Raymond Soltysek's Blog

WOMAD 2012: Deolinda ****** / *****

Posted in Gig review, World music by raymondsoltysek on August 1, 2012

Deolinda prove that aprons are no impediment to being cool…

No, I haven’t got my arithmetic wrong:  I actually have given Deolinda six stars out of five.  It’s my blog, I can do anything I want: so stick.

Deolinda are, of course, that wonderful Portuguese band I have blogged about before and who I adore because of the sheer sunshine of their music.  I catch them doing a Taste the World session, and it’s really amusing to see their stage dynamic replicated in the kitchen.  Singer Ana Bacalhau is up front, elbowing everyone out of the way, chatting away nineteen to the dozen; lead guitarist Luis José Martins quietly gets on with the important stuff as he’s obviously the talented cook (his father was apparently a chef); meanwhile, Luis’ brother, songwriter and guitarist Pedro da Silva Martins, and bass player Zé Pedro Leitão, who is Ana’s husband, beaver away quietly in the background preparing the ingredients for the dishes and organising the salad.

It’s a lovely way to spend an hour, watching your heroes cook.  They take it very seriously, rustling up some patinishkas (I have no idea if that’s spelled correctly) which are salted cod bajhias, along with various salads.  The guys get on with the cooking while Ana charms everyone by talking about their career and their relationship with fado (“We don’t do fado,” she says, “but fado is in our DNA”); at one point, she talks about the band crafting their sound and their songs to suit her voice, and that makes absolute sense.  They perform four numbers, my favourites being the breathlessly beautiful “Passou Por Mim“, a lovely little tale about a smile from a stranger brightening up a lost life and offering hope for love, and “Mal Por Mal“, a swinging calypso about a disjointed, fractured relationship in which the wellbeing of one drags down the other.

Their stage slot just doesn’t do them justice: they take to the Siam tent at 12.30am, the last show of the day, when half the crowd are drunk and noisy and just not willing to pay attention to an acoustic band.  They deserve better, but they do their best, which is, as always, fantastic.

Ana Bacalhau sure has a sense of dress.  She often plays ironically on her surname – for their live concert recorded at the Lisbon Coliseu, she wore an odd creation reminiscent of shellfish – and here she appears dressed in a little black jacket and a sherbert-lemon tutu dress with what looks like a fish motif in large glossy sequins. Sounds hideous? Well, she looks fantastically adorable; I hear a few “wows” muttered behind me.  And of course, there’s that sweet, strutting, cheeky streetkid  presence that immediately commands affection and she begins to win the war against the bubbling horde.

I know that you can only really appreciate a band singing in another language if you either understand the language or know the music: for me, it’s the latter, so I’ve got the CDs with translated lyrics and I’ve watched the live DVD with the English subtitles on. Therefore, I know just how clever a songwriter Martins is, and how brilliantly his creations suit Bacalhau’s delivery.  A song like “A Problemática Colocação De Um Mastro” is a terrifically subversive tale of a small town council puffing itself up by celebrating their enormous flagpole, one of those apocryphal morality fables that could have come from a  writer like Louis de Bernieres, Italo Calvino or even Iain Crichton Smith.  Their music is hugely political, but at the micropolitical rather than the macropolitical level: in that respect, they are not unlike Frank Yamma.  Thus, “Parve Que Sou” is a red hot indictment of the austerity measures which are crippling the lives of  young Portuguese, telling of a young woman habituated into blaming herself for her lack of opportunities who heart-breakingly comes to realise that the system has lied to her all her life.    I’ve always said Deolinda make me smile so widely; they can make me weep with rage and sadness too.

But mainly they are fun, fun, fun: they’re the kids on the block who will drag their pals out to play in the streets until dusk, which is exactly what they do on the impossibly catchy “Um Contra O Outro” (“Come with me out to the street / Because that life you have / As much as you win a thousand lives, it’s your life / that loses if you don’t come!”); they are the youngsters who gather in restaurants and drink and joke and sing their hearts out until they’re kicked out at closing time; they’re the wry, witty cool dudes who constantly burst the bubbles of the arrogant and self-important, in so many songs like “Fado Toninho” or “Patinho De Borracha”.  They must be a hoot on a night out.

I just have a few complaints. First, when I met them in Manchester, they said they were playing WOMAD, and so I booked up to get there on Thursday.  I then discover they were playing Glasgow’s RCH on that night.  So, instead of seeing my favourite band in my home town, I was 400 miles away.  I could have come down on Friday and seen them twice in three days, dammit!

Secondly, at the end of the Taste the World events, there is an unholy scrum to get a taste of the food that has been cooked: you wouldn’t believe how sharp some hippies’ elbows are, nor how psychopathic they are about free food.  So I hang back a bit, and never get a taste of anything they’ve made.  And Luis José’s patinishkas looked lovely too.

Thirdly, there is one song on their second album, “Há Dias Que Não São Dias”,  a sultry, flamenco-tinged slow burner about the pain of passion that is  utterly gorgeous, and which I haven’t yet heard live.

