Lisbon – sun, sea and vinyl

People are flocking from all over the world to visit this southern European capital. Tourists historically came to Lisbon for the sun, food and colonial architecture, but now the city is also pulling in a growing number of vinyl tourists.

Its thriving live music scene, low rents and good weather has also prompted a surge of musicians and DJs to move to the city. From former Portuguese colonies to western music hubs such as London, Berlin and Paris. Lisbon is pumping out highly unique sounds and the music world wants to be a part of it.

Sun-soaked music

The hilly city is currently going through a music explosion. Traditional music is being delivered in exciting new ways and subsequently creating new genres of music. Artists are busy blending classic with modern styles, creating Lisbon’s unique and flourishing music culture.

Musicians and DJs started flocking to the city a decade ago when they realised something truly different was happening to music in Lisbon. In fact, Madonna loved the secret music scene so much, she also decided to move there. One of Madonna’s main reasons for moving was Fado, Lisbon’s most famous contribution to world music. Fado, meaning fate in Portuguese, is Lisbon’s version of blues. You can find its hauntingly melancholic tones streaming out of the city’s music haunts, especially in the historic Alfama district. Historically, Fado was a gypsy tradition, where women would sing in backstreets bars and lament about long lost loves. It’s now one of the biggest tourist attractions in the maritime city. But even the oldest music in Portugal isn’t immune to getting a facelift. Exciting new musicians are taking the classic sound and mixing it with EDM and hip hop, so much so that the very concept of Fado is changing, sparking many fans to declare that the city is witnessing the rebirth of Fado. Then there is also the jazz, Brazilian and indie rock scenes that are experimenting with classic genres and pushing out quality music in the sun-soaked city.

Afro-Portuguese is one of the biggest and most popular genres that has pumped new musical life into Lisbon. The Afro-Portuguese EDM blend reflects the identity of the city itself, and its mingling migrant communities. The sound is a combination of ancestral African melodies and eclectic rhythms jammed into a modern club sound. Many have hailed it as an African take on electronic and techno music, and nowhere in the world is creating this sort of music right now.

The city actually owes a lot of its eclectic music scene to its ex-colonies, including Brazil, Angola, Cape Verdi and Mozambique. After colonialism fell and Portuguese nationals returned back home, they brought their records with them, which still to this day fill forgotten attics and record shops. The country also received mass immigration from its ex-colonies and with it artists celebrating all things Brazilian and African, including Angolan Kizomba, Kuduro and Batida (a ghetto version of Kudora). The music culture was blooming in the outer city estates where a lot of Portuguese immigrants live, but it was a long time until the warm and infectious music spread across the city centre streets.

African and Brazilian DJs from the outer city estates used the classic sounds from their homelands, which were now so cheaply and readily available, to remix and resample, experimenting and breathing new life into each original track. DJ Nervose, one of the most famous Afro-Portuguese DJs, moved from war-torn Angola at the age of 12. He started off DJing in neighbourhood parties where he would play kizomba and kuduro classic tracks. He soon discovered Tarraxhina, which is a stripped down version of kizomba. He scoured all the local Lisbon flea markets to find as many Tarraxhina mixtapes as possible. He decided to break the sound down to its bare bones and then speed it up again, inadvertently creating a completely new sound. In fact, the sound is so new, that there isn’t a name for it yet. DJ Nervose opened up the already exciting Afro-Portuguese scene and paved the way for emerging artists to be more experimental with the music genre. This sort of innovative reimagining of music has helped the city gain its international acclaim and now sees even more unique records piling the local markets and record shops.  

And once the music genre made waves across Lisbon and became part of the main club scene, the number of indie labels in Lisbon started to grow. They are now able to produce Afro-Portuguese vinyl quickly, cheaply and crucially from where the music genre was born. The local record shops also relish stocking them to fully represent the city’s unique music sound and support homegrown talent. Subsequently, vinyl fans from all corners of the world are picking Lisbon to hunt for vinyl because it’s not only the centre of this new sound but sells vinyl cheaply and has a flourishing music culture.

The market of thieves

And DJ Nervose was onto something when he started to scour the local markets. Portugal still has a very strong market culture, with several regular markets per week in the capital. One of the most famous is Feira de Ladra, translated as the market of thieves. But don’t let that put you off, it’s Lisbon’s oldest market and has rows and rows of unearthed treasure, including rare and unique albums as well as timeless classics. It’s a twice weekly market (Tuesdays and Saturdays) and quite touristy, but still attracts locals. If you really want a market off the beaten track, then do as the locals do and head to Feira do Relogio, the largest market in Lisbon and on every Sunday.  As well as hunting for vinyl you can also do your groceries or eat some of Lisbon’s local delights.

And away from the many markets that line the city streets, there’s also Lisbon’s many record shops. The best of them are outside of the historic, touristy areas, so if you head downtown you’ll find lots of great record stores where you could easily spend a whole day rifling through the many crates. Some of the record shops you definitely shouldn’t skip are Louie Louie, Magic Bus and Sound Club. Another great one is Flur, which is a hotspot for Lisbon’s electronic scene and Crew Hassan where you can sip on a beer, enjoy a live gig and play some ping pong between crate digging.

Whether you want to sift through vinyl or enjoy the beautiful architecture, Lisbon is a great holiday destination in its own right. But If you are looking for a city that is fantastic for vinyl and living a music moment then head to Lisbon. The sun, alfresco dining and foodie culture is of course an added bonus for your record hunting trip or to entice some of your vinyl shunning loved ones to come join you in the sunny capital of Afro-Portuguese music.

Enjoyed reading this blog? There’s plenty more where that came from! Check out our other vinyl tourism blog about Paris or go back to the blog to have a look through our other music inspired articles.