Portugal has a musical tradition reaching back into the distant past and extending into the limitless future. A stellar series of renowned music festivals happen there every year, often set in surroundings of natural beauty and historical significance. Residents of Portugal can attend a schedule of musical events reaching from spring into autumn, covering every style and taste. Such an event is the Festival Musicas do Mundo, which takes place in the town of Sines.
Started in 1997, the festival has become one of the most highly-regarded events of its kind, featuring a lively and varied lineup of top performers. Huge crowds flock to the little coastal town in late July to soak up the sounds and scenery.
Sines is on Portugal’s southwestern coast, affording panoramic views of sea and sky. As those who live there can tell you, this is one of Portugal’s most scenic spots. It has some of the finest beaches in Europe, and the southern coastline of Sines is protected in a wild state by a nature park. The town has great historical significance, as it is the birthplace of the famed explorer Vasco da Gama, who sailed around the horn of Africa to India in the 15th Century. The castle where he was born is still standing, and some of the events of the festival happen there. Other events happen in the Sines Arts Center, the beach beside the town, and in the neighboring town of Porto Corvo, 13 km. away. It was conceived as a celebration of the cultural change brought about by the explorer’s travels, and features an ecclectic array of sounds from around the world, including artists from jazz, blues, tango, reggae, classical music and other styles. While other events may try to appeal to a certain target market, FMM tries to appeal to as many as possible.
And they certainly do. An estimated 87,000 people attended FMM Sines 2011, making it the biggest world music festival in Portugal. Both attendees and performers praised the good feeling of the event, which was the eleventh Festival Musicas do Mundo. This has become typical through the years, for the festival has consistently garnered praise from those who were there. One example can be found at the blog of the jazz group The Bad Plus, who performed there in 2006. Writing about that event, they said, “The festival seems to be one of the most serious parties around, beginning every night around 9:00 PM in the open-air courtyard of an ancient castle and moving down the hill to the beach from 2:00 to 6:00 AM. It must be a night mare for the FMM staff, but everything went smoothly while we were there. The sound system was excellent: it was nice to be so loud and so clear.”
This pleasure has been shared by many great musicians through the years. Performers at the 2009 event included Mor Karbasi, James Blood Ulmer, the Warsaw Village Band, and the Chucho Valdes Big Band, while the previous year’s lineup included Orchestra Baobab, the Kasai Allstars and Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba. For followers of great music, the roster of artists can’t be beat.
The festival ends with a big fireworks display, and the next morning the crowds begin to leave. Each of them will carry good memories of FMM, and many will also attend some of the other great musical festivals to be seen in Portugal.
But there is a side to Sines that they will never see, and that is the town in its quieter moments, when the carnival is gone. As with so many places in Portugal, the history of the place is deep, and remains calm and unruffled by all the celebration. To know that, you have to live there.
- Portugal attracts festive travellers | British Airways – Travel Industry News (travelnews.britishairways.com)