Interviewing The Women Behind Portugal’s Thriving Music Scene

Featured Image: Cláudia Pascoal- Artist’s Own


Surviving life in the music world is a challenge for anyone. Whether you are a man or a woman, it requires a great amount of strength and resilience to survive. However, with sexual harassment and abuse becoming ever more prevalent in the news, being a woman in any of the creative industries undoubtedly presents further obstacles. Although, it is worth remembering that being an independent artist of any gender in the modern world is difficult enough, especially with the growing popularity of steaming. Nowadays, it appears that being talented and hard-working is no longer enough to make ends meet. This reality rings true in Portugal -no matter whether you’re a musician or a photographer- it is a constant fight to be recognised and to be able to live through the art you produce.

Historically, Portuguese music is well-known from ‘Fado’which originated in 1820, Lisbon. Typically it can be a song about anything, but it sticks to a traditional structure. It is characterised by mournful tunes and lyrics- often about the sea or the life of the poor, infused with a sentiment of resignation, fate and melancholia. Saudade (longing) is the most associated word when Portuguese people think about Fado. Amália Rodrigues is often linked with this genre, as well as Mafalda Arnauth, Dulce Pontes and Mariza. It’s interesting to note that on the 27th of November 2011, the importance of Fado was recognised and it was added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

However, there is much more to Portuguese music than just Fado. Genres such as metal, hip-hop and others so contemporary they can’t be qualified – are currently thriving. Due to the wave of new artists, we thought it was highly necessary to ask some rising Portuguese female artists, about their perspective on a range of topics – from how they began in the music industry to how important they believe culture is to Portugal, read on to find out more.

Cláudia Pascoal

Born in Gondomar (Porto) in 1993, Cláudia Pascoal’s sound is a beautiful blend of soul and indie-pop. She has earned a range of achievements, including winning the Portuguese Eurovision Song Contest in 2018 and becoming a semi-finalist on 2017’s The Voice Portugal. She also came third on a contest to be the host of a TV show called Curto Circuito in 2016. However, her music really speaks for itself.

Did you ever know that you wanted to do music for a living?

“Not really. I wanted to do something different twice a year. I took three different courses and none of them are related to music. I didn’t do it because of doubt. I did it because I think life is too short to do just one thing, even if that thing takes you to lots of places. But, without a doubt, I was never far from artistic ground. I participated in visual arts, cinema, tv and, even, stand-up comedy. For me, the creative focus has to exist, always.”

What is the biggest challenge that you have faced in the Portuguese music industry?

“I think the most difficult thing in doing/producing and practising music as a profession is to accept the results that come in the mix. That acceptance (that never comes in the way we expect) is sometimes shocking, either when there are millions of consumers or even when it is just two people. Balancing expectations is the biggest difficulty, for sure.”

How do you see yourself in the Portuguese music industry?

“I see myself as someone with things to say- not always musically. I would like to be heard by some people or even to hear opinions about it, because that is the purpose of art. Usually, we say, ‘We are too many, it’s hard’. I don’t agree with that statement, I think we are too few and that culture in Portugal is still in ‘cod waters’ (it’s a Portuguese expression that means that nothing is defined yet).”

Do you think that culture is important to Portugal?

“I am a positive and hopeful person, so I say that culture is gaining more acceptance in Portugal- not as something to be consumed after work, but as something which is crucial to human health. I don’t think that our government considers it like that, but we have come a long way in a short time. So we need to see this growth with a smile on our faces.”

Since March 27th, 2020, her debut album ! is available on all streaming services.

Keep up with Cláudia Pascoal:

Spotify | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Joana Brito (The Black Wizards)

Joana Brito was born in 1993, in Braga. She is the lead singer and guitarist of the rock band, The Black Wizards, which formed in 2013- Since then, they have been making waves in the scene with their genre-defying sound, and have successfully played at some of the best music festivals around Europe.

Did you ever know that you wanted to do music for a living?

“I knew that I wanted to be a musician since I started to play the guitar. When I first began, I did it because I wanted to have a band and write songs. When we started The Black Wizards, one of my first goals was to go on tour across Europe, which we did pretty fast with our first album. So everything started pretty early.”

What is the biggest challenge that you have faced in the Portuguese music industry?

