Chronicle of a Journey
Let us then speak of a journey.
We already know how it all began. The luminous, delicate days, the days of anticipation, the days of certainty still linger in the memory. The moment when, about fifteen years ago, two musicians set forth to find a common destiny, to make true a dream that burned inside them, and yet wasn't found on the music they were creating separately. In those freewheeling days and nights of 1985, Pedro Ayres Magalhaes and Rodrigo Leao were merely chasing the noblest and most common of all dreams: to create the music that haunted them inside, a fragile, ideal sound made of acoustic guitars and so much feeling, so near and yet thought unreachable.
Those were the early days. Those were the days of Madredeus.
This music's long journey found a definitive form when the voice was found. Teresa Salgueiro was the perfect heart for the group's melodies and words. When the first album -- 1987's "Os Dias da Madredeus", recorded at the Xabregas Convent church -- was released, many realised they were witnessing something unique and universal. Serene, ethereal songs, carrying a whispering, almost secret "Portugueseness", songs we all knew but whose shape we'd never been able to imagine, presented first to a circle of friends and only later, almost shyly, opening for concerts by Sétima Legiao.
The Portuguese received them warmly and spontaneously; the opinions were split evenly between passionate fascination and quasi-religious reverence. It was then understood the extraordinary journey of Madredeus had begun.
From "Existir" (1990) onwards, Madredeus traveled with their music to other lands, lands that recognised easily and applauded the emotions and stories the group conveys. The language may not always be understood, but Madredeus have a strange alchemy that manages to make unique feelings universally shared.
1993 was the year the group went truly global, with concert appointments spreading throughout the world. Madredeus were no longer Portugal's own, but remained stubbornly Portuguese through and through.
1994's "O Espírito da Paz" perfectly condenses the travel notes the musicians collated over the previous year. In its songs' stillness and transparency can be seen a quest for universal values as seen through a Portuguese heart. And it is this calling -- sometimes mistaken for a mission -- that Madredeus will perfect and crystallise to its boundaries in their subsequent records and itineraries: 1995's "Ainda", the soundtrack to Wim Wenders' film "Lisbon Story", seizes a filmic, luminous Lisbon that belongs anywhere in the world; and 1997's "O Paraíso" looks to share a dreamy state of grace, showing the way to a secret, greater dimension whose door is left wide open for all to cross.
As we write, "O Paraíso" is Madredeus' latest studio album of new material (it was followed by "O Porto", capturing a live concert in Oporto). Beyond its expected local success, it has sold in significant quantities in many other countries, as indeed all of the group's record catalogue: each of their albums has sold half a million copies worldwide. The journey has had its share of troubles, now left behind (Rodrigo Leao, Gabriel Gomes and Francisco Ribeiro have left; José Peixoto on guitar, Carlos Maria Trindade on synthesizer and Fernando Júdice on acoustic bass guitar have joined), but the essence of Madredeus has remained unaltered.
The "Paraíso" world tour has again confirmed Madredeus' privileged musical status, and the unquestionable musical heritage that makes up their songs. One of their most notable stage highlights has been a performance in the Vatican Christmas Concert attended by Pope John Paul II.
A new honour was bestowed upon them in 1999, as the Federal Government of Mexico City invited them to perform at the Plaza Zócalo, the Mexican capital's main cathedral square. The band performed for 80,000 people in a recital appropriately titled "a song for hope and peace".
And now comes "Antologia". More than an anthology, this is a record made of travel notes from all around the world. Pictures of moments, snapshots of emotions, these are some of Madredeus' songs, built on dreams and landscapes, hopes and longings. "Antologia" is the perfect map to follow their great journey, a compass of songs left all over the globe but forever reminded (and reminding) of their birthplace. Seventeen safe havens where the soul may at once be restful and restless. From "A Vaca de Fogo" to "O Tejo", these are the signs of a group where change and heritage have never been apart from each other.
And, quoting from the lyrics of "O Pastor": if Madredeus are a dream that ends late, then why should we want to wake up?
Nuno Miguel Guedes
Madredeus - O Porto