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Joana and Bernardo from indiefrente on a sofa near plant at Village Underground Lisboa

Joana Krämer Horta e Bernardo Batalha Torres by André Dinis Carrilho (@prince of combro)

Music, dance, friendship. We need more of that — and more events that mix it all together. This one says it doesn’t have a logo, but it’s indiefrente. But it’s not indifferent, let alone a stranger to Lisbon’s cultural growth over the last few years — it actually proves “Lisbon is the new Lisbon”. It’s not the new Berlin or anything else, it’s Lisbon and a worldly-wise conscience that has carved out more sceneries and moments to find itself. The vibration that followed is the full responsibility of cultural movers and shakers, promotors, and producers, which, along with the artists, have made Lisbon a pulsating place to be.

I’ve known Joana for a couple of years now, and I’ve always kept track of her enthusiasm for the world of music and performative arts. Perhaps because she grew up on the shadow of a great artist — her father is the renowned dancer and choreographer Rui Horta —, it’s not that unusual that the drive to create something and be successful in the realm of all things culture and performance runs in her blood. From her own experience living in Barcelona, she ruminated on the idea of creating more events at sunset, something not as common in Lisbon back then. And Topo, in Martim Moniz, was where the adventure started. At the time, I remember seeing Joana showing up at Lounge a lot more often to check out the DJs she wanted to summon. Now she tells me: “at first, I was booking all kinds of DJs, from indie to house or even techno, but then I realized that what I needed wasn’t a genre, but a certain kind of music for those final hours of sun; happier music”. And it was right here, or when her aesthetic sensitivity got sharper, I think, that the first secret for indiefrente dwelt on: knowing how to position an event that starts when the light is still out, bringing that positive feel in, as opposed to a darker, more decadent side the night represents. indiefrente is light, clean, with a great vibe, and a symbol of Lisbon’s ever-growing cosmopolitan trait, where there are hardly any moments when we’re not dancing. And that’s a good thing.

After Topo, Joana wanted to reach other mountaintops, so Quiosque do Bambu’s invitation led her to define the next secret, even when things we’re happening: indiefrente was to become a traveling party that would give its audience the pleasure of finding out where the next unforeseen dancing spot would be. Clube Ferroviário, CCB’s Olive Tree Garden, A Janela da Voz do Operário, Le Consulat… And more and more people kept going, wherever the party was, like the swarm of people at Torel in May 2018.

Joana already worked with artists like Kruella D’Enfer or Bárbara Alves for the artwork or Gustavo Rodrigues, Jorge Nascimento or João Descalço for photography or video, and it was thanks to cultural partnerships, at the opening of Temps D’Images, in the centuries-old Edifício Amparo, that the awareness of the transition to maturity took on a distinctive form. In addition to the collaborations with artists and cultural partners, indiefrente got to a place where it needed to expand its team, and it was actually from the dancefloor of all those parties that Bernardo Batalha Torres and João Figueiredo jumped in. Santiago Alquimista came after that, along with Suspenso, a partnership with MIL, and Santa Clara Market — to make things clear, at this moment, indiefrente was wooing over more than 800 people per event on average, a result of these structural changes. Right now, indiefrente manages all sides of the event, from line-up to staff. And that giant step for quality control happened because of João and Bernardo.

Bernardo displays as much that gentleman pose, that courteous demeanor bursting at the seams with confidence and serenity, as that youthful smile of someone who lives with the constant desire to interact with new worlds and experiences. After studying Marketing and Hotel Management, at 23 he opened Matateu with the Manzarra brothers, an innovative modern petisqueira, before the boom of similar businesses that came after. But it was the discovery of alternative sounds and the magical spaces where he went dancing to it that made him fall in love even more for music, for that scene: “in my mind, people can be or do different things on the dancefloor, but the uncovering of new mindsets is what really drives me. More than loving the artists or their value, I’m interested in their integrity, freedom and values, and learning something from it”.

