Fausto Bordalo Dias

Now that I’ve shared the brilliance of Carlos Paredes and Zeca Afonso with y’all I have to tie the influence those two artists together had right? If ever there was a musical masterpiece that just screams with the unique sound and influence of Portugal its Vila Franca das Naves-native Fausto’s Por Este Rio Encima (For this River Upstream) double album released in 1982. This musical disciple of Zeca and Jose Maria Branco by this time had released a string of 6 albums where one could hear his musical gears turning away from very Western influenced folk and rock music into styles derived from his own Portuguese roots. In 1982, reflecting on the relative peace brought about by the Carnation revolution anthem and the sobering realization of how to live in a post-colonial democracy, Fausto set about (starting with this album) to create a worldly statement an album trilogy of sorts dealing with the modern Lusophonic diaspora.

Using the enlightening story or fabrication which was the life of Fernao Mendes Pinto the ill-reputed first European to travel to Asia, Fausto Bordalo Dias would tackle many issues Portuguese were finally coming around to dealing with. Working with arranger Eduardo Paes Mamede, Fausto would provide all the guitar parts, sing, and write the lyrics for the themes he was trying to tackle, in turn Eduardo would provide arrangements that had to sound distinctly of Portuguese origin.

Por Este Rio Acima cover.

As those two friends become like Fernao rediscovering styles once forgotten and thoroughly absorbing the sound of places that Portugal colonized before, they started to realize that to truly make music that sounded timeless they had to avoid pastiche. Instead of working with traditional fado instruments they would would use samplers, orchestras, new and old instrumentation to present something that couldn’t be easily tied to any era. Going through great lengths to prove the necessity of a renewed modern spirit of exploration that would do so by using lessons learned from the past that can be applied to the present. You can hear that in their music which can cycle from heartfelt neo-traditional folk to some uncategorizable thoroughly modern Fado rock.
This release so enthralled Portuguese music critics and listeners then. They could hear in it all the music of their youth and the sentiments of pain and triumph that all entailed…but they also heard the musics of other nations they were deprived either by political suppression or lack of economy. Its an album that makes a wider point, how much emphasis are we exactly putting on English-sung or American/Western music in effect creating some kind of musical imperialism that zaps us out to other sounds the might easily stir our emotions and expand our commonality with stuff we label as either “weird” or “world” music. Its albums like these which can ingrain themselves into you, that challenge any preconceived notion that you’ve heard stuff like this before. Trust me, as a person who has a high bar to be surprised, something about the music in this album sounds like nothing else you’ll ever hear…
Listen to this song cycle starting with Olha o Fado…

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Then continuing with the nearly unclassifiable electro-fado of Por Este Rio Acima…

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and continuing with the jaw-dropping buildup of ambient-chorale folk of “O Cortejo Dos Penitentes” (The Procession of the Penalized)…

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Listen to this stretch at Grooveshark.

and if you have the time, I highly recommend listening to the whole album at Spotify.