Old Portuguese ties come alive in music

Ancient ties Alma De Coimbra has a repertoire of both classic and folk tunes

Ancient ties Alma De Coimbra has a repertoire of both classic and folk tunes  

A resplendent musical evening by the 35- member Portuguese music group, Alma De Coimbra held the audience enthralled

Four hundred and fifty years since the establishment of the Cochin Diocese in Kerala, the first Catholic diocese to be established by the Portuguese in India, the flavour of Portugal filled the Fort Kochi air once again.

(The Cochin Diocese acted as the headquarters to churches of Portuguese founding for a long period of time, till it was shifted to Goa).

Rich history

With the performance of the popular 35-member music team ‘Alma De Coimbra’, Portuguese lyrics and tunes brought alive the nuances of an old connection, the enchanting past of our rich history. . Performing in Kochi in connection with the two-day seminar on the western influence on Kerala during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, it was an evening at the Bishop’s Palace inundated with nostalgia.

‘Alma De Coimbra’ meaning soul of Coimbra is three years old and is a body of musicians of previous students (of various professions) from the University of Coimbra, the oldest university in Portugal. The university in the town of Coimbra, in North Central Portugal, is one of the oldest in the western world. Initially a body of composers of music and song, they later found purpose in spreading the soul of Portuguese music to various parts of the world. First in Ottawa, where they presented at the Gala Dinner offered to the Diplomatic Corps, marking the Day of Portugal and later in September 2002, at the ‘Festival of S.Carlos’, in Angra do Heroísmo. Two years later, they performed in Macao, during the fifth anniversary of the transfer of the administration of Macao to the People’s Republic of China, and since then have been traversing countries sharing the spirit of Portuguese music and the depth of their lyrics.

They concluded their sojourn in India, at Kochi after performing in Goa and Daman, celebrating the presence of their country here: in its religion, the street names, the food, and amusingly, as they put it, “even in the names of the people- how very Portuguese!”

A team of all male singers (as traditionally, only males were once permitted to be educated in universities and so the tradition continues in song) accompanied by a pianist, the choir began the evening with their favourite song ‘Ave Maria’ (explained as one of extreme love and emotion) under the exuberant direction of maestro Prof. Augusto Mesquita, a popular name in music in Portugal. The choir with its large repertoiresung in four voices with frequent use of solo singers, with very high voice quality, threw light on the dexterity with which they handle song and harmony.

Pear-shaped guitar

The highlight was the magnificent sound of the ‘guitarra de Coimbra’, a unique pear-shaped Portuguese guitar exquisite for its unique tuning, and the ‘Fado de Coimbra’ or the song of Coimbra- of well defined and simultaneous high refined melody, a specialty of the town that reverberates with the meaning of love and yearning in the soul of young adults. The songs moved from religious to love themes and of Portuguese expeditions, which took them to countries afar. The lyrics added tune to works of Portuguese poets, and to words of emotion….like the folk song…. ‘I go to sleep filled with sorrow, I wake up filled with sorrow… and if I die I want your tears…’, a ‘souda’ referring to a special feeling in Portugal: a feeling of deep emotion and longing. The evening was, literarily said: alem assailants or understandably, beyond excellence!


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