Various Artists

Exploratory Music From Portugal

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Exploratory Music From Portugal is a compilation album put together by the British branch of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation to promote the Atlantic Waves 2001 festival, a monthlong event bringing Portuguese music to London, England. The CD was largely distributed for free in the preceding months, including a round to subscribers of the music magazine The Wire in October. The scope of styles covers folkloric, jazz, free improv, and sound art. Over two-thirds of the 20 pieces were previously unavailable or came from Portuguese-only releases. Some names, like violinist Carlos Zingaro or Sony recording artist Rodrigo Leao, were obligatory, but the absence of atmospheric guitarist Rafael Toral is perplexing. The term "exploratory" is stretched a lot in the course of this CD. The material is split in four parts corresponding to the cardinal points. The "North" section is mostly avant-garde, with contributions from Zingaro, David Maranha, and the fabulous flutist Carlos Bechegas clearly standing out. The "East" sticks closer to contemporary classical. But it is in the "South" that exploration takes the most varied and at the same time conservative forms. Lula Pena and Mariza are two singers blending jazz and Latin folk à la Cesaria Evora or Susana Baca, while Megafone and Balla add electronic textures and DJ work to archaic styles (the "South" section is also the only one featuring excerpts from albums released by big Portuguese and international record labels). All in all, Exploratory Music From Portugal offers a portrait of the current music scene in general, experimental and not so experimental.

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