RootsWorld: Home Page Link RootsWorld: Home Page Link

Gaiteiros de Lisboa
Avis Rara

Few recordings are so clearly a testament to how much fun the band had putting them together as the fifth studio work by the Gaiteiros de Lisboa, Avis Rara. Despite arriving a full six years after the band's last album Macaréu (2006) -- due in part to market constraints which kept the album, recorded in 2009, on the back burner for three years -- the latest incursion into their playful and eccentric world was well worth waiting for.

The Gaiteiros' particular mix of often comical and nonsensical lyrics, homemade musical instruments, and compositional rigor, have earned them a respectable position within the Portuguese traditional music scene. And yet they are, as the album title states, a rare bird, though perhaps less a rarity and more an outright oddity. While accepting their role as (by now) venerable old-timers of traditional Portuguese music, the Gaiteiros refuse to romanticize tradition or place it on a pedestal. Instead, they celebrate the strange and the burlesque in traditional music, the rhythmic and lyrical dissonances which force their audience to listen with renewed attention. It is not just that they aim to redefine or stretch the boundaries, but instead remind us of what traditional music very often is - a celebration of the unexpected and the absurdity of everyday life.

The Gaiteiros de Lisboa share this project with a number of invited musician friends. Avis Rara is graced with a wonderful cast of familiar voices: the group Adiafa, singer-songwriter Sérgio Godinho, musician Zeca Medeiros, Ana Bacalhau of Deolinda, and radio host Armando Carvalhêda.

Avis Rara is a joy to listen to. The album combines popular lyrics ("Fez Sábado Quinta-Feira," "Pragas," "A Devota da Ermida") with originals ("Avejão," "Proparóxitonias") and borrowed poetry from surrealist poet Alexandre O'Neil ("A Uma Ingrata"). Original lyrics and compositions are by Carlos Guerreiro who, along with Paulo Marinho, is also responsible for the construction of new instruments used by the band. Apart from a panoply of bagpipes, hurdy-gurdies, flutes and percussion instruments, the Gaiteiros often use instruments of their own creation, the most well-known of which is probably the tubarões,  a percussion instrument created with large plastic tubes. Their irreverent approach to musical composition and instrument construction is also visible on the cover of the album, featuring an actual rare bird - or what appears to be a klutzy-looking steam-punk fledgling, caught mid-flight, also a creation of Carlos Guerreiro.

The album's lyrics are heavy on amphigory - a nonsense poetic style popular in traditional Portuguese lyrics and re-created in some of the original tracks. The album opens with "Fez Sábado Quinta-feira" (It was Saturday on Thursday featuring Adiafa), an epically nonsensical voyage through Portugal and the lusophone world. Another gesture toward the absurd is the track "Pragas" (Curses, featuring Zeca Medeiros) as well as "A Uma Ingrata" (To an ungrateful woman), both comical anti-love songs. In "Pragas," the jilted lover wishes upon their ex a litany of life's many possible annoyances, "when you eat cherries, may you get an indigestion!", "may all your clothes be filled with lice!" and "may you marry a smoker who keeps your house untidy!" One of the most amusing tracks, "Proparóxitonias," is perhaps the first ever attempt at rhyming only words whose accent falls on the penultimate syllable. The result is oddly compelling though barely translatable, "the protoplasmatic muses with their stalagmitic chests / undergo lymphatic drainage in apocalyptic laments." In a final comedic gesture, the album closes with the secret track "Salsa de Cabezón de Pisuerga" (Salsa of Cabezón de Pisuerga), a lively track in Portuñol, the Portuguese-Spanish pidgin in which all Portuguese jokingly claim fluency.

The album's single, "Avejão" (Big Bird), is the most serious of all the tracks on the album. Featuring invited guests Sérgio Godinho and Armando Carvalhêda, "Avejão" is a humorously dystopian track about big, self-important and power-hungry birds interested only in oppressing the smaller and weaker feathered masses. This is a protest song in the best tradition of renowned Portuguese musician José 'Zeca' Afonso - a simple, repetitive tune with succinct and witty lyrics.

Since its recording in 2009, the Gaiteiros have referred to this project by the intended title of the album, "Vôos Domésticos" (Domestic Flights) but this had to be changed at the last minute as it coincided with Portuguese rock group GNR's own album Vôos Domésticos, released the same year. And while the sudden need for a title change may have caught the band members off-guard, this turned out to be a happy event as the titles complement one another: the album is a domestic flight, a long voyage through Portuguese musical tradition guided by the eccentric and rare birds that make up the Gaiteiros de Lisboa. Their message is simple, that traditional music can be just as edgy as any other genre and that tradition is something to be constantly reinvented, played with, and most of all, thoroughly enjoyed. - Rosa Vieira de Almeida

Find the band online

Looking for More Information?


return to rootsworld

© 2013 RootsWorld. No reproduction of any part of this page or its associated files is permitted without express written permission.


CD cover


Share on Facebook


CD available from cdRoots

RootsWorld depends on your support.
Contribute in any amount
and get our weekly e-newsletter.