This is potentially indiefrente’s third secret: trying to learn it and implementing it, of understanding how to relate to it. It’s made of people who are mutually inquisitive, hungry for new things, who learn as they go. And there’s something they can teach already, as they’ve been bringing a lot of people together without jeopardizing quality or losing their own identity. With Joana in charge of communication and line-up, Bernardo in production, marketing and public relations, and João in the finance department, indiefrente furnishes its structure with experts to be the best in all areas. And that seems utterly honest to me. It allows us to trust in a good moment. It’s that feeling of trust they’re seeking, I think; of creating a healthy ecosystem guided by a plant-god of sorts: a palm tree, which went from aesthetics to symbol, a metaphor for the concepts that keep indiefrente in one piece: a state of happiness, exoticism, ecology, the plant that can trigger off and grow in all kind of soils. Every time we look at palm trees, all imposing, we’ll remember that we cannot feel unaffected by a dancefloor. Here is where we dance and talk about it. And just like Joana, Bernardo and João, it’s where we can meet people, figure out values, piece ideas together and spread the seeds for the ecosystems of — our — life that need more happy hours.

 

* this Friday, May 17, at Village Underground Lisboa, from 6 PM to 11 PM, Village Happy Hours is curated by indiefrente, introducing “Palm Tree Affairs” with DJ sets from Benjamim and Pedro Ramos and live art by vjtor. And palm trees, of course.

 

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Branko at Village Underground Lisboa with Buzz Lisboeta and Ponte 25 de Abril on the background

Branko by André Dinis Carrilho (@princeofcombro)

Let’s talk about lasting, noble relationships, safe havens. That kind of relationships that start with the search for a temporary working space and evolve into a second home. Let’s talk about a magical village that welcomes (its) people with open arms, fiercely, and gives them the freedom to do everything. Branko, or João Barbosa, is a DJ and producer, and perhaps these names are not enough to amass his many sides, but that’s how he introduces himself. Success came in 2006 when he cofounded Buraka Som Sistema, with which he traveled the world and learned a lot.

With Buraka there was also Enchufada, the band’s “home base”, as he says, a label and booking agency. “I’ve always been divided into, on one hand, sitting inside the studio making music and, on the other, doing the normal office work and sending e-mails”. This seemingly innocuous duplicity carries a subliminal significance: one doesn’t survive without the other and opens enough space to let ideas flow with more honesty.

When Village opened its doors in Lisbon and Enchufada got one of the containers, a new, unique event came to be, called Global Village Live, which were basically live streams that every week would bring a different artist to share his/her music with the whole world. Inaugurating this was a special party with the release of Rastronaut’s EP — another member of Enchufada — and an afternoon with barbecue, beer and music, the holy trinity of every shindig. It’s important to Branko that the idea of “global electronic music”, as he thinks about it a platform of connection with the world. Village ended up being the ultimate place for him to explore the possibilities of a container in its many different ways, fueled by Mariana herself, an ever creative constant. “We’d open the window, switch the camera on and recorded the whole deal. Some of the streams are still online, you can watch them. This is a place that allows us to do that. It has the right feeling and the perfect scenario”, he says.

With a packed schedule, be it with the label or the new album, the second one signed as Branko, ‘Nosso’, he’s miraculously able to share his time between the studio in Campo de Ourique and the container, let alone his gigs spread around the four corners of the globe, where he still gathers admirers from the times he was touring with Buraka, always keeping his eyes peeled for opportunities and challenges that keep popping here and there.

“I think that this relationship is bound to last. It’s the kind of place you think of as the first option for lots of things. It’s an ever-growing space, from the opening of the big warehouse for concerts and other shows to the opening of the new entrance, so it ends up also being a relationship driven by the idea of challenging one another to do exciting things, sometimes it’s Mariana or Gustavo, other times it’s us; there’s this coming and going of ideas, and that’s truly important. Honestly, I’m quite curious to find out what’s happening from now on, now that it’ll be able to have its own identity”.

In the container or sitting at a table outside sipping on a nice after-work drink or inside the MetalBox.pt studio for some much-needed solitude, Branko lives Village as if it were a divergent playground, with his mindset leaned on what’s different and disruptive, because that’s really the only way his music will be new for him and others.

