EP word of the week (#99): lixívia

Cleaning supplies have similar usages in different places, but that doesn’t make them impervious to changes in terminology (that’s the whole point of translation, really; to find similar ideas in languages that describe things differently).

Today, our word of the week is the EP term for bleach, the chemical solution used to whiten fabrics and commonly sold as such. That word is [a] lixívia, sometimes also called [a] barrela (which was the old-fashioned way of bleaching clothes, using hot water and wood ash, charcoal or soda for bleaching purposes). In Brazil, it’s commonly known as [a] água sanitária (cleaning water, lit. sanitation water), or through various other terms depending on region or on the brand used; for example, it is known clorofina in the southernmost Brazilian states, taking the name of a conglomerate that makes business selling cleaning supplies in the area for over 60 years.

Lixívia com detergente, marca Continente.

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EP Music Mondays (#8): Marko i Blacky Orkestar

In what will be the last installment of EP Music Mondays for the foreseable future (various time constraints and my tighter focus on my ongoing job search leave me no opportunity to give this segment the care and research it requires), I’ve decided to follow up on the previous post about Melech Mechaya and give you a taste of more Balkan-inspired music coming from the Iberian Peninsula!

As it stands, this post also works as a personal thank-you to one of my most active and supportive followers: I’m talking about João Duarte, who is a founding member and percussionist of Marko i Blacky Orkestar (named, I assume, after the main characters of Emir Kusturica’s 1995 film Underground, winner of that year’s Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival), with orkestar being the South Slavic word for orchestra.

The band’s bread and butter is a welcome fusion of Portuguese and Balkan folk traditions; at a time when people seem to be growing more and more disillusioned with their lives and the future, it’s good to surround yourself with celebratory, fun music (and no one can accuse the Balkan countries of not knowing what hardship is – just ask the protagonists of Underground). I hope you like it as much as I do!

João kindly provided me with two Youtube clips to share with you so that you can sample his/their music! I’ll post them after the jump; you can also follow their work and watch more clips at their official Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MarkoBlacky2012/ 

P.S. Thank you for your readership – it was never as strong or as vocal vs. other segments of the website, but I’ve appreciated writing these music articles while I could. And don’t forget to keep looking for Portuguese music – finding your favourite artist might just be one of the best ways to keep connected to the country and to the language you’re learning.

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EP Music Mondays (#7): Melech Mechaya

This one is a out of left-field choice, but one that exemplifies how varied and ecletic Portugal’s music output is nowadays, with a profusion of indie bands with different tastes and sounds.

The members of Melech Mechaya are all Portuguese, but their musical interests couldn’t be further away from the mainstream.

Their music is a mix of klezmer and Balkan and Romani folk music (which, unlike flamenco in neighboring Spain, can’t be considered “mainstream” sounds; in Portugal accordions are matched with Portuguese guitars, not cellos and oboes); it’s mainly instrumental, with the virtuosity of the players giving it the cadence and rhythms of a song; it’s playful and generally cheerful music you can dance to (or just be mesmerized by the artistry).

I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of going to one of their concerts and it’s a really fun, interactive experience. People are actively encouraged to dance and to provide support for the songs, being provided with some moves and clap and shout cues to feel like you’re a part of the show, matching the celebratory roots and mood of its main influences. All in all, a great experience if you’re into trying new things and just going with the flow.

A selection of three songs will follow, as usual, after the jump (:


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EP Music Mondays (#6): Zeca Afonso (e outros músicos de intervenção)

Today is April 25th, a holiday in Portugal remembering the Revolution that brought down the Estado Novo dictatorship.

Music was also a pivotal part in the country’s resistance to the dictatorship: while the authoritarian regime was particularly fond of songs and artists who displayed either adherence to tradition (like fado) or socially unengaged songwriting and songcrafting (the apolitical chanson was quite popular in official circles, and its influence can be seen in most of the songs Portugal took to the Eurovision Song Contest up until 1974), but there were many singers and songwriters who were engaging in social fighting, suffering the usual political persecution and imprisonment because of it.

Of these, José “Zeca” Afonso is arguably the most well-known, with his song “Grândola, Vila Morena” (Grândola is a town in Alentejo, enhancing the song’s commitment to “power to the people” by referencing a stronghold of the then-illegal Communist Party) becoming enthroned in Portuguese history after been used as a signal (broadcast via radio) to the revolting forces during that April 25th 1974 to start the country-wide revolution.09112302_obvious-pt_zeca

Important info: From now on, the EP Music Mondays feature will debut new entries only once every month.

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EP Music Mondays (#5): B Fachada

By the time the 21st century came about, Portugal was mostly falling in line with the trends seen in international music; for example, the late 90s saw a boom in pop boy and girlbands and urban hip-hop, mimicking the rise to fame of musical acts like The Backstreet Boys, N’Sync, the Notorious B.I.G and Eminem.

