"Vilas Morenas" is part of my childhood's soundtrack, since with would be repeatedly heard on the local TV. I believe the title (that could be roughly translated as "Tanned villages") evokes José Afonso's freedom hymn "Grândola, vila morena", referring to Grândola, a small village in Alentejo, Portugal.
For technical and timbric reasons I changed the key to D (original: F#), so Eva tuned the low E-string in D, providing extra bass register; the accompaniment is a build-up of open strings and harmonics, which create a dense, mysterious texture. This piece has a north-African flavour and perfectly recalls Portugal's mediterranean roots. Its tense, catchy melody and the pedal-ostinato notes fitted the Portuguese guitar, providing plenty space for improvisation. Besides all this, what I love about this piece is that the in the improvisation section the build-up requires intimate communication, and the result is, of course, always different. I also tried to incorporate some ideas from António's improvisations.
Besides the musical aspects, there's a more personal connection with this tune: with was originally written by António Pinho Vargas, someone I greatly admire, and who played an essential role in my early career. While studying jazz in Lisbon, I was looking for advice on what steps to follow, since I wanted to pursue other interests in music, namely composition, orchestration, etc. In Portugal, at that time (2001), there were not many academic options in those fields in those fields (not even today). António was kind enough to meet me and to share some of his (always) insightful thoughts on the subject - namely that "contemporary classical music" was NOT my world, but that were many things to learn on the side. Later on, he would be my teacher, and inspiring and refreshing presence in my academic years.
And he was right: definitely, contemporary music per se is NOT my world...
Vilas Morenas, as played in "The Mysteries of the Portuguese Guitar":
Vilas Morenas, as played live by António Pinha Vargas' in 1987:
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