Celina da Piedade
Ao Vivo na Casinha
Sons Vadios (www.sonsvadios.pt)
Review by Andrew Cronshaw
Ishould declare a bias. Singer and button-accordionist Celina da Piedade’s singing, playing and joyful charm is one of my absolute favourite things about Portuguese music. There’s no other singer/accordionist in Portugal like her, and in her very distinctive sunny way she captures the melodious richness of Alentejo song.
Her fourth album is a recording of a live-streamed concert in the Live a Casinha series from the Lisbon studio of leading rock band Xutos & Pontapés. It well captures her warmth and the beguiling, very Portuguese delicate grace-noting and slight vibrato of her singing.
She’s deeply involved with the traditional singing of the Alentejo region where she lives, south of Lisbon and the river Tejo (Tagus). Her repertoire, and the material on this album, is predominantly cante alentejano (Alentejo song), the vibrant songs in two-part unaccompanied polyphony still sung by village and town groups, a tradition now recognised in UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, and she also teaches it in regular large-group classes.
A well-matched acoustic band of Filipa Ribeiro on percussion and backing vocals, Nilson Dourado guitar, Sofia Neide double bass, and Sebastião Santos drums accompanies her, with Ana Santos guesting on viola and violin for four tracks, one an instrumental waltz of her own.
Eight of the twelve tracks she hasn’t previously recorded, though she’s been singing most of them for quite some time in her performances or those of the ‘super-group’ Tais Quais. The opener “Andorinha” is about the swallow, a bird, often seen as a ceramic, that’s a Portuguese symbol of love, loyalty and home because it pairs for life, is migratory and usually returns to the same nest. It and the others, such as “Limoeiro,” “Laranja da China” and the fast-pattering “Rebola a Bola,” are likely to have one humming their catchy melodies around the house, just as do the other four, which are some of her best-known songs.
"Laranja da China"
The ear-worm “Calimero e a Pera Verde” has always got an audience up and chain-dancing with delight every time I’ve seen her (which is quite a few). There’s the splendidly anthemic “Ceifeira,” and the catchy “Saia da Carolina” which she’s been singing since her time in the popular group Uxu Kalhus.
And there’s “Coradinha.” In 2020 Celina da Piedade created a Covid lockdown challenge (#challengecoradinha) that has inspired a remarkable and diverse number of individuals and groups in Portugal and beyond to send her their own video versions of the song. You can hear a few below.
The bonus final track, “Além daquela Janela,” is an acapella duet with Ribeiro that, as a nice encouragement to buyers of the physical CD, isn’t on the download version.