Next time, I hope.  Although, by then, their third album may well be released (around next February, Ana promises) so I may have a whole new set of songs I’m desperate to hear.

Already, I can’t wait.

ps – thanks Ana!  She let me know through Facebook they are called pataniscas, and I’ve managed to find a recipe here!

Sun on my back, warmth in my soul: Deolinda, Manchester Band on the Wall, 1/5/12

Posted in Gig review, World music by raymondsoltysek on May 1, 2012
link to Deolinda's site


I’ve been a fan of Deolinda ever since their first album came out, and saw them first at Celtic Connections in 2010 when they – or, more especially, Ana Bacalhau’s foghorn voice  – absolutely blew me away.  They are a lovely band, perfect musicians led by the perfectly charming and cheeky and pretty Bacalhau.  Their modern take on fado – irreverent and pop-tinged – is totally refreshing; as Bacalhau points out, they don’t do it straight, of which her impossibly cute hip hop dancing is evidence.

It’s wrong to suggest Bacalhau’s voice is all about power; she is capable of immense range, and I’ve never heard a singer before so capable of delivering a full throated pianissimo; she is also linguistically hugely dexterous, delivering lyrics that are packed tight and fast, such as “Ai Rapaz” or “Cancao ao lado”.  She is an astonishing singer, a voice that is rare and quite unique and terrifically engaging.  As for the band, Luis Jose Martins and Pedro da Silva Martins on guitar and vocals and Ze Pedro Leitao on (a beautiful) bass  are fantastic musicians, and obviously devoted to giving Bacalhau free rein.  The result is… well, I have to say it again;  perfect.  Just perfect.

They sing plenty about falling in love and falling out of love, but always with a wink that suggests they know how ridiculous it all is.  In addition, they also have a political edge to them; Bacalhau speaks of the effect “Parva Que Sou” has on audiences in Portugal, telling as it does of a woman’s fight to retain her dignity and sense of purpose in an economic climate that dumps on the poor.   And there are so just many songs that put a huge smile on your face – “Mal por Mal” or “Fon Fon Fon” or “Movimento perpetuo associativo” (ignore the title, they’ll have you singing along in no time), as well as ones that are so beautiful, they’ll take your breath away:  I almost burst into tears at the loveliness of “Passou por mim” and I doubt you’ll find a more gorgeous song than “Clandestino” anywhere.  And as for “Um contra o outro” – it has one of the catchiest choruses ever.  Really.  Ever.

There are a few bands I would have on my “favorites” list – Tindersticks, The National – but Deolinda make me feel the sun on my back and the warmth in my soul, and for that reason, I might just love them more than any other band I know.

This doesn’t quite get gig of the year so far, but not because of them; Band on the Wall is a fine  little venue, but the audience doesn’t generate the warmth of The Civil Wars gig last month, and there are some bad mannered folk who think Bacalhau moving offstage to allow the band to perform an instrumental is some kind of intermission during which they can chat.  Deolinda themselves are joyous; afterwards, Ze Pedro tells me that they are playing WOMAD in July.  Just for them, I may put aside my natural aversion to festival toilets and go:  I’ve just got a new tent and sleeping bag, so why not?

Even if it pishes with rain, the sun will be out when they start playing.

Deolinda / Koshka, City Halls, 29/1/10

Posted in Gig review, World music by raymondsoltysek on January 31, 2010


The end of my hectic Celtic Connections week hits a real high. Deolinda, a young Portuguese foursome, make simply the most joyous and sun-kissed music on the planet today.  Their fado concept album (there’s a first), “Cancao ao lado”, was one of the best releases of 2008, and this is their first visit to Scotland.   Their website is extraordinarily generous with samples: try it out.

Three fine musicians accompany Ana Bacalhau, who is the most impossibly charismatic young woman I have ever seen.  Pretty and with a voice that threatens to blast the front rows away when she opens her lungs, every arch of the eyebrow, every gesture of the hand, every sway of the hips is designed to narrate the stories of the songs.  Fado is meant to be a dramatic performance, and Bacalhau is the most dramatic of performers.  Her English is impeccable too – apart from her description of one of the characters as a “potato couch”, an error sweet enough to charm the whole hall – and the audience love her retelling of the songs’ narratives, almost every one about young love – and why not?  Fado has been enjoying enormous popularity recently, largely due to divas like Mariza, but Deolinda surely represent the future of the form: fun, sassy, playful and musically brilliant.  I may have just seen one of the best bands in the world playing one of my concerts of the year.  Fantastic.

I’m here to see Deolinda, but it’s nice to see the support is Koshka, Lev Atlas’s latest incarnation of his dizzying klezmer / gypsy / baroque / Russian trio.  Atlas, lead viola for the Scottish Opera Orchestra and proprietor of the lovely Cafe Cossachok, is a hero of Glasgow culture, and his work with guitarist Nigel Clark and violinist Oleg Ponomarev is simply wonderful.  The conversation between Atlas’s sweet tone and Ponomarev’s more muscular, gritty sound is brilliant, and their set is humorous and incredibly accomplished.  No one, but no-one, plays the fiddle like these guys.