Remembering Bacalhoeiro: the liner notes released with the 4th anniversary party CD
I was as surprised and I suppose as saddened as anyone else to hear that Bacalhoeiro was closing. I have been a socio since shortly after its founding, and Bacalhoeiro has been a place inseparable from my experiences in the culture, music and art of Lisbon over the collective's 8 year run. Bacalhoeiro’s closing can only result in diminishing Lisbon’s arts and cultural life and for that I am saddened and more than a little bit pissed off. Their reward for having helped to make Rua dos Bacalhoeiros—a run down and dodgy stretch of Lisbon's urban space—a desirable place for foot traffic and commerce, was to be priced out of their own neighborhood. The Barcelonafication of Lisbon continues apace. Short cited municipal policies to overcome their loss of revenue from the crisis has led to the hyper-vigilance of previously ignored noise ordinances, with draconian fines for infractions, further choking the musical and cultural production of local cultural associations/organizations by making it impossible for them to reasonably operate their venues. How many more of these organizations will Lisbon's gentrification murder? In addition to the many shows and cultural events I participated in over the years, I jointly developed some educational programs with Bacalhoeiro and university programs, and performed there as a musician many times as well, including one month in which I played three separate weekends with three different bands. (I doubt that number is a record, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t at least good enough for second or third place, tied with more than a few other musicians.) Adding another layer to my feelings over Bacalhoeiro’s closing, is that I play with Farra Fanfarra, a band that—save for a brief hiatus—has held open rehearsals every Monday night at Bacalhoeiro since 2007. Farra Fanfarra’s true spiritual home may be in Sintra, but the band's physical home for as long as anyone can remember has been Bacalhoeiro. I just cant imagine leaving my house for my weekly Farra Fanfarra Monday night ritual rehearsal and going anywhere else but the Rua dos Bacalhoeiros. But as difficult as all of this is, I choose not to dwell on the depressing fact that the doors are closing, because for the socios and performers intimate with the place over this long stretch, 8 years of Bacalhoeiro is also something that should be happily and readily celebrated. With this in mind, I share below a short piece I authored—liner notes written for the release of a CD of the sound-board recording of the live performances at Bacalhoeiro’s fourth anniversary party, held at the Caixa Económica Operária on September 25, 2010. Bacalhoeiro’s 4th Anniversary at the Caixa Económica Operária
A Hora Freak It’s Lisbon and it’s dark. The dusty night haze lamp light in the streets is absorbed by the mist climbing the hills up from the Tejo basin. The hora freak approaches. Above the water, tucked into Lisbon’s soft shoulder they seek the night, searching for the sound, the pulse and buzz of the ancient town, a global crioulo culture, forget all that Luso-tropical nonsense, and pay attention to the fight for what is right in the aftermath of hundreds of years of colonial exploitation. These spaces better make space. Don't pay attention to the mythologies of place. The connections the they tell to Paleolithic paintings in nearby caves and megalithic sites of proto-Celtic bands, to Phoenician times, to the rule of Roman Emperor, Muslim Caliphate and Christian King. To the glorious of glorious empires and whatever they call what it is today. These are the stories they tell to keep you off the real chase. The Estado Novo fascists were swept from power in ‘74 and independence in Portuguese-speaking Africa was won through blood and the fall of the colonial regime. Migration and return among Portugal and lusophone Africa, especially Cabo Verde, Angola and Moçambique has been commonplace ever since. Contact with Brazil has also increased in this period along with links between other parts of Africa, South America, Asia and North America as well. Instead of Portugal going there to take their work, they came to Portugal to have it taken here. With the opening of borders brought on by the EU, the nature of citizenship in Portugal has only become more internationalized. Those originally from Portugal have themselves swum in the same historical currents in the opposite direction as well; migrating to work, study and live in Africa, throughout Europe, Asia and the Americas. Many come back, and along with the migrants have brought with them the experiences of their travels and lives abroad. One learns much about this local encounter with the global by listening to the music of Lisbon. Local Portuguese musicians from the country’s professional and popular music schools