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Rock & Roll has been known since the '50s, almost in every country of the world. Still, its derivations, which supposedly include every country's adaptation of the genre, were not that easy. Portugal is perhaps the foremost example of a hard road that had to be pursued by other particular countries in the world. Located in southern Europe, next to Spain, and with a population of 9 million, Portugal sprung out to its rock boastings in 1980. Until then, the fado, popularized by Amália Rodrigues, and other prevalent song heritages dominated the radio and TV shows, holding off wilder attempts to go beyond. After twenty years of an utterly unstable scenario, the Portuguese managed to gain some international acclaim. Madredeus, playing a unique style of world music, or Moonspell charging the heavy metal arena, are likely to be the solo world known acts the country has assembled. Nevertheless, Portuguese rock & roll has a history of more than two decades, which solemnly ended up creating these symbolic results.

Rui Veloso probably was the first rocker to emerge in the Portuguese musical scene in the beginning of the '80s. Trying out classical influences of bands such as the Beatles, he played the first rock & roll theme using the Portuguese language. The unforgettable "Chico Fininho" a track of his first album, Ar de Rock, released in 1980, gave a true burst to an industry that seemed to be slumbering before then. By that time, the charts of the country were a field of the so-called solo singers, like Paulo de Carvalho or Simone. Following Veloso's breakthrough, a multitude of bands, nearly all of them ephemeral, showed up solidifying the country's need for a rock of its own. Trabalhadores do Comércio, Taxi or the Heróis do Mar are just three of the crews that agitated the tops by then, putting together a genuine rock culture. Some of the packs that began working previously showed the new comers it was possible to get a significant response from not only the media, but also the public. It was at that moment that yet another assembly of bands began to make significant appearances. Xutos & Pontapés were conceivably the most symbolic one to arise at the time. Xutos & Pontapés 1978-1982, their debut album, although not too successful, proved to be a real spin in the way of playing Portuguese rock & roll. Displaying crude guitar riffs, and holding it with raw and dynamic lyrics, the band instituted a style of its own, sustained by breath taking live performances. Also in 1982, and coming from Oporto, a northern city in Portugal, GNR started to arrange their fan base, two years after forming. Preferring a clear approach to pop/rock, the team had their first success with the single "Portugal na CEE". However, it was only in 1986 that they made it big time on the charts with the album Psicopátria. Some years later, they managed to be the only Portuguese band to sell out a stadium, when in 1992 more than 40.000 people attended their show in Lisbon, during the promo tour for the album Rock in Rio Douro.

Evolution was by then certified through a multitude of gatherings, like Ban, UHF, Rádio Macau or Mão Morta and by the continuity of veteran teams like the Xutos, that way heading Portuguese rock towards the '90s. In spite of the creativity blast that supported a continuous sprung out of new units, the dilemma remained the same: how to unfold a band singing in a language that has almost no significance in terms of music world wide. Choosing to keep it on national terms, during that following decade companies ventured on acts like Pedro Abrunhosa, presenting an additional way of making music, by mixing the coolest sounds of jazz with electronic along with complex instrumentation's. Since then, the features did not change, with new arrivers like Silence 4, Clã or Ornatos Violeta bearing some new, yet not strong enough, efforts to the Portuguese charts. If it is true that Silence 4, like Blind Zero before them, broke the international language barrier by singing in English, the modest market of this south European country kept setting the rules. As for now, the dream of a Portuguese singing band topping the charts in Europe keeps to be fantasized.

The 10 Most Essential Portuguese Rock Albums

Num Filme Sempre Pop - Ban (EMI, 1994) *
Psicopátria - GNR (EMI, 1986)
Mão Morta - Mão Morta (Ama Romanta, 1988)
O Monstro Precisa de Amigos - Ornatos Violeta (Universal, 1999)
Viagens - Pedro Abrunhosa (Polygram, 1994)
O Elevador da Glória - Rádio Macau (EMI Valentim de Carvalho, 1987)
Ar de Rock - Rui Veloso (Valentim de Carvalho, 1980)
Silence Becomes It  - Silence 4 (Polydor, 1998)
The Very Best of Taxi - Taxi ( Polydor, 1993) *
1978-1982 - Xutos & Pontapés (Rotação, 1982)

(*) compilações

ARTIGO DE M. JÚLIO CALDAS

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