“But it was hard at the beginning to get ourselves out there, and find a place to play with good conditions. We played at every spot that we could and tried to make people hear about us. But, it seemed like people, in the beginning, didn’t believe in us as much because there were two girls in the band. We always got the ‘opening act’ slot, for some people it was like that- they wouldn’t believe that we were good until they saw us live. And also, when we started to create a bit of buzz, it was like we were getting bigger because two girls could play, and also the typical ‘You play very good for a girl’. But, I think that’s more of a problem with the music industry in general- not only in Portugal. However, when we started to get recognition from overseas and played festivals and shows in Europe, and then shows in Portugal- people started to notice more that we existed and that we were doing something good. However, it is very hard to survive on being a musician in Portugal. If you wanna make it, then you have to play outside of it. The circuit in Portugal is pretty small.”

How do you see yourself in the Portuguese music industry?

“I don’t know actually. Sometimes I get impressed that people know who I am. I just feel like no one knows me, I’m just one of them. However, it’s good to be recognised, especially if you are working hard and putting your heart into it. But, I also think that we are very underground, so I would say that we are more important to the underground music scene and to the people that are more into the DIY stuff.” 

Do you think that culture is important to Portugal?

“Culture is one of the most important things in the world that people keep putting as their Plan B. It’s viewed as not being as important as other jobs, because ‘it’s more fun’ or something. What would you do without music and arts? You would live in an empty world with no feelings- like robots.”

Since March 18th, 2020, Endless Vibing Jams – a compilation of outtakes – is available on all streaming platforms.

Keep Up with The Black Wizards: 

Spotify| Youtube| Facebook | Instagram 

LaBaq

LaBaq a.k.a Larissa Baq, was born in São Paulo, Brazil in 1988 and started doing music from an early age. LeBaq is an ingenious alternative pop music artist. Her first album Voa (2016) took her to 15 countries and 250 gigs in 3 years. Her second album Lux (2019) is living proof of the ability to expand the horizons of Brazilian music – it was released in Brazil (Voa Music), Portugal (Omnichord Records) and Spain (Raso Studio). It’s a protest about the current conditions of her motherland. Since then, she has been playing and producing music in Leiria, Portugal.

Did you ever know that you wanted to do music for a living?

“I guess I never thought about it until it was time to think about it. Before that, it was just flowing. I was 13 when I realised. At around 16, I did my first concert and I was already earning some money with music. I’ve graduated in audiovisual but even during those years of University, I was playing almost every day with the projects I had. Music was always speaking louder anyway.”

What is the biggest challenge that you have faced in the Portuguese music industry?

“Getting to know everyone and understanding how it works- it definitely has a different workflow compared to Brazil.”

How do you see yourself in the Portuguese music industry?

“The Brazilian alternative pop/singer and songwriter, I guess that’s my label anywhere.”

Do you think that culture is important to Portugal?

“I see culture as being very important to Portugal, more so than many other countries in Europe, like Italy or Hungary. Art brings reflection to people and many governments don’t want a society that can think and confront them with new ideas. I guess, deep inside, every ruler is afraid of what people are going to do, think, demand after getting together and thinking together. It’s nice to be living in a place where, one way or another, arts and culture has a very important value to (almost) everyone.”

On April 4th, 2019 the album Lux became available on all streaming platforms.

Keep up with LaBaq:

Spotify | Youtube | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Lendária

Lendária a.k.a Isabel Ramos, was born in Switzerland in 1992 and raised in Vila Nova de Gaia, Porto. Since 2015, she has adopted a modern-rap sound and desires to heal the world.

Did you ever know that you wanted to do music for a living?

“Yes, since I was little I had the dream to buy music and live for it. When I grew up I understood the magic and the complexity of music.”

What is the biggest challenge that you have faced in the Portuguese music industry?

“Without a doubt the chauvinism and the social labels that us – women – still have to fight. Rap is a man’s world and unfortunately, artists still have to deal with gender selection.”

How do you see yourself in the Portuguese music industry?

“I see myself as an artist that likes to show my feelings, so someone can identify with it- so I can give her/him strength and will to live when needed. Music can display an important mindset to the listeners, but it depends on its composition. It can make us dance, it can make us think, or it can make us cry. I see myself as a carrier of feelings and experiences.”

Do you think that culture is important to Portugal?

