Surprise encounters with Renato Oliveira, an incredible Portuguese musician
The first time I saw Renato Oliveira, the namesake of Olive Tree Dance, stand behind an oversized digeridoo I didn’t really know what to expect. I’d heard Australian Aboriginals and western backpackers coaxing notes out of painted wooden tubes but Renato takes digeridoo playing to a whole new level.
With just a guy on a compact drum box and occasional female vocals, Olive Tree Dance filled the room with vibrating, thumping, impossible to resist rhythms. Any inhibitions the audience may have had were quickly shed and soon everyone was dancing around like a loon, lost in the tribal sounds.
That was the first surprise.
The next was an almost exclusive performance on a beach at Cortegaça where they were one of the main acts for the Surf at Night Festival. Hours before they were due on stage, they set up in a small tent and began working their magic. It obviously wasn’t a scheduled gig as there were only a few people gathered to watch.
The most recent surprise happened last time I went to Porto. Mike and I went to Contagiarte, a cultural centre cum nightclub housed in a rambling old building. Musicians and bands were dotted around, setting up wherever there was space and vying for audiences. I caught a glimpse of Renato’s legendary dreadlocks heading towards the garden and followed, uncertain if it was even him but curious.
When I realised that not only was it him, but he was about to perform, I plonked myself on a bench in front of him, grinning like a loon and probably scaring him slightly. This time, he had a kind of one-man-band set up with his digeridoo, a string of tubular bells and other percussion instruments. There was a woman with him, Mariana Root, who sang and played some kind of box; I found out later that they’ve formed a new band, Drop Etnica.
Together, they created a more mystical, spiritual sound than Olive Tree Dance, although there were moments when everyone was on the verge of breaking into dance. They only played a few tracks outside and I thought that was it from them for the evening; Renato was suffering from a bad cold.
But no, there was one more surprise in store for us. Just as we were heading downstairs to leave, we heard the unmistakably deep tones of a digeridoo reverberating around the stairwell.
This post was inspired by the Weekly Photo Challenge: Surprise.