ilhas Atlânticas

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The last track on Spastic Rhythms vol 1 is a Dave Black solo rendition of a tune by the Electricka Zoo.

It originally appeared on The Electricka Zoo (2017), and on the Other Islands: 2012-2018 compilation. It’s based around a (non-diatonic) Cmaj7 – Amaj7 pattern, with a bossa nova rhythm.

The words are in (beginner) Portuguese:

Eu gosto de falar

no meus ancestrais

de as ilhas Atlânticas

Madeiras e Açores

It’s dedicated to my great-great-grandfather Manuel Bernard.

Manuel José Bernard (1847-1928)

He was born in 1847 in Ponta Delgada, Flores Island, Azores, Portugal.

Portugal is the westernmost country in Europe, with its back to it geographically and culturally. It was the edge of the known world for Europeans until the Age of Discovery. The Azores islands are even further west.

As a teenager Manuel Bernard stowed away on a passing American whaling ship.

From a remote island in the Atlantic ocean, he ended up on an equally remote island in the Pacific – on the opposite side of the world, in Wellington, New Zealand.

He married Ann Rayner, a daughter of English immigrants. The family lived as farmers in the Wellington and Wairarapa regions, where I live now.

Bernard family, circa 1900

I’ve been once to Portugal, on my only trip to Europe thus far, in 2008. I spent a fortnight in the Algarve and Lisbon.

Portugal, 2008

I fell in love with the country – and hoped to return, to visit the Azores someday. But since the coronavirus pandemic, all overseas travel plans are on hold indefinitely.

As a pakeha New Zealander, I’m a product of one-way journeys undertaken by 19th century European settlers. Perhaps like them I’ll be in Aotearoa for the rest of my life? But it’s a good place to be…

Another great-great-grandfather, this one from Scotland, has also inspired a current musical project:

John Collie‘s poems ‘The Land of My Youth” and “The Emigrant’s Reflections” discuss a 19th century settler’s melancholy (or saudade) upon leaving their European homeland forever:

But, alas! those loved scenes I must leave now to others

For fate has decreed that I shall not remain

So adieu to the land of my youth and my fathers

To seek for a home o’er the wild foaming main.

Likewise, some Portuguese fado songs are about sailors lost at sea, on a one-way journey beyond the horizon. Some of the lucky ones found their way to Aotearoa.

Portuguese make up only 0.02% of New Zealand’s population – but by coincidence, the Digitator also had a Portuguese ancestor, his from the Madeira islands. Hence the tune.

I salute anyone that makes a whole album out of EDM post-punk avant-garde rock / jazz, reggae, Balkan, [and] Portuguese music” – Corrinne Rutherford, www.muzic.net.nz

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