Xistopedia

“Martim Branco is at its most charming when it’s time to say goodbye”

“Martim Branco is at its most charming when it’s time to say goodbye”
art and culture
Fado ao Centro invoked the Song of Coimbra’s magic and enchanted the audience.

We find Jane and Roland, a German couple, on the terrace of Bem Me Quer, the restaurant that is part of the Xisto Sentido lodgings. It is the fourth time they have been to the Aldeia do Xisto, Martim Branco and have completely surrendered to the region’s charms. So much so, that they are looking for a house, a big one, with some land, so that they can settle down and invite their four children and friends to visit.

They discovered Xisto Sentido after a visit to Évora. They had been promised a comfortable bungalow overlooking a water feature. In reality, they got a small room with a view of little more than a puddle. Looking for an alternative, they expanded their search area and came across this accommodation, which has reinvigorated the Aldeia do Xisto village in recent years, and to which they keep returning. “It’s so nice”, says Jane. Roland nods in agreement, explaining then that he has been travelling to Portugal on business for about 20 years, but this is where they want to stay.

After a bit of a chat, they accept our invitation to the Fado show that is about to begin in the nearby Casa de Artes e Ofícios. In a show forming part of the Aldeias do Xisto Ciclo de Fado, the Fado ao Centro is performed in front of an almost full house. João Farinha, vocals, Diogo Passos, guitar, and Hugo Gambóia, Coimbra guitar, offer up their magic during a distinctive evening.

Each song is put into context, with moments that have marked the history of Portugal being recalled, such as the student movement in Coimbra at the end of the 1960s, or the emigration of thousands of people in search of a better life.


“Coimbra is a lesson” and the “Farewell Ballad” were not left out of the repertoire and got the audience humming along “Martin Branco is at its most charming when it’s time to say goodbye”, improvises João Farinha at the end. “Nice guys”, was heard from some members of the audience.

The show ended, but the audience remained. Norberto, raised in the village, took the stage to express gratitude for the initiative and the cooperation of all those who made it possible in Martim Branco.

But nothing in these parts is ever finished without the end being duly marked. So the musicians were summoned again to sing “one for the road (abaladiça)”. A challenge readily accepted. And it was only after the Song of Coimbra resounded once more that Fado ao Centro could really say its farewells.


“Happy?” asks João, who has lived in the village his whole life. “We are, are you?”, we asked back “ “I also I really liked it”, he said, before improvising a few rhymes, “I'm very chatty”, he tells us, before setting off in search of new listeners.

 

The satisfaction was, indeed, universal. “It’s a pleasure to sing in this area, one of the most beautiful in the country”, asserted João Farinha, who also highlighted the delicacies served during dinner at the Bem Me Quer. “Everything was delicious. I would recommend the oven-baked goat and the black pork cheeks”, he said.

The residents of Martim Branco were joined by those who come from there but live at a distance, and people from neighbouring villages, such as Padrão or Almaceda. Whenever we asked, the answer came back immediately: “It was great”.


Jane and Roland also left the venue happy. Besides the opportunity to listen to Fado, they found at least one contact to help them in their search for the perfect house.

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