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Mariana e Gustavo, the owners of Village Underground Lisboa on Village Underground

Mariana Duarte Silva e Gustavo Rodrigues by André Dinis Carrilho (@princeofcombro)

Many years ago, certainly more than what brings me here today, Mariana had an opportunity that few get in life, if they don’t know how to interpret the signs, to give rise to an idea and push it further, against all odds, without ever giving up the fight. In 2007, when she was still working in London — in one of those jobs that are so distant in time they’re almost forgotten — she remembers passing by tube carriages stacked up on a warehouse-like building. That vision mesmerized her until it made sense to go in and realize that place was perfect to work on her underground DJs and artists booking project, Madame Management, which she let simmer in this magical place for two years where creatives of many fields and walks of life would gather in a thriving osmosis that she had never seen before. Its name was Village Underground and Mariana was determined to open a similar space in her native Lisbon. Tom Foxcroft, her business partner and founder of the older brother in London, helped her and motivated her in everything he could and soon also became her friend and confidant, probably one of the best side effects of this entire quest.

Fast forward to 2014 and… No, wait a second. Village opened that year, that’s right, but up until then it was all but a bed of roses. The financial crisis, problems, insecurities, questions, doubts — from other people, not Mariana — took their time and overstayed their welcome more than they should, shaping into “nos” against “nos”, until a door eventually opened, and then the real work was about to start. They settled in the Museu da Carris, the containers arrived, the double-decked buses were assembled, the space was set up to welcome the thousands of ideas for events that were bound to happen soon. Residents began arrived little by little, slowly, when the concept of coworking wasn’t as spread as it is today. The containers got a new face from talented street artists and things started looking up with, pardon the commonplace, lots of blood, sweat and tears.

Now that five years have passed, it’s time to celebrate with those who built this enchanted world in the heart of Alcântara, side by side with the Tagus river and the 25 de Abril Bridge, Lisbon’s landmarks that keep pace with the evolution of a round-the-clock effervescent city. “This is a work in progress”, says Mariana, completely aware that Village will never be finished and that there will always be things to do, new people to welcome, events to prepare, news to release. Next to Mariana is her free-for-all in life, Gustavo. Together they’re the power couple of which there’s not much to add — actually, there’s a lot, since their explosion of energy is quite hard to overlook, the way they smile, the love that strings them together in their family and work routines, the awesome vibe of two people who’ve been doing this for so long it almost looks easy, but it’s not. “I’ve got a problem with all my dreams”, Gustavo confesses. “I can dream way too high and think of my next step. Now we’re at a place where Village has become this kind of backyard, an enclosed area with an outdoor space and another for events, plus the new entrance that will change everything”. This is definitely the game changer for Village’s five years of existence. ‘A wall is torn down / a new world rises’ are the verses that define this moment they’re experiencing with the opening of the gate to Avenida da Índia, a new milestone that will give them the independence they’ve been longing for since the first day and that will bring them new challenges and new crowds. “Since the first day we opened, people coming here look at that gate and ask us why it isn’t opened. Then we explain that it belongs to Carris and has been closed for 150 years and the only way to get in is through Rua 1.º de Maio”. No more. “When people internalize this new feature, it will definitely bring many rewards our way. And it will become something normal”. And that’s what will undeniably happen. ‘We peek through the other side / the mind unsettles / The first step to break down the barrier / The fun just got better / Daringly’.

In their minds, however, there’s countless ideas hovering that will be implemented sooner that one would expect. A project like Village doesn’t allow for twiddling one’s thumbs and there’s always something happening, always rumbling in a restless state of transformation. “The next phase will be to build the creative workshops at Village. We, the team, need infrastructures to build a number of things we’ve been wanting to put into place. We’ve got a tiny workshop out here, but we need machinery. In addition to that, we’ve got a couple of proposals from crews that want to join us and make things with us: screenprinting, for one, and plastic recycling. First of all, we want to send a message that focuses on ecology and sustainability. Then, we also want to make our own merch and memorabilia”, Gustavo reveals. Besides the creative workshops, which will include things like carpentry, they will also build a rehearsal room by adding two more containers next to MetalBox, Gustavo’s brainchild. As if this weren’t enough, they are also planning on opening a Music School.

