The wonderful little town of Olivenza, located right on the Spanish/Portuguese border, is a singular place. Its past is speckled with nationality changes, as it has belonged to each country during different periods of history. It’s currently Spanish, and has been for over 200 years, but the Portuguese culture is still very present in its local traditions and many of its older inhabitants still speak Oliventino, a local variation of Portuguese.
Even if I hadn’t grown up there, I’d still recommend a visit. There are many aspects that make this town unique and I could write about every single one of them. I’ll leave that for another post, though.
Last Saturday I spent the evening in the castle courtyard, listening to some wonderful Fado and learning more about the history of this traditional Portuguese music.
The event didn’t start until 10:30 pm, and by that time the summer heat had faded slightly, making the open air concert an attractive option for the evening’s entertainment. With the ancient XIV century walls as a backdrop, the Portuguese musicians took to the stage along with the translator. As we were introduced to the group and the night’s programme, the audience fell quiet (it’s really hard to get a group of Spaniards to remain silent for almost anything) in anticipation.
The first of the singers started by introducing us to the world of fado and its history. He told us briefly how this traditional music was created in the neighbourhoods of Lisbon. The songs, he explained, tell of daily events in the life of ordinary people, they spring from the many happy and sad moments in the life of individuals and communities, full of emotion, moving the soul.
He then passed the baton to the translator, who rather comically decided he wasn’t really needed, and told the singer and the audience as much, slipping in and out of Portuguese and Spanish, moving easily between the two languages. He reckoned the Olivenza audience was familiar enough with Portuguese to follow along without his help. So from then on, he stepped off the stage and no one really complained.
From that moment the focus was on the music. The group illustrated the different types of fado, singing examples of each, accompanied by the Portuguese guitar and a classical guitar. Each song told a story and we listened intently, captivated by the sound. The two voices took it in turns to capture our attention and the notes picked on the guitars filled our ears with the traditional melodies.
Sometime later, as the evening came to a close, we left pleasantly surprised by the whole show. At 3 € per person, what more could you ask for on a July summer night?