Traditional Portuguese musicians know just how to get everyone onto the dance floor during the tradirtional parties in August, complete with lots of grilled sardines and of course a few glasses of wine. For the perfect party the final ingredient has to be “Pimba”, a traditional style of Portuguese music.
Fado is internationally known for its splendour and imposing way of singing, as are other styles of Portuguese light music sung around the world and is internationally successful, such as Dulce Pontes or even the pop music of the Portuguese-descendant Nelly Furtado. Pimba music is however the type of music that is often heard in Portugal or among Portuguese communities abroad due to its very distinct characteristics.
In addition to the electrifying rhythm of the songs to the sound of the accordion and being influenced by the Portuguese folk style, the songs are accompanied by lyrics written in a way that only the Portuguese language allows for. The style has also been evolving and currently some songs are influenced by African rhythms such as Funaná, as can be heard in the songs of the group Némanus.
The history of Pimba
The genre began to have a greater expression in the 1980’s, reaching its peak of popularity in the 1990’s. The cultural framework, after the Portuguese dictatorship, gave artists greater artistic. Pimba music is full of sexual metaphors throughout the lyrics, which often appeals to those who listen and can understand the messages conveyed by the songs.
The opening verses of the songs always refer to common everyday stories. It can all start with eating ice cream, washing the dishes or even parking the car in the neighbour's garage. But it's in the chorus that it all really happens. The Portuguese language allows for sounds and the meaning of the words to almost always have a double meaning. This is what makes the audience laugh the most when listening to the song, as well as livening the mood of those who may be more conservative at the dinner table.
The calmer side
Despite the lively rhythms, there is also a calmer side of the genre, sung by, for example, Ágata or Mónica Sintra. In this case, the lyrics no longer have as sexual connotation as previously mentioned. Anyone who listens to Ágata's greatest hits from the '90s will hear songs about complicated divorces and the pain of a breakup. In her repertoire, the artist even has songs dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Alsofollowing these lines, in Mónica Sintra's musical portfolio, the song “Afinal Havia Outra” should be highlighted. With this song, it is clear that, despite not seeming like it, Pimba music needs a poetic intelligence that is difficult to find in more modern music. Mónica Sintra's single portrays a betrayal, but only the most attentive ears will be able to understand that it is from the point of view of a lover who did not know that her boyfriend was married to another woman.
Rosinha - Fica Sempre no Coador
Rosinha - Fica Sempre no Coador
A bad reputation
Despite animating the lives of many Portuguese, some musicians interpret the genre as pejorative and of poor quality. Even singers of the Pimba genre at various times say they feel discriminated against by the other side of Portuguese music. Singers such as Romana, who started singing Pimba, was prevented from restarting her career singing in another genre of music because she has a great track record as a popular music singer, despite being recognised as one of the best Portuguese voices.
The prejudice with Pimba music is due precisely to the lyrics, which can sometimes have a discourse that can be considered homophobic and sexist, in several aspects. As was the case with the song by Quim Barreiros “O Casamento Gay”, released after the approval of same-sex marriage in Portugal, where words considered homophobic were sung. At the time, the singer told the newspaper Correio da Manhã, that he did not know the meaning of the words “homosexual” and “homophobic”, and that he only knows the words that are normally used with a pejorative content.
Pimba music accompanies the Portuguese to this day. Currently, songs from the 90s are still played at family parties or during traditional Portuguese pilgrimages, which always have a stage dedicated to an artist who sings the Pimba genre.
Portuguese Pimba artists such as Emanuel, José Malhoa and Rosinha make almost weekly appearances on television programmes dedicated only to the genre. As a rule, on weekends, the general channels dedicate an afternoon to publicising the work of Pimba artists, as well as remembering the older works of those who already have a more established career.
Also, singers are called to sing at several university parties, such as Queima das Fitas in Coimbra. It is almost mandatory to have a day where Quim Barreiros will perform at every university party in the country. The same happens in August, usually, when emigrants visit their families in Portugal, there are a lot of parties where Pimba artists will be performing. Therefore, August is their most busy month, when it comes to singing live.
Recently, RTP produced a documentary dedicated to the genre. The documentary “O Pimba é Nosso” can be seen on the free online platform RTP Play and has three episodes.
https://www.rtp.pt/play/palco/p9117/e576399/o-pimba-e-nosso - The first episode of the documentary.