“Things are easier because there’s two of us”, Mariana says. “We share the weight of responsibility”. And it’s because of these two that these five years come as vigorous, full of energy, good music and good vibes as one would wish for, hoping for another ten, fifteen, even twenty springs well lived in Lisbon as a platform for culture and creativity that doesn’t leave anything to chance and is always a step ahead of all of us.

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Wasted Rita at Village Underground Lisboa

Wasted Rita by André Dinis Carrilho (@princeofcombro)

Rita Gomes was born in Porto 31 years ago and up until about seven years she has lived in Aguas Santas, a parish in Maia, north of Porto, which was enough to create plenty reasons to stay secluded in her art and pour the built-up frustration all over from “living in a small town where nothing happens”.

After college, where she studied Graphic Design — though she never really took it on the road — this identity emerged as an escape, the most foolproof tactic she found to “flush all this frustration out and use my voice in a way that would help me tolerate my existence… Back then, I wasn’t as dramatic as today”. Allow me to go round the drama to emphasize sarcasm, provocation, the rawness in her words, sometimes supported by drawings and vice-versa, that cut through our chests and make us smile in a kind of way that shows that we know honesty is one of her strongest suits, as if this weren’t already the best reason to laugh.

2015 was the turning point, the unexpected catapult that shot her to an explosive success which involved a solo exhibition at Underdogs, ‘Human Beings – God’s Only Mistake’, an invitation from Banksy — that’s right — to display three of her pieces at the ephemeral Dismaland and, last but not least, The Famous Fest gig, which brought her to the village to take up one of the walls with her caustic quotes, ironically painted on in black inside white squares. “I got here not knowing exactly what I was going to do, but my work has always lived off from that, not knowing exactly what to expect or what problems I might come across with and have to solve them as I go. It always end up being something that doesn’t make me nervous, it’s something I accept and that’s part of the result. It may sound easy, but it’s not that easy to be with my eyes wide open to welcoming mistakes and being able to accept that with a clear conscious”.

If there’s visually something about Wasted Rita that takes us to a punk world, half harsh, half bitter, of someone who observes more than she talks and appreciates a state of solitude, to me the secret lies in the intelligence of the words, the nearly poetic articulation of a level-headed yet impulsive insult. Perhaps that’s why her line of work goes so well together with Village, with its almost naked wall, like a scream that doesn’t bother, but itches and makes your head turn. “I’m always a little bit worried that what I write can be slightly aggressive or if I’m going to offend or hurt a minority, but I had total freedom with this wall”, she says.

What matters here is that the dark vision doesn’t comes down to only that: there’s a facetious side of pure fun that Wasted Rita tries to convey in-between false hopes and knives to the heart. From a thought, two or three more come along. A sentence is built, a calling, an eye-opener. Truth hurts, doesn’t it?

 

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Inês Castel-Branco siting on the bench of Buzz Lisboeta, a restaurant on a bus at Village Underground Lisboa.

Inês Castel-Branco by Sbrugens

There’s something immeasurably emotional in food, sitting around a table, the conversations that more often than not revolve around what we’re eating next. Food is family, friends, acquaintances, foodies, the simple things in life. That is perhaps why Inês Castel-Branco, actress, a known face from many backdrops, has so astutely become partner at Buzz Lisboeta, but there’s probably not just it, I guess.

A dep, unconditional friendship often leads us to make the most rightful choices and follow the paths that are more adjusted to our dreams. “Mariana and I have been friends for many years. I remember her talking about Village Underground London and being very excited and having this goal of building Village Underground Lisboa. I saw her fight for everything here and then I saw it being born and growing up. I tried to be part of that growth, not only as a consumer and visitor, but I’ve also planned a few events here, and I’ve been following the day-to-day evolution of the space itself and what she can accomplish with it”, she says.

