Francesco Valente was born in Italy, studied Foreign Languages and Literature in Milan, chose Portuguese as his first language, won a scholarship from the Camões Institute to improve his language skills, and studied at Universidade de Lisboa. Paolo Makossa did the same course, but in Naples, and studied at the same Portuguese university. They were in the same class, decided to stay in Lisbon, but didn’t meet.
It was only years later that they met in Lisbon’s nightlife and realized they had very similar interests and career paths.
After studying languages, Francesco went into the music industry and is a member of several musical projects, such as the band Terracotta. Paolo continued with languages and specialized in African literature.
To learn more about this culture, he started listening to African sounds and discovered Terrakota, a band with “songs of the world”. And so, after passing through the same places, without having crossed paths, the two Italians became friends.
Francesco then asked Paolo to help him with a dream: founding Rádio Olisipo, a radio station that aims to give visibility to independent music made by those who pass through or are in Lisbon.
This project is the “culmination of a friendship of more than 25 years”, says Paolo.
The ideia of a radio
The idea to launch a radio station came about when Francesco had scheduled ten days to go to Italy to record an album with a friend, in March 2020.
“Ten days became 95 days of a sweet prison,” he recalls, saying that on the second day in Italy the country was closed due to the pandemic. It was a sweet prison because at that time the mind didn’t stop thinking about projects.
“Among the various mental wanderings came this idea of creating a radio station,” he explains.
When he returned to Portugal he received support from Direção Geral das Artes to develop a project called “Ágora”, which consists of interviews with musicians and other cultural producers about the “experience of artists and independent work during the pandemic period”, and these interviews revealed several issues among which “the emotional, financial and creative impact that the pandemic had on artists”, as well as the “visions of each one about the art world and cultural policies”. Although the pandemic was the main topic, the goal was to go beyond that and share with listeners the creative process of the music.
With the interviews recorded, it was necessary to have a platform to give them visibility. And the idea of launching the radio got wings. “Having an independent radio station dedicated to independent music produced mainly by musicians living in Lisbon and the interviews would be ideal,” Francesco explains. And so, Rádio Olisipo was born.
The choice of the name was a way to pay tribute to Lisbon, recalling the Roman name of the Portuguese capital. But only after they chose it, they discovered its relationship with Fernando Pessoa, the famous Portuguese poet.
“We discovered that Pessoa had a company called Olisipo whose goal was to internationalize Portuguese culture, in addition to translating works of international literature into Portuguese,” Francesco explains. And the name became even more special since they found parallelism with radio. “Our radio wants to internationalize the music that is made in Lisbon, whether by Lisboetas, Portuguese who live here, or immigrants, like us,” he says.
Lisbon serves as a “meeting point for music,” says Paolo, mentioning that the independent music playing at Olisipo is by artists from all over the world who have passed through or settled here. “A listener who is in Moldova, Finland, or Argentina and wants to hear some independent music made in Lisbon, can tune in to Olisipo,” Francesco adds.
On the air 24 hours a day, the radio plays various musical styles that do not have space on commercial radio stations, “where there is no time to play the whole album, only the singles are played, there is no space for instrumental music, and we play it,” Francesco exemplifies.
An international aim
The interviews of the “Agora” project are intercalated with the playlists.
But there is more content: the “Disco Voador” program, in which the radio invites an artist to take a trip through a particular sound, area, or musical genre.
“We invite, for example, a Belarusian artist living in Lisbon, who takes a trip through the sounds of Eastern Europe,” explains Paolo.
The radio has received positive feedback. For now, the two Italians “want to consolidate the radio structure”. In the future, they may be supported by their listeners. The radio has been online since April, and the studio is in the BOTA space (Base Organizada da Toca das Artes) – a musical co-work, in Anjos.
You can read this article in Portuguese.
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