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Sample Track 1:
"Um Contro o outro" from Dois Selos E Um Carimbo
Sample Track 2:
"Passou por mim e sorriu" from Dois Selos E Um Carimbo
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Deolinda, Dois Selos e um Carimbo (Four Quarters Entertainment) Fado with a Smile:
Deolinda Reflects Lisbon’s Unexpected, Happy-Go-Lucky Suburban Side

Portugal’s Deolinda inhabits a very different Lisbon from the smoky fado houses and cobblestone streets of tourist fantasy. They’ve traded in the old bittersweet saudade for the dreamy, quirky, jubilant songs of Dois Selos e um Carimbo (Four Quarters Entertainment; September 14, 2010). Reveling in Portugal’s local color, they are unafraid to grab inspiration from old fado records, Cape Verdean morna, and Portuguese singer-songwriters of the 1970s.

To conjure this other Portugal, the soulful acoustic quartet invented an alter ego, a middle-aged single woman, whose solitary poetry would delight Emily Dickinson. Named Deolinda, she speaks, sitting by her high-rise window watching suburban Lisbon’s characters and foibles unfold below: smoldering subway crushes, cities setting up the world’s tallest mast, instant street parties. Characters Americans will get to meet for the first time this autumn, as the group tours North America.

“We’re from the suburbs,” explains Deolinda vocalist Ana Bacalhau. “We sing about what we love and what we’ve observed and experienced. Suburbia is interesting in Lisbon even though it’s very impersonal, with big buildings. People talk from window to window and keep their regional traditions alive. You can often feel it the second you walk into an apartment.”

Suburbia has brought together people from the north and south, from Portugal’s former colonies in Africa and South America, and packed them together. The four members of Deolinda grew up in this unexpectedly rich environment. The group was also born at the right time: after the stigma of dictatorship had rubbed off Portuguese traditional forms like the bluesy, vocally acrobatic fado.

“Our parents’ generation turned away from fado and other traditions that the dictatorship adopted as its own,” Bacalhau recounts. “Now there’s a younger generation that’s exploring these forms again,” listening to grandparents’ record collections and the folk interpretations of a crop of political and lyrically gifted Portuguese singer-songwriters.

Drawing on this special time and place, Deolinda got its start after lunch one lazy summer afternoon—“Everything always happens after lunch or dinner in Portugal,” laughs Bacalhau—when guitarist Pedro da Silva Martins played some of his songs for his cousin Bacalhau, his brother Luis José Martins, a conservatory-trained player of everything from ukulele to the Portuguese cavaco, and his brother-in-law bassist Zé Pedro Leitão.

As they began rehearsing together, they noticed what Bacalhau calls “a female entity” emerging from Martin’s sweet ballads and rollicking rockers. They dubbed her Deolinda and decided they could best tell their stories from her perspective. Deolinda suggested her own world, right down to lace curtains at the window and a goldfish swimming beside her in a bowl. Deolinda became so much a part of the group, concert promoters have booked hotel rooms for her, wondering where the fifth member was.

Though this concept sounds confining, it has not kept the group from letting their imaginations run wild. The delicate “Passou por mim e sorriu” invokes “fado sung with a smile” and a spontaneous outbreak of street festivities, while hinting at the moving sweetness of a Milton Nascimento ballad. “Entre Alvalade e as Portas de Benfica” is a vivid yet graceful account of a sultry unrequited love for a sad-eyed subway commuter.

However, Deolinda specializes in lightheartedly sending up the peculiarities of the Portuguese character, as in the rock-inflected “Não tenho mais razões,” when Deolinda (the character) joyfully tosses aside sorrow and despair, begging a doctor to “Please do something for I’m out of reasons to complain!”

Or the rousing “A problemática colocação de um mastro:” “It’s about this desire we have in Portugal to build big, to have the greatest whatever in the world,” Bacalhau explains. “It’s also about an old Portuguese tradition. In June, many smaller cities commemorate the popular saints days by putting up a big mast covered with flowers. The song is about a city that wants to build the biggest pole in the world.”

Deolinda, not simply a muse, turned psychic thanks to this song. Says Bacalhau, “There was actually a city that announced that they wanted to build the biggest mast in the world. They think we made the song to make fun of them, though we had come up with it months before.”

Live, Deolinda the group embodies Deolinda the character and the people who inhabit her world. Bacalhau strives to convey the emotions and temperament of macho men, Brazilian waitresses who can’t help but samba, and Deolinda herself, with a distinctly sweet, evocative voice. “I’ve always have a penchant for literature, and I studied it in college, so that makes it easier for me to interpret what is being said in the song,” she reflects. “I try to relate as intensely as I can to that character and incorporate that into my voice, my gestures, and my inflections.”

As the group has moved beyond the streets outside Lisbon to stages and clubs across Europe, so has their once reclusive heroine. “Deolinda has left her window,” Bacalhau exclaims with a laugh. “It’s like cinemascope now. She’s on the streets, traveling. We can’t wait to see how her experiences of other cultures will be incorporated into our music.”

<< release: 09/14/10 >>