Musician JP Simões recently released a tribute album to José Mário Branco

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Musician JP Simões recently released a tribute album to José Mário Branco, which is the result of work he has been developing for some years and began with a revisiting of “Inquietação”.

“JP Simões sings José Mário Branco”, published on February 23 by Omnichord Records, will be presented live today at the Sociedade Musical União Paredense (SMUP), in Parede, Cascais.

In an interview with Lusa, the musician, who was born in 1970, recalled that the first contact he had with José Mário Branco’s music, which he remembers and which marked him, was in the early 1980s.

“The album ‘Ser Solidário’ had come out [in 1982], which had ‘Inquietação’ on it. I remember listening to it on my grandparents’ old valve radio, and that song never left my head. In a way, it revealed a state of mind that I couldn’t explain as clearly as the music did. So much so that a few years later I ended up doing a version of it [on the album ‘1970’, released in 2006],” he shared.

Although in his teenage years and early adulthood he was “more interested in many other things”, the repertoire of the author of, among others, “Eu vim de longe, Eu vou p’ra longe”, “Mudam-se os tempos, mudamam-se as vontades” and “F.M.I.”, was never indifferent to JP Simões.

From 2019 onwards, “because of some requests for concerts in April”, on the 45th anniversary of the ‘Carnation Revolution’, the musician was “fishing out some songs” from José Mário Branco’s repertoire that he liked, and that he was “liking more and more”.

What you hear on the album, and what you’ve heard live in recent years, “comes very much from the work of composer and musician Nuno Ferreira,” said JP Simões.

“From the beginning, he translated everything into our instruments, trying his best to safeguard the whole nature of José Mário Branco’s arrangements and his songs,” he said.

In the meantime, JP Simões was challenged by the founder of Omnichord Records, Hugo Ferreira, to record a version of a guitar and voice concert that José Mário Branco had given at the Teatro Académico Gil Vicente.

“As I’d already been playing Zé Mario live for a while, I suggested we put the two ideas together. I took the work I’d already done and studied Zé Mário’s creative repertoire a bit more, and in the end we came up with these [eight] songs,” he said.

Some of the themes are ones that JP Simões already played live, but he ended up picking up others, namely “Sopram ventos adversos”, a theme for which he has “particular affection”, and “Travessia do deserto”.

“They’re two songs that started as songs and then ended in a delirious instrumental, so much so that the subtitle of ‘Adverse winds blow’ is ‘Maiden voyage’. I chose to go for just the song part, because they were two very beautiful songs, but they were always coupled with a delirious instrumental, very good actually, but that wasn’t what I wanted to do,” he said.

Of the various versions included on the album, JP Simões highlights as “one of the nicest exercises to build” the “very psychedelic” version of “Perfilados de medo”, “a song of apparent simplicity musically, but which works so well”.

“I ended up spoiling it with psychedelicisms, but I think it deserved this treatment, this more delirious richness,” he said, referring to the theme whose lyrics are a poem by Alexandre O’Neill, which talks about the limits of madness.

JP Simões is “very pleased” with the album. He hopes that people will enjoy listening to it and, “above all, that it respects José Mário Branco’s work, which is the key here”.

Regarding “Inquietação”, he even had feedback from José Mário Branco himself, who died in November 2019.

“I had the opportunity to meet him and he was an extremely nice and affable person. He was a person of immense gentleness and kindness, not to mention intelligence. I was very happy because he liked the version,” he recalled.

After meeting at the São Jorge Cinema in Lisbon and attending a concert together in Coimbra, they crossed paths at the Faculty of Letters of the University of Lisbon.

JP Simões was studying for a master’s degree in Literature and José Mário Branco was studying Logic. “He finished as the best student. I always remember ‘I didn’t put the boat out to sea to stay on the way’ [from the lyrics of ‘Inquietação’], so he really had to be the best student,” he shared.

Although José Mário Branco can no longer listen to the album – if he could, JP Simões probably wouldn’t have recorded it – the musicians involved in the project were “careful to talk to the family to see if they would agree”.

“It was important that we had the family’s approval and consent. I did it above all because I thought I could do something decent, and in recent years I’ve been enjoying singing these songs more and more,” said JP Simões.

Publishing the album that pays homage to one of the ‘voices of April’ in the year that marks the 50th anniversary of April 25 “was not a move of opportunism”, not least because “it is always opportune to remember” José Mário Branco.

“All these themes speak, above all, about human nature, and it hasn’t changed much over time. I think the songs are still relevant,” said the musician, recalling that “one of José Mário Branco’s characteristics was to take things head on and talk about the issues”.

JP Simões finds it difficult to choose a single theme that characterizes the musician and composer José Mário Branco, because “he is so vast”.

“He philosophizes bravely about the human condition, in general and in particular, and about love, disaffection, about everything that makes us up. I find it very difficult to sum him up, but the heart of all his work, for me, is ‘Restlessness’, which seems to be the fundamental driving force behind almost everything. His voice carries that. The voice, the words, the music, the intricacy of the music. You can see that the music itself also chews on the emotional and philosophical, speculative questions that his words also accompany so well,” he said.

After today’s concert in Parede, JP Simões will present the album in other cities, the dates of which will be announced soon.

The songs from “JP Simões sings José Mário Branco” will be played live, as well as other songs by the author of “Inquietação” and other musicians such as José Afonso and Fausto.

In addition to JP Simões, Nuno Ferreira (guitar, arrangements and musical direction), Ruca Rebordão (percussions), Pedro Pinto (double bass) and Márcio Pinto (marimba) will be on stage

Moti Shabi
Moti Shabi
Moti Shabi

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