I think it’s safe to say that for most of us 2020 was a difficult year. Covid19, quarantines, curfews, closed borders… you know what I’m talking about, right?
Many of us had to adapt to new things like Zoom meetings, video calls with family members and to doing a lot of things online. So what about travel? You can’t travel virtually. Well, no. But yes.
We all know about the usual online resources, like tourism offices or travel / photo blogs and their respective social media (what do you mean, you had no idea I’m on Instagram too?) that allow us to research future travel destinations and daydream a little. But then… then there’s also music and music videos. Ta-daaah! So, with that in mind I thought of taking you on several short trips across the country, mixing Portuguese music, culture and landscapes. Sounds good?
The video that gave me the idea for this series of posts is “Nada”, by singer-songwriter-creative-mind Jorge Cruz (lovers of the man bun: feast your eyes!). Although it’s not always clear to which part of the country the landscapes belong to, the video is fairly representative of the kind of landscape you’re likely to find in Portugal, like the long sandy dunes with boardwalks or the roads lined with wild flowers.
I could, however, bet that some of it was filmed in Serra da Estrela (specifically the bit from 1:26 to 1:40) and I have no doubts about the castle of Arraiolos (around 2:11). This town in Alentejo is well known for its traditional rugs, which are quite unique (please don’t buy the made in China look-alikes!). Those large fields with a few trees in the distance? A typical landscape from the Alentejo.
Next I chose a video from my favourite Portuguese band, Diabo na Cruz, and which shows not one, not two, not three but many different elements of what makes up Portugal today (because yes, they were that awesome). The song is called “Siga a rusga” and while some of the things shown are pretty self explanatory, others are not quite so but there’s so much happening so quickly that I’ll try to go over each element giving you the time stamps.
Right at the start of the video you’ll see an amolador announcing his services by playing a sort of Pan flute. Usually associated with Lisbon (but actually found pretty much all over the country) the amolador is one of the few still-surviving traditional jobs of the old days: in most cases they sharpen all sorts of knives and scissors but some also fix umbrellas! Notice how you’ll still listen to “echoes” of the amolador‘s melody throughout the whole song. Beautiful, right?
Around 0:10, and further ahead as well, you have “pauliteiros de Miranda”, our very own version of men in skirts (you can read more about them here). The ruins where they are shown dancing are in Miranda do Douro, Bragança district, not very far from where I took the photo at the start of this post. The band members are playing a game called petanca (from the name of the French game, pétanque) and the people dancing in traditional clothes are members of a rancho folclórico – you’ll find groups like these at your local festas in Portugal or if you live near Portuguese communities anywhere outside the country. Basically, they sing and dance traditional songs, often connected to a specific region.
Whenever you see the band’s singer on a bridge (Btw, yes, it’s Jorge Cruz, the same guy from the video above. No, I’m not obsessed, geez!), notice the big building with a sort of red squares from top to bottom: that’s the Colombo shopping center and the road next to it, which you’ll see again at the end of the video, is the infamous Segunda Circular (trust me, this is vital information for commuters, or anyone else really, living in or near this part of Lisbon).
The naked feet that show up from time to time on the video belong to a woman working on a traditional loom. The guy you see playing a big drum at around the 1:17 mark plays in a volunteer firemen brass band (yes, that’s a thing), in this case the one from Montemor-o-Novo, a town in Alentejo. You can also see, here and there on the video, examples of traditional Portuguese guitars, like the cavaquinho and the viola braguesa. Around 1:39 you can catch a glimpse of what I’m almost 100% sure is a demonstration of jogo do pau, a traditional Portuguese martial art with a very interesting background (read more about it here).
The video is pretty much a marriage between traditional Portugal and contemporary suburban Portugal (the Colombo shopping center is almost outside Lisbon and the place where they’re playing is, I could bet, not far from there) – this polarity is something very much present in the band’s music as well.
Hope you enjoyed this post and remember to stay tuned for the next!