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Gaiteiros de Lisboa
Farol Música (

Contemporary reinterpretations of traditional forms often produce either a cadaverous resurrection of an imagined past, or an artless contemporary fusion that is fundamentally alienated from the music's essential roots. Breaking the rules to blend traditional styles with contemporary sensibilities ideally requires an understanding and mastering the folk forms first.

Dançachamas exemplifies this contention in an engaging, generously good-natured two-CD live concert recording, the third of Gaiteiros de Lisboa's ongoing exploration of the music of Portugal's Trás-os-Montes region, and the resonant Alentejo-style male chorus reminiscent of Basque, Alpine, Corsican and Sardinian polyphonic singing (e.g., "Trângulo mângulo," an especially powerful example). Portuguese folk balladry employs a diversity of chordophones (viola or guitar, guitarra or cittern, and cavaquinho-the precursor of the Brazilian machete and the Hawaiian ukelele). The Gaiteiros are immediately notable in that they use none; indeed, the only stringed instrument is the sanfona or hurdy gurdy. Instead, their gaita-de-foles or bagpipe-led music is strong on wind instruments, reeds, brass, found sound, and a battery of percussion. The ensemble sustains a polyrhythmic, melodically free form given to a lyrical aesthetic in which text is central. Their approach confers high value upon picaresque creativity with words, drawing on the traditional song-dueling romanciero style known as cantares ao desafio, and its close Spanish relative, the controversía.

"Trangulo Mangulo"
(MP3 Excerpt)
Personnel include multi-instrumentalists José Salgueiro (voice, flugel, panflutes, tubaros de Orfeu, búzio or conch shell, percussion), Rui Vaz (voice, gaita, ocarina, panflutes, percussion), Pedro Casaes (voice, panflutes, percussion), José Manuel David (voice, trompa or French horn, gaita, flutes, percussion), Carlos Guerreiro (voice, sanfona, panflutes, tubaros de Orfeu, búzio, percussion) and Paulo Marinho (gaitas, flute, svina, panflutes, búzio, percussion). They are joined by guests José Mário Branco, Vozes da Rádio (a male vocal quintet), Danças Ocultas (an accordion quartet), and the anchoring percussion ensemble Tocá Rufar.

Numerous tunes set popular texts to new music in evocative ways. "Se eu soubesse que voando" combines close and resonant vocal tonalities, kalimba, gaita, flute and percussion in José Manuel David's loping, beautifully spare setting. Carlos Guerreiro's "Condessa do Aragão" (an oom-pahing, tongue-in-cheek appeal to a patronizing countess to grant the singer the hand of one of her many daughters) turns a popular ditty into a pointed class commentary. His "Décimas" animates a popular ten-line poetic figure associated with the cantares ao desafio, dating at least to the fifteenth-century Reconquest period when the Castilians and their crusading minions finally drove the Moors out of the Iberian Peninsula.

Other numbers are inspired reinterpretations of popular folk songs, such as "Fandango / Ai por cima," which breaks into a characteristically dynamic gaita-and-percussion blowout. "Leva leva" is a resonant, rumbling, vaguely menacing vocal and percussive elegy to the romantic abandonment of springtime, while "O menino está na neve" ("The Child Is in the Snow"), a tender, reed-and-brass folk hymn sung to the holy family at nativity, closes the album. - Michael Stone

Audio: "Decimas" and "Trangulo Mangulo"
© 2000 Farol / Gaiteiros de Lisboa, used by permission

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