In the mid-2000s, the same could be said of a budding indie scene, which also grew up bit by bit over those years and highlighted a change of pace from earlier forms of music: more introspective and/or experimental, and more inclusive of different types of soundscapes. A good example of that is the word of Bernardo Fachada, artistic moniker B Fachada, a Lisbon-born singer-songwriter of indie pop/rock. Gifted with a melodious voice and a knack for songs who can be both light and fun or introspective and quiet (or both), he is a shining example of a more professional, lyrically-based approach to songcraft and music writing.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!


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EP Music Mondays (#4): Rui Veloso

Like most novelties, rock & roll reached Portuguese shores a tad later than everywhere else: the first few bands and acts of the genre started springing up in the late 70s and early 80s, a clear break with what had come before (fruit of the Revolution, of which I spoke about when I talked about António Variações a month ago).

And the emergence of rock & roll wouldn’t make sense in any other conjuncture, and not just because its irreverence and style were derided by the authoritarian regime in the (social, religious, moral) correctness; it was also that socioeconomic (widespread poverty, illiteracy, child labor) and political constraints (repression of contrarian attitudes by the political police; drafting of many young men serve in Portugal’s Colonial War in Africa from 1961 to 1974) – all of which were caused by official Estado Novo policy – meant there wasn’t a true sense of fun or the opportunity to enjoy youth among most of Portugal’s teenagers and young adults.

Rui Veloso is one of the most enduring and beloved singers to have emerged from this new rock scene, and one who’s still working today (his passions have mellowed with age, but his voice and his clout in Portuguese music remain intact).



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EP Music Mondays (#3): Deolinda

If the first decades after the 25 de Abril Revolution showed a reluctance from the younger generations to embrace fado and other traditional forms of Portuguese music, the new millenium (and a new generation, removed both from the hardships of the dictatorship and the whiplash effect of the smorgasbord of new influences discovered immediately after, including the first few English-singing bands in the late 80s and 90s) saw a rediscovery and reappraisal of fado.

Contributing to that reapprasial were both young fadistas of the traditional mould reshaped their sound to incorporate new sounds and rhythms (together with a more modern, lively uptake on life which toned down the dourness of fado and brought it to the new mainstream) and the appearance of fado-inspired bands, using some of its sounds while trying to reinvent its wheels, crafting funny, quirky and uplifting portraits of daily life – if only fado didn’t take itself so seriously!

Deolinda (a woman’s name, emphasizing the quirky aspect of the music and its Portugalness) is the band that encapsulates the best of these impulses. Their concerns are grounded in the quotidian, but they always find an engaging way of relaying the importance of the trivial and the wisdom to be mined from such situations – including an acute awareness of social injustices creating a lighter (but no less strong) social protest songs.



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EP Music Mondays (#2): António Variações

The years after the Carnation Revolution (Revolução dos Cravos or simply O 25 de Abril, since it started on April 25th 1974, now a national holiday) which deposed the 48-year old authoritarian dictatorship of [o] Estado Novo (lit. “New State”, in the way dictatorships have a way of fashioning themselves new and good when they’re anything but) brought on not just enormous political changes – multiparty democracy, pure universal suffrage, decolonization – but also great changes in the social mores of the country, especially amongst the generation that grew up in the aftermath of the revolution.

The 80s musical scene showcases these new ideas in an extraordinary fashion: unshackled from the tight constraints to both musical imports, young people started ditching fado and the Portuguese version of the French chanson for bolder rhythms like rock and punk and a more intense lyrical exploration of the self, of the individuality that was regularly curbed during the dictatorship years (the música de intervenção, lit. “intervention music” – politically-charged tunes which were an active form of resistence against the dictatorship – had quickly become obsolete after the country settled into democracy).

While many singers could be named in this context, there’s no figure as ideosyncratic and fantastic as António Variações (1944-1984), who in his short-lived but incredibly iconic career lived many lives, and showed that it was possible to blend traditional sounds with modern tendencies (a gay hairdresser in a still deeply conservative country, he was nothing but brave in his openness to be himself more than anything, a path unfortunately cut short by AIDS), a feeling which captures really well the best of what Portuguese music can do.


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EP Music Mondays (#1): Amália

Sometimes the easiest way to understand a culture or art form is by showing, not telling; since the impact of music is so immediate – short in length, but at its best deeply meaningful and resounding – I couldn’t think of a better way to start trudging the waters of Portuguese Culture and Society, one of this blog’s segments, with a fortnightly revue of Portuguese music (that is, every other Monday), with only a few notes to guide you to the context of the pieces.

There’s no better place to start than with fado, Portugal’s unique contribution to the musical world, and no better artist exemplifies the form than Amália Rodrigues (1920-1999), an artist so revered in life she’s now entombed in Lisbon’s National Pantheon, the first woman to receive such an honor (that says a lot about the treatment of women by the powers that be, but the honor itself reveals how much Amália was loved by the Portuguese people, who pressured the government to grant her that posthumous recognition).


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