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  • Mike Long

Acoustic Cities: Lisbon

Bloop Records Festival at an Abandoned Hospital in Lisbon. Photo by Mike Long.

Arriving in Lisbon, which sits on the heels of eastern Europe, felt like landing on another planet. The city is covered in multicolored tiles, and the streets are like small, daunting mountains.The tiles and marble that cover the city lend it a unique acoustic sound. Walking through the streets sounds like standing in large, empty theater.

Belém Tower, Sintra, Lisbon. Photo by Mike Long.

Compared to other European cities I’ve visited, Lisbon has a much more in common musically with African and South-American traditions. From clubs like B’Leza, featuring the music of Cheny Wa Gune from Mozambique, to the one-woman army of Rita Braga, who plays a whirling cyclone of folk tunes from all over the world, these two continents kept coming to the forefront. While the western styles of blues-based rock bands are present, they were quickly overshadowed.

Artist Cheny Wa Gune at B'leza. Photo by Mike Long.

Like many European capitals, there is a strong showing of electronic music and DJ-culture in Libson, but what set the city apart was its love of nylon strings. Street musicians and stage-artists alike favor classical guitar styles, with a strong showing for Samba, Tropicalia, Bossa nova, and other Brazilian genres. In a small community art space called BUS Paragem Cultural, I watched Teppe Wanatabe of Japan play original compositions in a Brazilian style on a solo classical guitar. The quality and volume of the show was a quintessential example of what I experienced in Lisbon: acoustic instruments, unamplified sets, a leaning toward folk traditions, and elements of African and South-American styles.

From Fado in the City, a concert series that finds small, unconventional settings to host its shows, to a folk-tradition from the early 19th century, or the Lisbon Living Room Sessions, an ongoing concert series of various world musicians playing in people’s homes, Lisbon has a predilection for acoustic and global sounds.

Teppe Watanabe at BUS Paragem Cultural. Photo by Mike Long.

Lisbon is an absurdly hilly, convoluted, and hard-to-navigate city. But amidst all the twists and turns is an equally tangled knot of musical traditions: a warm, coastal intersection for global acoustics to come spilling in.

The incredible art on this building is courtesy of street artist, Blu. Photo by Mike Long.



Street musician, Christian (in this video is arguably the best sounding musician I've heard on the streets, anywhere. In part because he was really talented, and also because of all the marble tiling that makes the whole city sound like a shower -- incredible acoustics.



For entire Acoustic Cities series visit our Blog. Last stop Edinburgh! Stay tuned.

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