Review: Gaitas de Fole em Portugal / Bagpipe music from Portugal

By:
Gaitas de Fole em Portugal

Gaitas de Fole em Portugal

Available from http://paulotatomarinho.pt (€13 for Portugal, €13.50 for Europe and €14.50 for the rest of the world)

After a tough week with little sleep and many deadlines, both met and unmet, I sit in my kitchen, open the beautiful black and white album cover and insert the CD into the computer. I fit my earphones in so I don’t bother anyone on this Sunday morning and as the first notes hit my ears I am immediately transported to 13 years ago when I travelled all over Galicia with my new pipes. One day as I was in O Morrazo in southern Galicia, a friend picked me up and announced we were going to Portugal. What followed were the most wonderful 48 hours in the region of O Minho at Miranda do Douro, a small village high up on the plateau, overlooking the plunging view of the deep blue Douro river weaving its way in a naturally formed gorge, a majestic sight in this dry land of small stone houses and wonderfully warm people. There, I learned that during their latest music revival, Portuguese pipers had chosen to keep certain modal characteristics of the instrument, mainly audible through the striking neutral third.

This album uses no less than 53 instruments, both Portuguese and Galician, as well as Uillean pipes, a Chinese bamboo flute and a rarely heard Portuguese ocarina, but the modal flavour emerges strongly at key moments, especially in tracks 3, 7 and 14 with locally made Portuguese bagpipes. The music in the album covers a wide range of diverse genres and styles, giving the listener a real insight into the music of Portugal, light, bright and extremely danceable. There are a few musical weaknesses heard through a couple of instruments played with slightly less dexterity – most of the 53 instruments are, impressively, played by Paulo Tato Marinho –, but overall the musical knowledge and skill is solid and we emerge with a strong and powerful album with engaging arrangements and a real overview of Portuguese bagpipe music.

The cover the album is striking with simple hand drawn illustrations that convey just as much if not more than photos. The booklet is very attractive with explanations (in Portuguese) for each song, an extensive list of all the instruments played, their key, their maker and their origin and a range of entertaining illustrations reproducing key iconography, instruments, dances and costumes.

Starting with a highly energetic set of dance tunes with pipes in D, bombo (a large bass drum) and cavaquinho (a type of small guitar), then weaving through the highly diverse piping repertoire in Portugal, the album finishes on a more modern note with electronically programmed music providing the backdrop for acoustic instruments performing an original composition. If you are up for an educated yet thoroughly enjoyable journey to the upbeat land of Northern Portugal I couldn’t recommend this album enough. Enjoy the trip!

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