“Borracheiros”, 2023

"Borracheiros" were working class men that descended on foot from remote areas of Madeira's rough mountains carrying "new wine" towards the cellars so it could be stored in wooden barrels. These men, some as young as 14, would carry from 20 to 40 kilos of this produce in a recipient , called "borracho", hence their name. The misery and poverty are clear from their clothes and faces, as well as their dreadful and harsh stares. To make their tough journey easier these men would sing a type of traditional song, "Cantiga dos Borracheiros" or "Cantiga da Carga".
This traditional song was sung in turns, in which one of the men would sing alone several verses and when finished the group would cheer together to the one singing. Finally, one of the men would play a seashell, as a way to warn other slower borracheiros where the major group was located.

This type of singing was mostly screamed, filled with the pain of the journey. I contacted Rui Camacho, the president of "Associação Musical e Cultural Xarabanda", undeniable association for the preservation of Madeiran music and culture, and asked him if they had any field-recordings in the association's huge archive of the traditional singing of the “Borracheiros”, and I was sent a very rare recording of former “Borracheiros” interviewed in 1991, that included a discussion on how the tradition was done, followed by a performance of the traditional work song. I also discovered other two recordings of this work song, that I also used as samples.

My work consisted in creating a musical piece that faithfully represented the first picture, the hardship of the journey and life that these men carried, that faced true misery and exploitation in their lifetime.

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