Lisbon nights inspiring Madonna
LISBON- Agence France- Presse
In a neighborhood bar on a cobbled square in Lisbon's historic working-class Alfama district, an eclectic mix of punters pull up little wooden stools around a dozen intimately lit tables.
On the walls hang guitars and an old piano stands ready to accompany that evening's music, be it fado, Cape Verde morna, Brazilian bossa nova or a delirious fusion of all of these and more.
Unassuming it may be in appearance but the Tejo Bar is a rich musical melting pot, each day infused with a different style and atmosphere depending on the musicians who pass by.
So instrumental has it become on the Lisbon music scene that U.S. superstar Madonna counts among its fans, crediting the little bar in her adopted home city for setting the stage for her upcoming, new album.
"Inspiration for my new record all started here in Lisbon, at Tejo Bar," the 60-year-old queen of pop said on Instagram, of her "Madame X" album, set for release on June 14.
Madonna moved to the Portuguese capital in 2017 so that her son David Banda- one of four children adopted in Malawi-could attend the Benfica football academy, where he remains enrolled.
It did not start particularly well.
"I thought it was going to be super fun and adventurous, but then I found myself just going to school, picking up kids, and going to soccer matches and really being 'Netty-No-Mates', and I got a little bit depressed," Madonna told the MTV music channel.
Things changed though after she began meeting artists and musicians in Lisbon - the capital of a vast former colonial empire including Brazil- and then discovered the Tejo Bar.
"Lisbon is a melting pot of cultures... musically, from Angola to Guinea-Bissau, to Spain, to Brazil, to France, to Cape Verde," the singer, who has six children, told MTV.
"I had the pleasure and honor to meet musicians from all these places and be inspired by their music and let it influence me.
"And that's how all these songs came to be" on the "Madame X" album, she added.
Co-owner Mira Fragoso, a Brazilian former actress, is proud of the Tejo Bar's creative force, in what was once a traditional district and is now increasingly popular among foreigners and tourists.
"Offering a space that inspires artists like Madonna fills me with joy," she told AFP.
Customers also include locals, writers, painters and students, while musicians describe improbable musical encounters such as a pianist playing a Jacques Brel song with an Austrian violinist or a Japanese guitarist accompanying a Portuguese singer.
Madonna met 33-year-old Brazilian pianist Joao Ventura through the Tejo Bar.
"She was sitting in a corner that evening," Ventura recalled.
At the request of a friend, he sat down at the piano and played a bossa nova piece interlaced with strains of Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata.”
"The next day, she called me to say she liked it, and proposed performing with me in New York," he said, telling AFP how, at first, he could not quite believe he was talking to Madonna.
He said that the pair met three times to rehearse at Madonna's house in Lisbon, before he played piano for her on three songs performed on stage at the 2018 Met Gala.