When I flew back from the Canary Islands to Germany last springtime, the plane was forced to stop and refuel in Lisbon because of strong headwinds. From high above I saw the Portuguese capital for the first time in all its glory. Lisbon already stood on my places-to-visit list for quite a while, now it has even moved a few positions upwards.
According to the 2nd edition of the Companion to Irish Traditional Music
Reg Hall's history of Irish music and dance in London was due for publication in 2011.
Born in 1933, Reg Hall has been an important stalwart of traditional music.
Best known as a dance musician, Reg has played
Irish music and English country music with the finest traditional musicians. For many years he accompanied
Michael Gorman in London pub sessions. He
has also compiled and annotated many significant recordings.
Eventually, coinciding with Reg Hall's
latest two volumes in the Voice of the People series, "It was mighty!" and "It was great altogether!"
Topic Records have published his impressive and comprehensive work, covering the period from the early 1800s
when many traditional musicians from rural Ireland found themselves working in London and playing
music in dance halls and pubs.
It was often said there was much better Irish music to be heard in London than back home.
A Few Tunes of Good Music,
including much original interview material, many illustrations and a large discography of rare records,
may be downloaded or viewed online @ www.topicrecords.co.uk!
Reg Hall, A Few Tunes of Good Music - A History of Irish Music and Dance in London, 1800-1980 & Beyond. 2016
"Video of the Month 2014" had been the headline of 12 live-in-the-studio videos, which were released on YouTube month by month, all composed and performed by Danish guitarist and composer Finn Olafsson . (Watch "A Scent of Lavender", for example!) The videos have already been released on CD and DVD , the tune book Video of the Month 2014 now features all 12 pieces notated in both staff notation and in tablature with fingering positions. The time is displayed in the scores, so that you can easily locate the different parts on video. On his website, Finn Olafsson relates in detail about the background of each song, the guitars he plays and the different guitar tunings used.
Finn Olafsson & Torsten Olafsson (eds.), Video Of The Month 2014 - 12 Acoustic Guitar Pieces from the Youtube & DVD Videos. Olafssongs, 2016, ISMN M-706782-17-1, pp120, €23,80
Joe Procopio was the lead reed for many top recording artists, including The Temptations, Aretha Franklin, Tiny Tim and Petula Clark. He also was the teacher of guitarist T. Maxwell, who can be heard on the signature tunes of Magnum P.I., The Rockford Files and Kojak. "While I cannot guarantee that it will make you a great musician," says Procopio about his Basic Music Theory, "I can say that it is designed to magnify your love of music and I guarantee it will enrich and enhance your life." The award-winning textbook is easy to gather, introducing anyone who is not trained in music to the concepts of music theory and structure, such as music staff, keys, scales, time signature, measures, intervals and chords. Being rather a musical practitioner than a theorizer myself, I can fully attest that it is a convenient tool to teach the beginner the very basics of the wonderful art of music.
Joe Procopio, Basic Music Theory. BookBaby, 2013/2016, ISBN 978-1483566955, pp80, (Paperback: US$9.52, ebook: US$3.41)
Quite fittingly, I recently got the opportunity to deal more intensively with the capital and the largest city of Portugal. The Photobook Lisboa: Past & Present throws a fragmentary view at the city upon seven hills, where the river Tejo flows into the Atlantic Ocean.
In 1256, Lisbon became the capital of the Kingdom of Portugal under the regency of King Afonso III. The city experienced an enormous upswing to the most prestigious commercial port, as Portugal rose to a leading European colonial power.
However, the massive earthquake of 1755 was the beginning of the economic decline. Despite a partial recovery Lisbon appears slightly dilapidated, but charms with a certain morbidity as all ancient cities do.
Lisboa: Past & Present combines literature, music and images. Focal points of the photographs, taken from 1999 to 2015, are the characteristic cobblestones, ceramic tiles, electric street cars and graffitis. 90 years old but still (or again) topical is the satirical text "An Anarchist Banker" by Lisbon writer Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935), who is considered one of the most important poets of the Portuguese language.
Lisbon's Alfama district, a maze of medieval alleyways between the castle ruins and the river, is home to the infamous Fado, the best-known musical genre of Portugal, which is usually accompanied by a classical and a Portuguese guitar only and sung in a melancholy mood.
The enclosed CD portrays folk singer Dona Rosa (solo and with the Bulgarian Voices Angelite and The Nederlands Blazers Ensemble) as well as the world music group OqueStrada.
Rosa Francelina Dias Martins (*1957) became blind after meningitis hit her when four years old. She sold magazines, flowers and lottery tickets in the streets and began to sing folk songs one day, accompanied only by a triangle. Dona Rosa became popular when the well-known Viennese artist and impresario André Heller took notice of her and invited her for his "Stimmen Gottes" (Voices of God) TV show recorded in Marrakesh, Morocco.
Dona Rosa stands in the tradition of the original fado castiço, the repertoire is drawn from popular fado songs and traditional folk songs. Her singing, however, is particularly inspired by the passionate and expressive vocal style of the most famous of all fado singers, Amália Rodrigues.
The first concert half of Dona Rosa's current tour, "Concerts in the Dark" is performed in complete darkness. The motto is: I close my eyes in order to see better! The second half virtually pictures the vibrant life of Lisbon; Dona Rosa and her ensemble play before projected images from the photo book.
"Tasca Beat" is the term singer Marta Miranda and bassist Jean Marc Pablo call the cosmopolitan fado swing of their musical group OqueStrada. The band's name OqueStrada is a compound of orquestra (orchestra) and estrada (road); tascas are small bars and pubs in the Lisbon suburbs.
OqueStrada's lively and exuberant performances according to the concept of a mobile cabaret theatre (as opposed to the solemn fado presentation) and their casual genre mix that playfully deals with Portuguese traditions and popular folklore in particular, let the group become a much-liked and gladly booked live band in the whole of Europe.
Since 2014, Marta Miranda and Jean Marc Pablo run the Tasca Bar, a Portuguese blend of joie de vivre with a pinch of nostalgia, just 300 metres off the road from the Museu do Fado in the Alfama district.
The book's author Ulrich Balss, CEO of JARO Medien GmbH and therefore responsible for the albums and concerts of OqueStrada and Dona Rosa, has travelled often enough to Lisbon. He succeeds to capture the melancholic mood of the Portuguese capital in word, image and sound, but he does not conjure a false craving for yesteryear and firmly stands in the here and now.
Photo Credits: (1ff) Book Covers, (6) Finn Olafsson, (10) Carla Pires, (11) Deolinda, (12) Melech Mechaya, (13) Vasco Ribeiro Casais, (16) Cafe D'Alma, (from website/author/publishers); (7) OqueStrada, (9) Carminho, (14) Stockholm Lisboa Project (by Walkin' Tom); (8) Dona Rosa, (by Karsten Rube); (15) Dead Combo (by Tiago Fernandes/Wikipedia).