It's a gloomy, rainy Wednesday and we are hanging around at the Faculty, when a couple of students approach us offering free tickets to a concert taking place that night at the Casa da Música.
The group playing was called Blasted Mechanism, who we later found out was one of the most famous bands in Portugal, well-known for its original, homemade instruments and costumes. That night the band performed a tribute to David Bowie.
On the tickets we read: "+MUSICA +AJUDA" (in Portuguese: "more music means more help"), and when we ask what kind of organisation is behind the concert, the students tell us that it is an association helping the homeless and those in poverty.
We cannot help but think: “This is so Utopian!”
In fact, music was a fundamental aspect of communal life on Thomas More's fictional island Utopia, a force which brought people together to sing and play at the end of the day. Now we learn that this organisation has a very similar idea: generate solidarity between the general public and those in poverty by bringing people together through a mutual love of music. But who are the Utopian minds behind this project?
Before the concert, we managed to meet the project manager and learn some more about this amazing initiative.
+MUSICA +AJUDA is a six-month long festival that was created, as its name says, to help people through music.
The idea came from the wish of few music promoters to make a difference in their country and invest their abilities and knowledge into a musical – but also philanthropic – project.
We talked to Martim Rodrigues, project manager and one of the people who developed this non-profit project which brings artists and their music closer to people, whilst doing something good for society at the same time. Non-profit, explained Rodrigues, meaning that not only he and his colleagues earn no money from the project, but they are also its main investors. All the income from the concerts and events – as well as the donations they receive from private individuals - go directly back into the organisation to help fund further events, pay musicians, support voluntary aid associations, and advertise and promote their cause.
It is thanks to a donation that we were able to see the concert for free: after buying all the tickets to the event, the patron organisation decided to offer them to young people and students in order to raise interest in the festival.
The festival is currently supporting the Portuguese charity CAIS, which operates in Lisbon and Porto, helping the poor, homeless and those in poverty to reintegrate into society. For example, the charity helps people to find a job and also offers temporary shelter to those who need it. The main goal of the music festival is to support CAIS in raising awareness of their mission.
The festival puts on concerts, named "Pocket Shows", where musicians are given the chance to play not only the music they are known for – but also the music they like to play for their own entertainment, the songs or genres that inspired them, or the songs of bands or artists that they would like to pay tribute to.
This was the case at the concert we saw on that gloomy Wednesday, when Blasted Mechanism played a tribute to David Bowie. Tiago Bettencourt, who performed after, also played a variety of songs by artists that had inspired him.
More concerts will follow, from now until June, when the project will end with a "big event" that will take place at the famous Estádio do Restelo in Lisbon, a location with a historical as well as symbolic value for the Portuguese music scene.
Looking for concert tickets? (http://maismusicamaisajuda.pt/cartaz/)
More about CAIS: http://cais.pt/