Xistopedia

Siu Kiu: The land of dreams where the songs of old were heard

Siu Kiu: The land of dreams where the songs of old were heard
art and culture
Vânia Couto, Maria Villanueva, Sandra Pérez, Yoshida Carvalho and Lucas de Centi took us on a kind of journey to our musical past, in what was the third concert of the XJazz 2019 season – Jazz Encounters in the Aldeias do Xisto.

“Go away, O bogeyman,
From above that roof
Let the boy sleep
A restful sleep”

Do you recognise these verses? We do. And we also recognise that it is difficult, if not impossible, not to surrender to sweet and tuneful voices singing verses that take us back to childhood, that time when we were happy and which makes us smile whenever this comes to mind.

With the Siu Kiu project, Vânia Couto and Maria Villanueva, accompanied by the percussionist Sandra Pérez, the bassist Yoshida Carvalho and the vibraphonist Lucas de Centi, transported us to our musical past, in what was the third concert of the XJazz 2019 season – Jazz Encounters in the Aldeias do Xisto, which took place on 4 August in the Aldeia do Xisto of Barroca.

 

It is not only us who say so. The show captivated all those who gathered to hear the result of the creative residency that the artists had undertaken in the Village at the end of July and beginning of August.

“It was a spectacular concert, with songs of old. When I heard the bogeyman’s song, I immediately thought ‘this is the music I used to rock the kids to’”, recalled one of the residents of Barroca.

“A Farrapeira”, from the Adufeiras da Casa do Povo do Paul, was another of the songs he recognised.

Maria Cruz came from Fundão to spend a Sunday in the Aldeias do Xisto World. She took part in the Janeiro de Cima hike, watched the traditional boat raceand ended the day in the Aldeia do Xisto of Barroca to hear the show: “I loved it. This was a great way to end the day, go home and stay in the bubble reliving it all”,, she shared. “It’s good to unsettle people and at the same time, it’s essential to bring them back to what their roots are. The sharing of new cultures with traditions is essential for the preservation and enhancement of our Beira knowledge”, she asserts.

 


It was also in Casa Grande, headquarters of the Aldeias do Xisto, that Cândida Gil and her husband, Joaquim Gil Antunes, residents of Barroca, spent the end of the day. “They sing very well and I recognized some of the songs they performed, like ‘A Farrapeira’”, says Cândida. “I liked it very much and I think it’s very good that these things happen. They bring the village to life”, she muses. Joaquim also said. “It’s good when there are people in the villages and there are things we can enjoy. It is a way for our culture to manifest itself”, he says.
 


A land of dreams

Siu Kiu is a land of dreams that is part of Argentinean artist Maria Elena Walsh’s imagination, where strangely shaped instruments release sounds that enchant everybody who hears them. This was precisely the name that Vânia Couto and Maria Villanueva chose for their project, through which they seek to collect, create, intervene and explore all sonic possibilities.

For the XJazz creation residency, they suggested collecting traditional Galician and Portuguese songs sung or performed by women, which reflect the old way of life of those who are now between 60 and 70 years old, when comparing it with the present day. For about a month and a half, they travelled through several villages, spoke to many people and collected a lot of material. They had the collaboration and support of Leonor Narciso, in Portugal, and of Alba Amoedo and Ilda Amoedo, in the Galician village of Cortellas.

 


In the Aldeia do Xisto of Barroca, the musicians presented themselves to the public accompanied by more or less familiar musical instruments, such as guitars, the adufe or cowbells, but they also used objects that are not normally found in musical shows, such as pine cones and sieves and pots with water.
 

The repertoire presented also reflects the creative side and even the personal taste of the artists. In some cases they introduced new stanzas, in others they mixed songs, but always remaining faithful to what they had seen and heard during the collection. They found, for example, “very interventive verses”, an example they sought to follow in the version they created.

The oldest memories were blended together with the newest. “We talked to a lot of people and before you knew it you were in people’s homes. That was one of the most beautiful aspects on which creates very intimate moments“, Vânia told the audience present. It was, incidentally, something that happened throughout the show. Each song was followed by a brief story or explanation, with Vânia and Maria sharing with the audience the enthusiasm and joy with which they experienced the whole process of creation.

We have been with amazing people and in amazing places. We’ll take a lot of good memories with us”, ensures Vânia.

After “many hours of work and recording”, the collection will give rise to an “album conceived through traditional music, but focused on women, on how they sang and how they were at that time”, says Vânia, adding that it will include participations that are “the cherry on the cake”: Adufeiras do Paul, Maria João and Catarina Moura lent their voices to a work that promises to show, in a suave and well-integrated men are, the musical wealth of the regions they passed through, as well as the singularity of each one of the artists that contributed to the project. Because, in the words of Vânia Couto, “this project is no longer just mine and Maria’s. Now it’s down to the five of us”.

 


Maria Villanueva recalls that “it was very difficult to choose” the songs for the record. “We had a lot of material, more than was supposed for one album, and there were some very beautiful songs”, she says. Now that the work is done, she is confident about their focus. An idea, moreover, shared by the other elements. “The work in the studio was difficult, but we did our best and a some good, coherent work will be the result”, says Yoshida Carvalho.  For her part, Sandra Pérez, the percussionist on duty, speaks of a “very intense work”, which will reveal itself in a “super good album”. Lucas de Centi agrees: “I only wish I could have enjoyed the region even more and seen more things”, he concludes.

Sounds that tell stories

XJazz is an “aggregating idea” that reflects the “desire to bring people from outside the area, give them new meanings and make the inhabitants of the villages feel proud of what is theirs”, says José Miguel Pereira, from Jazz at the Centre Club that, together with ADXTUR - Schist Villages Tourism Development Agency, promotes XJazz.

It is not lightly that we speak of immersion. We really want artists to come, feel and get to know the area through sound.

This makes it possible to “gauge the richness of our sound heritage and stories of the villages”, he adds. According to José Miguel, this is a step for other artists to “appropriate” the soundscapes of the Aldeias do Xisto, thereby establishing a close relationship with the area and giving rise to new creations.

We just need to say that the album is due to be released in October. Those of us who were able to hear this presentation at first hand, can tell you just this: If you like music, stay tuned. You won’t regret it.

Text: Andreia Gonçalves

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