Here it is then, the moment when good food is paired up with good company — the secret to happiness? — and spreads outside Village. Inês’ notable visibility brings Buzz a life that’s different from what we saw before, since, after all, this Buzz has had many names, crazes and shapes during these five years that apparently went by at the speed of light, it seems. I was just here the other day looking at the first restaurant inside a bus on top of a container, which, in turn, has been quite handy in those parties or warm late afternoons thanks to the bar they eventually opened, and now we’re here, holding our glasses, toasting to Village.

Inside, the journey is still magical, fascinating to me, with the bus seats and the old windows and the lamps on the arched ceiling and the wood and all those little details that end up being part of us every time we go up that narrow staircase. This is also where I’m chatting with Inês and realize the idea of this partnership “came up during a conversation with Mariana, who was looking for a person to help her promote Buzz. I offered and she immediately accepted it. And I’m glad she did”.

A number of changes and small improvements were enough to have the tables of this bus-restaurant or restaurant-bus — it really depends on you guys — and the terrace that came along on any given day, and it’s nice when the partner and friend is still “the biggest fan betting everything on a place that welcomes those who’re looking to feed the soul, and the belly as well”.

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Dino D'Santiago on the stairs of Village Underground Lisboa

Dino D’Santiago by Sbrugens

Dino D’Santiago, born Claudino Pereira, in 1982, in Quarteira, Algarve, carries in his name the fertility of a legacy of pure family history he didn’t want to leave out of his music: Cape Verde. Emigrants in the 70s, Dino’s parents also brought Creole with them and “spoke Creole to us and we, me and my two brothers, would answer in Portuguese. It was our own dialect and it still is today”, he tells me. But they also brought the devotion that led Dino to be part of the church choir where, to tell you the truth, everything began.

The innocence of a voice nourished by melodies that are suited to those Catholic practices would see an intense transformation with all the “hip hop tapes coming from the US and the UK sent by friends who lived there” in the late 90s, the golden age of sung choruses. The guys already doing this for real used to go to the church to see the kids sing, and that’s how Dino was “chosen” and felt “the bug biting harder”. “Hip hop was important to me because everyone was saying that I had to write my own lyrics, so that’s when I started doing it”.

During the thousand stories he tells me, from the friendship with Virgul, which started somewhere in 2001 and is still alive and well today, up until entering a universe that would forever change his life in many ways, Expensive Soul, of which he was part of for eleven years, Dino didn’t lose his smile, not for a minute, nor even the authenticity that’s part of him as if it were embedded in his skin. These eleven years were pivotal to his musical evolution — a kid from the visual arts with medals and honorable mentions on his back — and to reach a moment of superlative desire to make something in his own name. He got a few members of the Jaguar Band together, the band from Expensive Soul, and invited a number of household names that, one way or the other, were part of his path, like Virgul, Carlão, Valete and Sam The Kid, the latter an important player in his success, as he founded the label Quarto Mágico to release “Eu e os Meus”, Dino’s first solo album.

The track “Mamã” would open the right doors to a strong personal discovery time, as it was written in Creole and dedicated to his mother, of course, leaving a soothing fragrance from Cape Verde in the air that would be fully explored in “Eva”, the record released in 2013 after a trip to Cape Verde with his father. “I went there for the first time in 1987 and came back traumatized. There wasn’t any running water or electricity. It wasn’t for me. After twenty-something years, I went back, and it changed my life. The conversations with my grandparents… It was no longer a child seeing all that, but a grown-up, and I realized they were happy with almost anything — at least that’s what I thought, anything”.

Dino D’Santiago by Sbrugens

Thanks to this record, Dino got to know the world and its many and distant sides, from Seoul to New York City to Belo Horizonte and countless other great cities. But Lisbon has some other kind of rhythm, a different light, which contributed a lot to “Mundu Nôbu”, a graceful fusion of styles and ranges of two flags — even more — perched on an artist that wanted keep funaná close to hip hop. “Kalaf was the first to say I shouldn’t alienate the more urban sounds, because most of the people calling me to sing were not from the traditional, more conservative side of my music. But these, on the other hand, were also by my side, Tito Paris, Bulimundo, all these great names from the Cape Verde scene were embracing me because of what I was writing”.

