|Posted by Eurovision On Top on February 22, 2014 at 9:50 AM|
Nowadays the Eurovision resembles a confused and disoriented “Babel"
Portugal is celebrating the 50th anniversary at Eurovision since it’s debut in 1964. So far the country never won nor even managed to attain the top 5. However big part of the Portuguese entries became evergreens and somehow part of the history of Portugal. One of those evergreens is undoubtedly “Conquistador”, the 1989 Portuguese entry by Da Vinci. “Conquistador” was not only a tremendous hit in Portugal but it also managed the rare feat of putting a whole nation convinced that the dream of a victory was about to become reality. Da Vinci didn’t win but they have written and performed the most famous Portuguese entry over the last 30 years. Even in 2014 there is no one who doesn’t know “Conquistador” being almost a modern Portuguese National Anthem. Eurovision on Top had the unique privilege to chat with the lead vocalist of Da Vinci, Iei-Or. In this comprehensive interview we have the opportunity to get a detailed overview on the charismatic band and their vision about the current Eurovision Song Contest.
1) The Da Vinci emerged in 1982 and in that same year two successful singles were released. Whose idea was it, what was the concept and what were the initial goals of Da Vinci?
The idea of doing a “electro pop” group came from Pedro Luís and João Heitor, both jazz musicians, who already had some years of experience as professional musicians, with some albums recorded with artists from well diverse areas: Pedro Luis with Tantra (symphonic rock band in 'Holocaust' and 'Humanoid Flesh'), the Sheiks (Paulo de Carvalho, Carlos and Fernando Chaby in “Pintados de Fresco” and 'Sheiks com Cobertura'), and José Mário Branco (in ‘Ser Solidário’;), João Heitor with The Chinchilas (of Filipe Mendes), and Araripa and Rão Kyao (jazz bands).
The pilgrim idea took place at the beach of Fuzeta Island, when we were at a summer vacation with the family, in 1981. We were so young, but with time and proper maturation, a concept that would become truly serious was born, the commitment to those who listened to us, with the arts in the broadest sense, although to date, the aim was just to have fun with the experience (Although some money would be good, because we were in our early life).
2) Let’s go back in time 30 years. The year of 1983 marks the debut of Da Vinci with a full-length "Caminhando". What does this record represents in your career? How did it allow you to establish your artistic path?
'Caminhando' was kind of a fulfillment of the promise that had been made with the first single ' Lisboa Ano 10.000 ' / 'Fantasmas ' which was an instant success in our first live performance on the TV show “Passeio dos Alegres” by Julio Isidro at Teatro Aberto in Lisbon. Since then, the public became interested and wanted more, so we corresponded with the recording of the 1st LP (in vinyl), 'Caminhando' (title of a half-funky song by João Heitor), in which the tracks were simple melodies with arrangements that resulted from some experimental productions by Pedro Luis (in Angel Studio, Lisbon) using the best synthesizers of the era (Mini-Moog, Poly-Moog, Arp Odyssey, Prophet-5), in combination with acoustic instruments (drums, percussion, grand piano, guitar). All this and a timid voice which was giving the first steps, singing in Portuguese, that gradually was getting more personality, tracing immediately the sound of the group, (the voice was known by the strange name of Iei-Or).
3) Between 1983 and 1987 Da Vinci released a string of singles but a new album only emerged in 1988 “A Jóia no Lótus" - with a new line-up, new record label and a new sound. However, it was necessary to wait one year more to hear of Da Vinci in full force. I speak of course of the year 1989 and your participation in the Festival RTP da Canção (Portuguese national selection for Eurovision). How did the idea to participate in that Festival come up? How did the song ‘Conquistador’ appeared?
I must highlight from these singles 'Hiroxima meu Amor' the 1st hit of the group (silver record at the time with over 25,000 units sold), 'Xau Xau de Xangai' and ' Anjo Azul' released by Polygram (Universal).
At the time a proposal was made by a national record company to compete; Ricardo Landum had already tried a melody, and Pedro Luis wrote the lyrics on purpose, regarding a topic that could somehow represent Portugal in Europe.
4) In the Festival da Canção "Conquistador" was a clear winner, with a huge advantage over the second place. Later, with the help of a stiffer promotion by your label at the time, Discossete, the song became the hit of the moment in Portugal. With the approach of the Eurovision season, increased the Portuguese hopes that this time we would conquer Europe. We finally had a great song and a great group. How did you live the time between the Festival da Canção and the Eurovision Song Contest?
In fact the pressure was high, because it was expected of us to conquer the long-awaited 1st place but, while in Lausanne, throughout the trials we got the idea that the criteria for choosing the winning song are other than those purely musical and artistic ...
The time between one festival and the other went fast, with the shooting of the promotional video, shot in several locations of Portugal, focusing on scenarios of historical interest that illustrated the song.
When one goes into a competition, the spirit must be one to win, or else you shouldn’t even begin. The 'army' that we took (the entire production team, public relations and promotion of RTP) proved insufficient to meet the large 'armies' highly professional and influential representations of big countries, which take very seriously that competition.
5) The truth is that while reviewing your performance on May 6, 1989, in Switzerland, there is no doubt that you gave a great performance. However the final result was a modest 16th place. How did you feel? Moreover, what do you remember of your Eurovision experience of 25 years ago?
I honestly do not like competitions, because I believe it loses the sense of art itself, this was an exception. As to how we felt, was probably the same as the Portuguese who have supported us. It is now reduced to one more moment, and what matters is that Portugal was well represented, with pride and artistic sincerity.
6) Is it true that your song was accused by the international press, mainly in the field of the lyrics, to have a fascist ideology?
I do not know what was said, but this ideology is repugnant to us, the fact is that in Lausanne we were cherished by the international press and our song one of the favorites at the backstage. However, when a band presents themselves defending their country and its history, sometimes they are misinterpreted and wickedly confused, but that only by ignorance and complexes which relate to other matters with which we have nothing to do. I may remind you that the same happened with 'Heróis do Mar’ (famous Portuguese band of the 80’s).
7) How was the return to Portugal? Were you afraid of people’s reaction because you were not the Conquistadores (Conquerors)?
We were welcomed with open arms, days later, in a grand live show by thousands of people who sang and waved flags. The public in general always saw us as the 'Da Vinci ' who defended them and our country proudly. You know, the Portuguese people are not fools; they have wisdom and see more than most people think. The History of Portugal is them, and I think that says it all. Glory is something ephemeral that takes work if we want to keep it, and that's what we have always tried. After all, ' Conquistador ' is just the nickname (cognomen) of our first king...
8 ) The truth is that regardless of the outcome, “Conquistador " has marked your career and in the subsequent 3 years you were, without doubt, one of the most cherished and sought after Portuguese bands for live concerts, even releasing at period another album, “Dança dos Planetas “. What did all the fame and glory mean to you at that time? At any moment did all the success that the group have put any weight within the group?
With the ' Conquistador ' already platinum (selling over 100,000 units, an almost unattainable feat in the present times in Portugal) we recorded 'Dança dos Planetas’, which was, for us, the best album in our entire career, which denotes the maturity of the band. The Da Vinci, throughout more than eighteen years of work, performing live, touring in Portugal and abroad (France, Switzerland, Canada, South Africa) was also a kind of school: several musicians joined and left the band. The success achieved with this dimension is something that eventually flows in itself, and this process involved making decisions. Some stayed longer than others, but the overall balance was positive and we would not change a thing.
Carlos Carvalho for EOT