including the conservatories, filarmonicas and jazz schools meet migrants and carry on conversations with Portugal’s past in re-examining the country’s new cultural reality—which really, is just another version of the older one. Revolutions may be afoot, but Lisbon as ever, remains a city with a crioulo soul. That soul may not be embraced in a café or around a card game in a park, but where and us and them how they see the present. But Lisbon's musicians embrace what they want and what they want is more sound. The internet and the global music industry has of course also brought the world’s music to Portugal, and yes, the global archive of image and sound available on the internet has potentially freed all forms of music from geographic isolation and obscurity, so that music that touches—no matter where or when its origin—can be accessed in the present. A mid 70s performance by Africa ‘70? A rare Sonny Burgess Sun Studio B-side? Rock opera in Finland? a Bollywood classic? a traditional Serbian Roma melody? As available to someone from Lisbon as it is to anyone else in the world (just so long as they have an internet connection). But unlimited possibility doesn’t mean that decisions are not made, and the decisions that artists make creating culture in Lisbon are reflected in the music performed here locally. In Lisbon, public performance of music has historically been a defining part of the city's cultural tapestry. Music halls and popular Saints’ festas, fado houses and lupinars, the local and municipal arraial and the marchas populares have transformed and burgeoned to include larger public/private music festivals, dance clubs, and other music venues throughout the country. But whether it’s an arraial during Santos or a weekly or nightly cultural program—neighborhood cultural associations and collectives are often responsible for organizing the party. In recent years, such places have been in large part responsible for the explosion of live music produced in the city, offering concerts, dances, and other cultural events supported by the local and visiting public alike. Among organizations of this kind, Bacalhoeiro stands with few peers as a Lisbon cultural space that supports, develops and provides a showcase for live local music. Among Lisbon’s most popular music clubs, Bacalhoeiro’s eclectic and comprehensive nightly program makes it an essential spot for those seeking their favorite acts and who want to hear the new sounds trending from the streets. This is not the kind of music one hears in a tourist filled fado house in Bairro Alto, nor is it the strange theater of a Portuguese band playing a song on a Portuguese TV talk show, complete with overly-coiffed tias who clap off-beat as they are goaded to cheer by unnaturally hyper hosts and blinking applause meters while listening to lip-synched performances by musicians who are only half-way in on the joke. No, at Bacalhoeiro one hears the live music that feeds the night of a hard-dancing and heavy-grooving urban public. Bands and audiences come together to take part in the latest golpe, sounds spun off the hub that is Lisbon’s rich and diverse musical culture. This album then, offers a small sample, a platter of petiscos, of the many sounds circulating through Bacalhoeiro during the year. It is a recording of a concert/party on September 25, 2010 at the Caixa Económica Operária in celebration of Bacalhoeiro’s fourth anniversary. Playing the sold out festivities included an array of Bacalhoeiro's popular acts from Lisbon and around, an eclectic lineup of bands that made the Caixa Económica Operária jump. The main stage line-up included the tricked out, thunder-of-God, 20 plus-piece, green monster brass band (and Bacaholeiro’s resident collaborator) Farra Fanfarra; the rough dulcet soul, a heart beating deep in the chest, tango vadio trio Tano Brancamenta y la Miseria Deluxe; the afro-groove, caldo-Cabo-Verde, tradbeat, balkan-ball, salsero and grindhouse-funksters of King Mokadi; goth rocker cavalheiros Ekta-Moai; one-man-band romantic crooner Gonçalo Gonçalves; boss-trad grime bop power punksters Puntzkapuntz, and bitch-slap, shot in the gut, old school Portuguese rockabilly boys, the Texabilly Rockets. The music represented on this album is representative of something in this town, I suppose, even if that something is merely an echo of one night of music in one place. If you were there, then you were there, dancing and listening, disappearing into the night, humming to the zeal, the power of the city’s life—a collective act spawning the elusive Maxwell’s Demon, the searching, never-ending energy that is found in moments when musicians and a public create culture. And, well, if you weren’t there, then take heart. The festa and the sound can always be found, because it’s Lisbon and its dark. It’s Bacalhoeiro and the hora freak approaches. Miguel Moniz
Lisboa September 25, 2010.