This is a recording of a fadista singing at Peter's Cafe in Horta on the island of Fayal in the Azores. Here is the scene:
When we arrived at Peter's Cafe to listen to fado – the Portuguese songs of lament – it was more formal than I had expected. The venue, with an admission fee of 2 ½ euros (the kids were free), was not exactly in the cafe but next door. Tables covered in white linen were set at the front with chairs along the back wall. The fadistas had already arrived and were drinking coffee while they removed instruments from hard-shell cases: a 12 string mandolin (Portuguese guitar), a guitar and a bass. We were early but all the tables were reserved – all of them except for the one front and center not two feet from where the guitarist sat as the center of the trio.
It was with some trepidation that Tiffany and I accepted our usher's offer of this very visible table. Normally, with a two year old and a six year old at a 10pm concert, we would have preferred to be right in the back ready to make a hasty exit. But we were lucky: Seffa fell asleep during the first song and Solianna danced in her chair, traded winks with the singers and enjoyed every song until it ended after midnight.
A man and a woman traded off singing – the recording is of the man. He is dressed in a dark suit with a tie drawn up tight. He has a small mustache and he wrings his hands while gazing forlornly at the back ceiling -- his face contorted in sorrow.
We see lots of sheerwaters skimming the waves surface while sailing on the open ocean. But they are always silent. (For whatever reason, petrels are not silent on the open ocean and make a sound very much like these sheerwaters but an octave higher.)
On the rocky volcanic coast of the Azores one of the world's largest populations of Cory's Sheerwaters (Calonectris diomedea) nest. At night they fly from the cliffs and make the oddest squawking noise which is immediately recognized by anyone who has spent time in the Azores. I've been told that it is actually some form of echo location. This recording was made in the village of São João on the island of Pico at about 5am in the morning just out front of my bedroom at our friend Helen's house.
As the sheerwaters fly to their nests in the rocks they swoop within 10 or 15 feet of me, their wings lit up briefly by a lone streetlight. At the bottom of the rocky shoreline a large surf breaks.