“Without a doubt. Even though Portugal doesn’t value much art/culture in general (music, theatre, painting, etc) it is a form to express and to liberate ourselves, especially in the days that we have to face. It’s a very tender bond between our roots and dreams.”

On April 5th, 2020, Mandragora became available on all streaming platforms.

Keep up with Lendária:

Spotify| Youtube | Instagram 

LINCE

LINCE is the brainchild of Sofia Ribeiro, who was born in 1994 in Guimarães. In 2016, she began her solo project by working on producing her catchy alternative/indie tunes. She is also a member of Portuguese-pop band, WE TRUST, where she plays the keyboard and sings. 

Did you ever know that you wanted to do music for a living?

“To be truthful, I didn’t. I’ve always been involved in artistic areas, such as dance, visual arts, theatre. I soon knew that I would follow my path in this world, but I’ve never focused on just one area. Even though music is playing a more relevant role at the moment, all artistic genres are a part of my life.”

What is the biggest challenge that you have faced in the Portuguese music industry?

“Portugal is a small country and we have little education for culture, which is the biggest issue. In the industry itself, there’s not enough space and the little space available is occupied with the biggest names in Portuguese pop music. Since the country is small, we don’t have a lot of spaces to play, and since we still have little education for culture- there’s not enough support and there’s not enough importance attached to the artists’ work.”

How do you see yourself in the Portuguese music industry?

“I’ve never thought about where I am within the music scene. My goal was always to create my own musical universe, share the emotions which I wanted to show, and to be able to do it with no objections. I’ve been lucky to find people who I feel great working with, and I’ve been lucky to be able to share my music with people. Also, I’ve been lucky because I can do what I like the most, every day.”

Do you think that culture is important to Portugal?

“I consider culture very important, unfortunately, it’s still widely undervalued. Culture informs, teaches, opens paths to new possibilities, sets us free, creates a sense of belonging, a sense of equality and a sense of union. I can’t think about a country with no culture in its most varied form. In Portugal, it would be better if we created forms to educate on culture. We need to encourage presence in shows and we need to encourage reading, for example. When we do this, we will help people to promote equality, freedom, anti-racism, anti-xenophobia and anti any form of a minority. This is really important and fundamental.” 

On October 19th, 2018 the album Hold To Gold became available on all streaming platforms.

Keep up with LINCE:

Spotify| Youtube | Facebook | Instagram

Talita Cayolla

Talita Cayolla was born in 1986 in Recife, Brazil- but raised in Porto. She has been in love with music since she was 13 years old. Her signature style is sultry-pop. She began to play music in the streets of Porto to build a following, and to interact with the street vibes while playing music.

Did you ever know that you wanted to do music for a living?

“No, I did not know that I wanted- I still don’t know if I do. Personally, music is a natural form of expression and if there is any financial return, then it’s obviously very welcome. As long as there are creativity and fulfilment, music will be part of my life.”

What is the biggest challenge that you have faced in the Portuguese music industry?

“The most difficult challenge… well, I believe that a career in music in any country is pretty tough and all of it is a challenge. Now, from a point of view on the business side in Portugal, it seems to be a very close circuit. It is very difficult to get attention for your art from the national leading entities. Due to that, the biggest challenge is to expose your art with visibility on a bigger scale. Overall, so far it has been ‘do it yourself’ and social media.”

How do you see yourself in the Portuguese music industry?

“To see me in a business position, which for the past 10 years has mainly been functioning in ‘save mode’ – it is very hard to tell.”

Do you think that culture is important to Portugal?

“Absolutely. It is us, who we were and who we can become.”

On April 4th, 2019, her debut album Sweet Tease became available on all streaming platforms.

Keep up with Talita Cayolla:

Spotify| Youtube| Facebook | Instagram

Most of the artists which we interviewed have a full-time job to pay the bills and only keep art on the side. However, their art isn’t merely a hobby to them. It is what makes them feel alive. Every person in the music industry, endures a constant battle to be heard and takes part in a game of luck. Recently, culture has grown in value, however, it’s true merit is not recognised by those in power. Despite appearing to be forgotten as soon as coronavirus struck, each of these artists demonstrates that Portugal is very much still a hotbed of talent. We look forward to hearing more from the women who are keeping Portugal’s name on the music map.

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