For this last album, Dino counted on Paul Seiji, a British producer that worked wonders on the Cape Verde sounds that Dino recorded there, and Rusty Santos, a producer from New York who trusted in the slow funaná, “which is my favorite”, he tells me. Carlão also played an important role here, as he was the one pushing Dino to show it to Branko, from Enchufada, and the “Nova Lisboa” happened just like that, with the lyrics and the melody just coming to him, “and then we just had to take care of it”. Two months after the album came out, it was already considered one of the best of the year by Portuguese critics, which took him across borders again and got him a feature in Rolling Stone. This is an album that reveals a new identity that goes beyond barriers and reinvents genres, without forgetting that Lisbon, which for Dino fits perfectly into Village, who he met thanks to DJ Glue, with whom he recorded a track for his “Goodies” EP, right there among the containers where Dino says he feels great at. “It inspires me a lot. The great thing about this is that you see people coming and going, lots of things happening at the same time, which can help you through your creative process. To me, the containers have a lot to do with Cape Verde, which lives off the sea, and there are many containers coming in to help the country and many going. It’s like I’m standing in a harbor in Mindelo but docked in Lisbon. I’m sure I’ll be stopping by for my next album. Everything’s telling me I have to be here, so that’s where I’m staying”.

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Kruella D'Enfer at Village Underground, with her painting and the bus of Buzz Lisboeta in behind

Kruella D’Enfer by Sbrugens

Even at a distance, she makes sure she visits this second home with the frequency desirable to keep her creative sanity well endowed. To Village she gave a message that has lasted through the years, under storms and climate turmoil, but always with that je ne sais quoi that’s so her, that doesn’t fade away or goes away. Colorful twists and turns seem to be a given in this village of containers, a living blend that enriches those who visit and stay — with their mouths wide open, stunned, I’m sure. And one of the first people to spread this visual abundance out was Kruella D’Enfer, Ângela Ferreira’s bold yet magical alter ego.

In a time when Village was given its first steps, Kruella sprung for it and asked to be a part of it, since she was also trying to get ahead with her short career as a visual artist and illustrator. “When Mariana was starting to build Village was when I was looking for some space to work in. Since we already knew each other, I texted her and asked if she’d be interested in filling the containers, in a way that the space was not totally empty, we could even take some photos and promote it. It made all the sense to Village to have movement and see if it was going to work. It was a trial of sorts. I ended up staying almost a year before I moved to Thailand for a handful of months”.

From Kruella’s vast repertoire we can expect enigmatic twists that stand out thanks to the colors, most of the time graced by the presence of singular creatures that have nothing better to do than to welcome us to their universe, which is also what she did at Village: “this started pretty slowly. First it was the giant wall painted by AKACorleone, but there was another container facing another entrance that could use some painting, too, with something that would emphasize the name”, she tells me. And there it goes, WELCOME TO VILLAGE UNDERGROUND LISBOA, a message that perfectly fits into the eclectic soul of the space.

Kruella D’Enfer by Sbrugens

After that, the relationship with Village has been “great” and keeps materializing step by step when the opportunity arises, like the collective exhibition with Halfstudio, in 2016, or the workshop about illustration and street art for students from the Communication Design and Performative Arts degree at ESTAL, in 2017. It’s still utterly invigorating to realize a young talent who virtually started in one of these containers — that have seen a lot of creative customs — can look at younger generations and do something for them without questioning it. Mariana Simão, for example, got her to thank for the appropriate paints for her first wall on one of the containers, something that she wasn’t grasping and that Kruella caught on time. Details from someone who’s been working for quite some time in this field and is not afraid to pass on a word of wisdom.

“There’s always many stories to tell about Village”, she says among smiles. “This was always a place where I’ve been given total freedom and where I can always count on finding people from different fields. I also enjoy coming here when I’m doing interviews because I feel this is essentially a pretty illustrative place of what’s going on in Lisbon. Village is a lot of things, but they all have something to do with what interests me”.

