It’s *that time* of the year again

Yes, the time when I fill the house with red carnations and bake strawberry/apple pies (just to make them as red as possible). And, of course, songs of the revolution. That is one of my personal traditions: to celebrate the 25th of April in style even when it’s just another day for everyone else around me.

This year I will be in Portugal and, unfortunately, I have the feeling that for many it will be just another welcomed Monday Holiday. Not for me though. I will celebrate the end of the dictatorship for as long as I possibly can!

So, as the day approaches, my head fills with pre and post revolution music. Songs of intervention, songs of survival, songs of joy for the new times, for freedom, for Democracy, for the end of the war! So much music! Music people created to fight dictatorship, to survive it, to celebrate its end…

I truly believe those songs helped people vent their anger and frustration, share their feelings and bond over a common purpose and goal. Times can change, and the songs can be different but these aspects – emotional regulation and communication, bonding and sharing of common goals – seem to be a constant whether we’re talking of teenagers, groups of friends, oppressed groups, couples in love…

Last night I was reading Daniel Levitin’s The World in Six Songs and the chapter on friendship where he explores the music created and used around the time young Americans were protesting against the Vietnam War reminded me of the songs that pop in my head used to protest against our very own colonial war and dictatorship.

If there was one good thing that came out of over 40 years of dictatorship was the creativity that had to be employed by poets and musicians to get past censorship and to fight an oppressing regime. Forcing people to overcome obstacles like that seemed to result in truly meaningful and purposeful songs/art.

This reminds me of what David Fonseca says in U know who I am: “How beautiful when sadness turns to song”. I myself have experience my best writing moments when there’s some sort of obstacle to overcome.

Anyway, as a result of oppression, we have hundreds of good songs and poetic work associated with the fight for freedom and Democracy. And that is the work that pops up in my head every time I remember how lucky I am to have been born in freedom, how it’s still worth to fight for it, on the days leading up to the 25th of April and on the day itself.

Since songs were even used to make the revolution, I usually start with those. But I then expand my celebration to include earlier work but also post dictatorship work that celebrates freedom and the end of the war.

E depois do Adeus was the song taken by Portugal to the Eurovision Festival that year (1974) in Brighton, England. That was the song chosen by the rebels when they took over the main radio station in Lisbon on the 24th of April 1974. At 10.55pm that song was played as a signal to all the rebel forces (yes, I am a Star Wars fan, can’t you tell?) in the country to initiate their revolutionary manoeuvres and take their positions. The song is not even an intervention song. It’s a love song, about the end of a relationship actually (thinking about it, looks quite adequate now! Except that I wouldn’t miss the regime!!). But at that point they had to be cautious. They were just starting…

Then, 20mns past midnight, the first 20mns of the 25th of April 1974, the first truly revolutionary song was played. Grândola Vila Morena was written by the musician most associated to the musical fight against dictatorship, José Afonso, and is the most revolutionary song of the time. It speaks of the fraternity amongst the people of a small village in the Alentejo region. It had been banished by the regime for being associated to Communism.

Here I want to note that most of the rebels were not communists (yes, I do think communism is a tested and failed political solution and am glad we didn’t resort to the dictatorship of the proletariat after the revolution). They were actually young soldiers, tired of the war and the fact they were not allowed to climb up the hierarchical military ladder because of their humble backgrounds. Truth must be told. The communists in Portugal like to associate themselves to the revolution and it is true that for many years, especially in the 30s and 40s, they were very active in their fight against the regime. But they did not make the revolution. The revolution was a joint effort, brought forward by some who did have political interests and some who did not, who just wanted a better life for themselves (and, I hope, their children).

I want to underline this aspect as in Portugal many people are turning their backs to any memory of the revolution because they do not want to be considered communists. The Communist Party makes a strong effort to link himself exclusively to the revolution, the songs, the colours, the events, and many people instead of demonstrating that one does not need to be communist to celebrate the revolution, to sing the songs, they choose to ignore everything altogether.

Anyways, after I listen to those two songs I then usually listen to all of José Afonso’s songs, either performed by the man himself or by other musicians. I like to listen to Filhos da Madrugada but there are others.

As for post-regime songs, one in particular pops up. It also reminds me of my older sister as she used to sing it to me. Somos Livres (We are free), is a song about a young generation who is extremely happy to be finally free. Free to live their lives, to grow, to sing, to love, to “fly”, not to go to war…

Actually, looking at my country today, it makes me quite sad to listen to these songs, to see all the effort, all the hope, and to think there are actually people who wish we hadn’t done it, people who want to destroy that!!!

I am personally forever grateful to all those who fought hard to bring Democracy and freedom to my country, who made it possible for me to grow up in complete freedom. But I guess many forget that responsibility and autonomy is also associated to being free! And that, my friends, is the sort of hard work that those people just don’t feel like doing…

Well, to those I say [insert the usual curses here] or go emigrate to one of the many dictatorships and oppressive regimes around the World. Unfortunately, you can still find some…

25 de SEMPRE!!


About Rita BA

I read, I write, I think, I dream, I write a bit more...
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One Response to It’s *that time* of the year again

  1. Pingback: Songs that unify | The Music in my head

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