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.

“Grândola, Vila Morena” (Lyrics and Music by José “Zeca” Afonso; Sung by Zeca Afonso) – lit “Grândola, tanned/brown town“, an ode to solidarity among the people to strive for the goals of equality and political freedom.

“Tourada” (Lyrics by José Carlos Ary dos Santos; Music by Fernando Tordo, Sung by Fernando Tordo) – lit. “Bullfighting“; the uber-traditionalist practice of poking spokes in defenseless animals becomes useful for once, here working as a rallying point for resistance against the regime. 1973 Portuguese representative in the Eurovision Song Contest

“Os Vampiros” (Lyrics and Music by Zeca Afonso, Sung by Zeca Afonso) – lit. “The Vampires“, here the censors and all regimes officials (including the dreaded officers of the political police, [a] PIDE) become the vampires sucking all the life – social, political, cultural – from the country.

“Eu vi este povo a lutar” (Lyrics and Music by José Mário Branco, Sung by Confederação G.A.C.) – lit. “I watched this people fighting“, este povo being “the people of Portugal”, who fought against the dictatorship. This song was written after the revolution took place, as indicated by the use of the preterite.

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