the bulls are even restored to full health and released to pastures for breeding.
Moving on! I wanted to touch upon two exciting events that I attended in Lisbon during the course of my program. While these two events take place in other cities, they have a rich history in the city of Lisbon.
The first one has to do with fado.
I started singing at a very young age and after visiting my family a few times in Portugal, I really fell in love with fado after seeing performances in Lisbon (the capitol of Portugal and a big city important in the history of fado). My parents always listened to Amalia Rodrigues- a very famous fado singer with a truly unique voice- and I would imitate her just for fun for family and friends. There are two prominent cities/styles important to the development of fado- Lisbon and Coimbra. Lisbon fado is more of the popular fado type and where current modern fado is rising up through known singers like Mariza. Coimbra is home to the older more traditional fado and even has academic roots. Students (mostly male) from the University of Coimbra, one of the oldest universities in Europe still in operation, dress in their academic outfits (dark robes and leggings and a dark “cape”) and sing in the evenings in the big city squares or streets or even the staircases to the ancient churches in the town. I love listening to Coimbra “tunas” or musical groups made up of the students. My favorite song from Coimbra style fado is “Amores de Estudante” which talks about how “the loves of students are like roses that bloom for one day and are carried away by the wind.” The chorus is sweet too, and basically has the message: “I want to stay always a student to eternalize love at first sight, and this way my dreams of love will always be prayed within me.” Here are the lyrics if you want to use a translator to understand them better: http://www.c2com.up.pt/blog/rasganco/arquivos/004089.html. They even call this song the “Academic Anthem” ! For more information on Coimbra fado, there is a wonderful group you can join on Facebook- Canção de Coimbra. Or you can listen to some fado and maybe see some performances on their website, http://www.fadoaocentro.com/pt/.
Like I said above, there are many famous fado singers in Portugal today and Lisbon is not the only city where fado can be heard. But, I want to focus on Lisbon fado for now. But before I do, here is a short history of the genre of music:
There is not much written on the history of fado. It always was passed through time in the culture of Portugal by word of mouth. Fado songs are traditionally sad and full of heartfelt feelings- especially saudade (a Portuguese word that loosely translates to a feeling of longing for a person, place or time) with subjects usually on love, lost love, the sea, poverty and elements of Portuguese life and culture. Fado was sung and is still sung everywhere… cafes, taverns, outdoors, concert halls, gardens, churches and much more. Typical fado singers wear all dark clothes- dark dresses and stockings with a shawl over their shoulders- and are usually accompanied by a Portuguese guitar (the bottom of it is not long like a regular guitar and is instead circular-pictures below). My personal favorite fado singer is Amalia Rodrigues- the “Queen of Fado” who was popular from basically the 40s to the 70s. She sang both Lisbon and Coimbra style fado, and her ethereal voice tugged on the heartstrings of anyone that had the chance to listen to her. Here is one of her famous songs, check out some of her other songs on YouTube!
Lisbon fado is quite different from Coimbra fado, for regional differences mostly. It is more “modern” I guess you could say. A friend of mine took me to A Tasca do Chico in Bairro Alto for a fado performance during the course of my program.
On the left photo, you can see the traditional, round fado guitar. There is a picture of Amalia on the wall behind the right guitar. In the center photo, someone painted a photo of Mariza- another famous fado singer. A Tasca do Chico is known for helping fado singers get ahead in their careers, and she sang there a few times in the past and still visits. The right picture is what the inside of the place looked like. It was absolutely packed but I loved the soccer banners hanging from the ceiling.
The next event I attended was the Marchas Populares along the Avenida Liberdade. The Marchas Populares are like the Mardi Gras of Portugal. From the statue of Marques de Pombal all the way to the Castelo de São Jorge (the neighborhood of Alfama), many Portuguese neighborhoods participate in a parade and compete to have the best costumes, props, etc.
I got some of the performers to look my way for a picture, but I was bit far away. Sorry for the blur! While many towns in Portugal have their own festas, these are the biggest in the country. There is massive celebration on the streets until the following morning. Most people go up to Alfama where the parade ends. The roads there are already packed and tiny with barely enough space for cars, so imagine them with 5 or 6 times the people, if not more!
2 posts and 1 week left til I leave. 😦
Beijos e abraços, meus amigos.