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Karlon at Village Underground

Karlon by André Dinis Carrilho (@princeofcombro)

On one of those days of climatic catatonia, with rain and sun appearing in turns, such a typical sign of our usual spring, Village welcomed us, me and Carlos Furtado, or Karlon Krioulo, or Karlon, and immediately I foresee a fun, pure conversation. Karlon is one of those people that oozes good vibes everywhere he goes and is not afraid to share his colossal heart with those who come close. Music brought him to Village in 2017 because of his album ‘Passaporti’, his homage to a past by affinity he crafted with Cape Verde and the sounds of these exotic, breathtaking islands. “I came her to rap at Village’s third anniversary and I found lots of people hanging out, peacefully, chilling. When it got to my turn, I wanted to psych them up, and the sound was not that good, there were a few issues, but I was going to sing anyway”, he tells me, “all I want is to show my work. We did it and it was super fun. It was intimate because the crowd was pretty close”.

Perhaps the proximity between people and stages ever growing there is Village’s ultimate asset: even though it’s underground, it has this innate ability of making us feel in the center of the world, with all the attention turned to the art of creating and doing things well. “Of all the stages, and I’ve climbed on a lot of them, I enjoyed this the most. I was never fond of that thing where the crowd is miles away. Here I was pretty close, I felt this good energy”, he says.

Although this was not his first contact, after this he kept on nurturing close ties with the unique village, opening doors wide enough that allowed him to be part of Acorde Maior this year as a mentor and central figure to whom kids can look, listen to and learn. Karlon is, without a shadow of a doubt, a storyteller, a dreamer that writes everything down on paper, as “writing is the key to everything”, as he said so himself, therapy, a place he found to empty his head from the more confusing voices. But also discipline and the sense of responsibility play an important role in his routine, something that was swayed by his parents, who are from Cape Verde. Karlon carries around this legacy of education transmitted by this more demanding, work-driven generation. The combination of these two sides of the same man revealed to be perfect for a timely hand-over at Acorde Maior, where he could share knowledge, lyrics, free style, writing, organization — everything he uses and consumes every single day.

In his mind he keeps an idea that goes beyond the four days at Acorde Maior, “a school” with a selected group of kids where they could learn a number of activities. And, he believes, “the perfect place for kids to have music, sound, recycling, sewing, costumes, those things”, he says, “it’s Village”, recalling the times at Chapitô, where he learned about lots of things and felt stimulated like he’d ever felt to leave his comfort zone.

It’s a matter of energy, really, a powerful chemistry that rolls out and expands and swells until it’s covering our skin. And the energy that Karlon receives and gives back in equal measure in this space of thousand colors is unutterable and can’t be regulated. It’s contagious thanks to his gestures, his smile, his laidback “hi” launched at people who knows him and who don’t. Karlon is, deep down, the mirror of the people who are happy here and aren’t afraid to show it and end up coming back and back and back again. “There must be some Portuguese word to describe Village, but I haven’t found it yet”.

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Graça Fonseca at Village Underground

Graça Fonseca by André Dinis Carrilho (@princeofcombro)

I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times that a project, even before it was born, made so much sense for a city. In a time when Lisbon was still slowly opening itself to a social, cultural and touristic, Village was still on Mariana’s mind in such a passionate turmoil she could barely keep it to herself. It was because of that that Graça Fonseca, currently Minister of Culture, read about it amidst the shadow of a wishlist. “I recall seeing an article on a magazine with new year’s wishes from several people, and among them was Mariana and her wish of seeing Village come to life in Lisboa”, she says.

I’m talking of a time before 2014, pre-Village and all, an all-or-nothing of breakthroughs that were starting to emerge in the city and, step by step, mold it into what it is today — even though it’s not possible to describe with the right words a true cosmopolitan metamorphosis that got ahold of the city, for better or worse. Back then, and still occupying the position of councilwoman of Economy and Innovation the Câmara Municipal de Lisboa (Lisbon City Council), she didn’t know the concept or Mariana, but the realm of new projects and up-and-coming business areas for the city, anchored to entrepreneurship and cultural industries and technology and trade startups, were making up ground.

