>>Raquel Tavares

Raquel Tavares | Singer

“It’s people who make cities”

With traditional notes and contemporary chords, singer Raquel Tavares and composer and musician Rodrigo Leão write the score and add the vocals to Lisbon.

Text: Guadalupe Rodríguez | Photos: Carlos Luján | Video: Kreativa Visual

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ado, a Portuguese genre of folk music that dates back to the 19th century, is regarded as transgressive and ‘bairrista’ (belonging to working-class neighbourhoods). Much like singer Raquel Tavares, who with her latest album, ’Raquel’, shows how she has developed since she began singing Fados at the age of six. She defends her home district of the Alfama in Lisbon with all the passion of her gypsy roots. It’s here that you will find the Fado Museum, where her picture appears in a mural made up of photos of a new generation of Fado artists, people of her age, alongside names like Mariza, Carminho and Ana Moura. Instead of a forward-facing portrait pose, Tavares is shown in profile, singing on stage at one of the concerts she gives all over the world. Up until the age of 17, she would perform at up to three different Fado houses a night. And, while her love for these traditional venues remains as strong as ever, these days she’s more likely to be in sitting in the audience than she is up on stage.
“Fado happens wherever there’s a singer, a Portuguese guitar and a double bass. Now, where can you listen to it? Luckily there are many Fado houses, in the Alfama, Barrio Alto and Mouraria districts. Although I admit I don’t go that often, three of them in particular are important to me: Senhor Vino, A Adega O Faia and Casa de Linhares. Three houses I love going to, where the food is great, the people are fantastic, there’s a good, traditional atmosphere, you listen to good music and I feel at home.”
Above all, Tavares feels at home in her native Alfama district, where bars serving traditional food rub shoulders with Fado houses, and where the locals hanging their washing out greet each other on the street and then welcome the tourists who rent their houses for a few days like one of the family.
Lisbon became cosmopolitan but stayed traditional
Singer André Baptista in Casa de Linhares
Casa de Linhares restaurant and Fado club is in the Alfama district and its resident singers are André Baptista, Vânia Duarte and Silvana Peres.
In Lisbon, which “became cosmopolitan but stayed traditional”, she also adores the Chiado district. “It’s a place for shopping in the old city centre. This area is epic like Baixa and the Castelo de São Jorge for obvious reasons. Not just for its incredible views but also for its history. The architectural area of Belém and the Jerónimos Monastery is amazing too.”
Raquel Tavares in Alfama
Fado singer Raquel Tavares recorded the video for her number ‘O meu amor de longe’ in the streets of Alfama.
Although she enjoys the most popular parts of the city, she really loves being among the locals. “Wherever I go I like to be with the people who live there. It’s true that going to Belém is lovely, but it’s the people that make cities what they are. So I think it’s more interesting to walk round the districts, like Bairro Alto, Mouraria and Cais do Sodré, where there’s all kinds of music at night, with people who have no prejudices, because Lisbon is a very open city.”
Lisbon is a very open city
The city’s size, with 1 million inhabitants, its feeling of safety and the ease with which you can get around by taxi are just some of the good things that Tavares finds about visiting the Portuguese capital. “Nine out of every ten restaurants are good ones. It’s difficult not to eat well! What more can I say? I’m from Lisbon, it really shows. Come to Lisbon!”
Rodrigo Leão
Rodrigo Leão, former member of the group Madredeus, composed the soundtrack to the film ‘The Butler’.

Rodrigo Leão | Composer and musician

“Lisbon is present in my music”

Rodrigo Leão’s career is a metaphor for Portugal’s evolution. Without turning his back on his roots and traditions, he has absorbed outside influences to take his music all over the world.

Text: Guadalupe Rodríguez | Photos: Carlos Luján | Video: Kreativa Visual

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Since he started out in the 80s as part of the groups Sétima Legião first and Madredeus later, composer, keyboard player and guitarist Rodrigo Leão has gone back to the roots of Portuguese music, reclaiming instruments like the accordion. He has mixed them with a wide range of influences, from British pop to new age and Brazilian music, building a career as a soundtrack and album composer and collaborator with several notable singers. “Portuguese music has a very strong identity. Not just Fado; there are other groups that are closer to Portuguese folk music,” he says, sitting in 100 Maneiras restaurant close to his home, on the same sofa where the cover photo was taken for his latest album ‘Life is Long’, together with Scott Matthew.

There are more and more musical shows on offer in Lisbon

When he isn’t on tour, Leão divides his time between Alentejo, where he finds the peace and quiet he needs to compose, and Lisbon. There, he likes to walk around Chiado and along the banks of the Tagus, from Cais do Sodré to Alcântara. “The walk takes an hour there and back, against a backdrop of extraordinary light. Cais do Sodré and Barrio Alto are two places with a lot of movement at night, with young people, lots of bars and restaurants. For people who like a lively nightlife they’re the best places in Lisbon.” If, on the other hand you’re after a quieter atmosphere, Leão recommends Praça das Flores, near Príncipe Real, and Estrela garden. “En Lisboa han abierto espacios nuevos donde escuchar a grupos de música en directo, más restaurantes… Se ha dado una nueva vida a Lisboa, no sólo por la noche, pero durante el día también. Cada vez hay una mayor oferta de espectáculos. No sólo en el verano, con todos los festivales, a los que acuden los grupos más conocidos de pop rock; también con una programación en salas como el Coliseo del Centro Cultural de Belém que no existía hace diez años”, se felicita el músico.

“In Lisboa they’ve opened new venues where you can listen to live music, more restaurants… Lisbon has been given a new lease of life, not only at night but during the day as well. There are more shows running every day. Not only in summer, with all the festivals, where you get the most famous pop rock groups, there’s also a packed programme at show venues like the Coliseum at the Belém Cultural Centre that didn’t exist ten years ago,” says the musician happily. “Of course I feel that there’s something of Lisbon, of Portugal, in my music because I love living here. It may not be very obvious but there are some melodies that are very Portuguese. There’s a certain melancholy that’s very typical of Portugal, that’s very present in the songs I try to write.” But Leão assures us that this melancholnia or romanticism isn’t necessarily sad, but can actually be the opposite. “There’s a little sadness, a little melancholy, but there’s poetry and hope too; living near the sea, having wine, food, it’s all part of our culture.”

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