• Vitor Guerreiro

Coming soon: on the aesthetics of political song (in Portuguese) with José Barata-Moura

Updated: Nov 27, 2020

Soon enough, I will publish in our media section a 57 min video interview (in Portuguese) with Prof. José Barata-Moura - philosopher, scholar of Marxism and German philosophy, former singer-songwriter, former university professor and rector of the University of Lisbon, essayist, and translator - on his activity as author and performer of political songs and his reflections on the subject, which, back in 1977, he published in the book Estética da canção política: alguns problemas [The aesthetics of political song: a few problems].

To people of my generation, of those born after the April revolution of 1974, Prof. Barata-Moura comes to mind especially as the author of well-known children’s songs, like the one I provide a link to below, “O cão D. Pantaleão e outro cão”, which is about two dogs (that figuratively represent human types): one of them gloating in a pompous voice about all the objects that signal his social status, including his sparkling yellow leash, and a dog who is “just a dog” and whose only positive counter-statement in the song is that he “dislikes the leash”. For some of us, like myself, he comes to mind as that of our philosophy professors who had the rare, exceptional gift, among Portuguese academics, of a genuine sense of humor while doing his trade, which is also a natural consequence of the fact that he never was nor aspired to be a “D. Pantaleão” of any sort - another precious, rare gift within the trade, I’d say. For older generations than ours, he is also the author of many “social intervention” songs - usually referred to in English as “social protest songs”, a term which only captures part of what the “genre” is all about, since “protest” is only one of its aspects, while “social intervention” is too broad a term to capture the essence of what singer-songwriters - like Barata-Moura, José Afonso, José Mário Branco, and others in Portugal, but also people like Ewan MacColl, Matt McGinn, Luke Kelly and the Dubliners, A. L. Lloyd, in Ireland and Britain, Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie in America, Vladimir Vysotsky in Russia, Fabrizio de Andre in Italy, and many others around the world - were doing with their art. Appropriately, I leave a link to a humorous , satyrical song with a self-explanatory title.

Those of you who understand Portuguese, stay in tune for the upcoming video. For those who don’t, I may eventually transcribe the interview to English. (Alternatively, you may also learn the language... It could take less time than my transcription.)

On José Barata-Moura, see this article and video, on the RTP Memória webpage.

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