Graça Fonseca by André Dinis Carrilho (@princeofcombro)

“When I read the article, it seemed absolutely fitting to what we were building here”, she recalls. Perhaps thanks to her nature of evident sincerity and total clarity of what she believes in Graça got ahead of everyone else when it comes to interpreting this place. And perhaps due to it Village had the opportunity of being built right then and there because someone powerful believed and still does in what diversity, multiculturality, social respect and good music could do for a city.

Alcântara was already a go, conversations with Carris had already started and Graça kept her unshakeable support during the times that following Village’s construction, “which had this peculiar appearance. Today, people look at this as if it were part of the city, but, when it opened, it wasn’t like that. People forget easily; Lisbon was something completely different from what it is today”.

We can’t talk about coworking spaces in containers and buses, one of Village’s first flagship concepts, without talking about the “very diversified programming based essentially on music and more” that composes this fascinating, almost mythical place, as Graça refers with the certainty of someone who knows, with all the needed certainties of that moment, that the path Village has been coursing through hits the jackpot in many ways. To her, Village “is definitely a cultural project”. Period. “Everything that happens here in terms of culture ends up having an extraordinary effect on people and its relationship with them, as far as appealing to different generations is concerned, the social impact in projects like Acorde Maior” and everything happens here every single day.

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AKACorleone and his art on the containers of at Village Underground Lisboa

AKACorleone by André Dinis Carrilho (@princeofcombro)

If we’re talking of profound visual impression, Pedro Campiche, or AKACorleone, stands out from the attentive crowd with such a nonchalant attitude that I almost forget, for a moment, that he was the one who painted a big part of Village from top to bottom in its earlier times. It’s still quite impossible to miss out on this project, the several faces of different containers that have resisted to the passage of time and the intervention from other artists who come and go, a blatant sign of the perpetually moving winds of change.

It was in 2014 that AKACorleone climbed on the scaffoldings, undeniable partners of many hours of work painting on a huge scale, and adorned the surfaces of these metallic giants so that a new home could be born here and evolved. “When I had my first exhibition at Underdogs, ‘Find Yourself in Chaos’, I wanted to have a project out of doors and challenged Mariana… In fact, I can’t even remember if she wasn’t the one challenging me. It must’ve been, since I don’t think I’d have that crazy idea of painting the containers right off the bat. I’d probably always need that push. What I made had a lot to do with what I was doing on the exhibition, which was playing with anamorphic perspective and points of view a little bit different from I usually made, and the containers were perfect for this. Village wanted to take a risk; I was the first person who painted this colossal area, and I feel like it ended up helping to create an identity for it. I’m very proud of it”, he tells me.

Before this disruptive village of ours appeared, Mariana already followed Pedro’s work, probably one of the driving motives for this strong bet on his work, which ended up reflecting on such a dead-on outcome. “Mariana was definitely one of the first people to believe in me”, he says. And for good reason.

Seeing Village as a platform for many artists to succeed in different fields is also to get a glimpse of the people who were part of it since the beginning, were gone when they had to be gone and later returned, whichever way. It’s sort of a boomerang effect “where people know they’ll find something a little bit different. When I think of Village and come here, I have the feeling that’s constantly changing for the best, that there’s always something new, a container painted differently by someone I don’t know, and then I research it and I immediately get access to someone that’s just starting”, just like he was when he first got his hands on those containers, forever branded with his inimitable strokes.

A place that keeps on surprising us without us even realizing it, let us just say, thanks to the freedom of expression and speech from those who plan Village’s day to day routine and those who also accept these challenges shaped as walls that inspire and seduce. “Those who know Mariana know how she’s a force of nature who can take care of business and do surreal things. In the beginning, Village was exactly this. There was the Village Underground in London, but it seemed to much complicated to do something like that in Lisbon, but it happened, and now it’s transformed into a cultural hub with concerts, exhibitions, markets. I’ve already seen such different things here I don’t even know. Most of all, there’s a part of Village that’s growing along with the city, always changing, always following its path”. Or perhaps it’s the city that’s following Village’s path

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