November 2022 and we were back in Portugal, this time performing Orchestra of Samples at well-being and land-regeneration event Primal Gathering in Odiáxere, near Lagos in southern Portugal.

All the artists were encouraged to participate in the re-forestation and permaculture activities, and working with teams from Reflorestar Portugal, we took part in digging and planting trees, from oaks to pomegranate trees.  The event took place at the amazing organic farm and eco-resort Quinta Vale da Lama, where they grow everything from almonds to oranges, and pretty much all the food served at the event was also grown there or locally.

We performed after a quartet of incredibly talented refugee musicians from Afghanistan called Bridge for Peace.  Both percussionist Iúri Oliveira and singer Edgar Valente from Portuguese band Criatura then joined us, guesting on Orchestra of Samples (we recorded some of the band’s members, including Iúri, in Lisbon during our previous Portugal trip).

EBRAHIM MOHAMMADI:  The following morning we took the opportunity to record a session with Bridge for Peace santur player Ebrahim Mohammadi who we’d met the night before (the santur hammered dulcimer dates back nearly 3000 years to Mesopotamia!). He’s been been playing the instrument for over a decade, originally studying in Iran, and has lived in Portugal now for about a year, explaining that he was a teacher in Kabul at ANIM – the Afghanistan National Institute of Music, and had little choice but to flee with colleagues when the government fell in 2021.  Here’s an Al Jazeera news piece explaining how 96 members of ANIM, including musicians and staff, fled the country; first to Qatar then to Portugal where they’ve since been granted asylum.  Now based in Portugal, the school continues in exile, preserving Afghan music and traditions, here’s the speech that its founder Dr Ahmad Sarmast made in The Hague at the World Justice Forum on 1st June 2022.

Huge thanks to Primal Gathering for everything.

While in the Portugal for the music industry conference WOMEX (abbreviation of World Music Expo, as it focuses on world music), we were introduced to multi-instrumentalist Carlos Rodrigues aka Kabeção – a wonderful self-taught musician, instrument developer and sound explorer.

Based in Parede, an hour or so along the coast from the Portuguese capital Lisbon, Kabeção’s been instrumental in recent developments of the handpan (also known as the pantam), working closely with instrument maker Yishama, helping create new designs in what is more akin to a new generation of lap played steelpan drums than to what may look like a hang drum (such as we recorded in Madrid some years ago). If you’re interested, here’s an article on the difference between the instruments.

Since his early youth, and with no formal training, Kabeção has always loved exploring sounds with percussion and rhythm, from strings to woodwind he experimented, composed and recorded. He’s since collaborated with a number of different projects, including ethno-contemporary group Khayalan and electro tribal dance band T3ka and in 2015, he was finalist on television’s Portugal’s Got Talent – you can see a clip of his performance here.  As well as a compilation and an EP, he’s released three albums to date, Touching Souls (2017), live album The Bell Cave recorded at the bell shaped caves of Beit Guvrin National Park in Israel (2018) and Freedom Expressions (2020).  Also in 2020 he set-up a weekly school with instrument maker Yishama, teaching the handpans / pantams.

It was an absolute pleasure spending the afternoon together and we were really appreciative of the time Carlos gave us, as we ended up recording a whole number of instruments with him from his huge collection, including a handpan, a cajonico, (a newly developed percussion instrument combing elements of a cajón and bongos), a customised udu (the Indian clay drum) that he’d designed, adding a small drum skin to close one of the openings like the Indian ghumot clay drum, a Chinese hulusi gourd flute, and adufe (the traditional Portuguese square frame drum typically played by women).

Do check out his Spotify and his Bandcamp!

Massive thanks to Helena and Nicole Anna Maria from Primal Gathering for all the introductions!