By the Summer of 1973, some young men in the army had had about enough. The only future they could see ahead of them was to fight in a war they didn’t want to wage. If, by some miracle, they came back alive and in one piece, they knew they had no chance to progress in their careers. They were the children of the peasants and the children of the peasants did not get to go beyond 2 years of school, maximum 4 in very few, lucky cases. No formal education, no getting to be anything above sergeant.
Some couldn’t really tell exactly what was wrong. Having been born into the dictatorship, grown up in the forced isolation created by the system, they hadn’t seen much else. But they knew something was not right. They could just feel it.
Many were drafted right as they were about to start a life – a family, a job, a degree… Forced into spending two, three, four years of their lives in a far away jungle, they were victims, witnesses and perpetrators of the horrors and carnage that even today, so many years after, the country still struggles to speak about. And when their time in that war was done, they made their way back to their homes, only to be told their younger brothers were being sent the following week.
The people did not make the revolution: a group of young men did. But I won’t go into this. What I want to talk about is the music of the revolution. I have done so before. If you follow my blog for a while you know what is coming because I talk about this every 25th of April.
And unless I develop Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia that makes me loose my memory, I do not intend to ever stop remembering the music of the revolution. That is my way to celebrate this day that should never be forgotten by any Portuguese woman or man.
On the 24th of April of 1974, at 22h55m, this song went up on the radio. Paulo de Carvalho had performed it magnificently at the Eurovision competition held in Brighton early that year. It was not a forbidden song but it was the first secret sign to all the rebels that the first stage of their plan was to be put into place.
The second sign was given at 00h20m of the 25th of April. Again, a song through the radio. This time, the song was a forbidden one. It had been censored by the regime for, they said, alluding to communism. It talks about a town in Alentejo and the fraternity amongst its people.
This song indicated that the revolution was going ahead and it was definitive. It was a way to coordinate all the military groups, spread around the country, taking part in the coup.
At 04h26m, the first message from the Armed Forces is read by the radio journalist Joaquim Furtado. It asks the people of Lisbon to stay home and stay calm. They appeal to other militarized forces to avoid confronting the Armed Forces, as the blood shed of any Portuguese should be avoided at all costs. They will repeat this message all throughout the day. The militarized forces take some notice. The people doesn’t and instead of staying home, they d0 this:
After the message was read, the national anthem was played. It was, after all, a revolution for Portugal.
This was followed by some military marches, amongst which was “A life on the ocean waves”. It ended up being adopted by the Armed Forces Movement as their main song.
After the revolution, many censored songs were now free to be listened by all, any time, any place. Some new songs about freedom were composed and released into a generation that was now full of hope.
I will make no consideration about the current state of my nation. Today, 38 years after the day a bunch of young men freed the country of an oppressive regime, with no intention to keep the power to themselves, but instead give it to the people, I can only hope the songs will continue to help us remember where we came from, what we were and what we wanted to be. I do hope that, in this way, we can get there, together.