The life and work of António Variações (born António Joaquim Rodrigues Ribeiro) follow the apotheotic-apocalyptic trend of many of the great media figures of the 20th century: a period of intense public visibility accompanied by a creative frenzy that was as meteoric as it was fleeting.
António would update, in his own way, the myth of the artiste maudit, while subtracting from this matrix the dark side of others’ incomprehension and solitary genius. In fact, from an early age his media appearance was well received by the Portuguese public, both in the eccentricity of his artistic persona and in the refreshing and avant-garde strangeness of his music. On the other hand, as António had never received a formal musical education, his innate talent and musicality would not have flourished without the collaboration of a host of renowned musicians, his contemporaries, who would help him shape the sound “between Braga and New York.”
His musical vision would thus become unparalleled in the Portuguese music scene. The profound originality of the synthesis he made between light popular music, folklore, fado and international pop/rock – a profoundly postmodernist synthesis – continues to arouse interest. The topicality of this vision justifies the renewed interest with which he regularly turns to his work as a central reference in Portuguese music.
Variations left a considerable amount of unedited audio recordings on home recording cassettes, which has been appreciated by new artists as a way of honoring his work, resurrecting it in the present. Confirming this recurring enthusiasm are, for example, the countless versions of the most popular songs, namely, “Canção de Engate” and “Vamos Além”; the five original songs edited in 1989, in the voice of Lena d’Água with the album “Tu Aqui”; the Humans project (2004); and, more recently, the edition of the unpublished “Parei na Madrugada” (2014) by the OqueStrada group. The test of time has recovered and dignified Variações as one of the greatest talents in Portuguese popular music of the 20th century.
António was born in December 1944, in the place of Fiscal, municipality of Amares, district of Braga. At the age of 12, he leaves for Lisbon, fascinated by the stars of the world of music and entertainment, and, possibly, already harboring the dream of one day becoming one of them. He would perform various jobs, from marçano to clerk, before doing military service in Angola; returning from Angola, he decides to look for other destinations, to broaden horizons, going abroad, with London as his first destination, where he resides for a few years and where he improves his English language; in 1976 he returned to Portugal for a short time and set out again to discover, this time to Amsterdam.
The relative lack of knowledge regarding the substance of his stays abroad, however, allows us to guess the contact that António had with elements of the artistic and musical culture that lived beyond the Pyrenees and, through that Europe, with the World. It was abroad that he learned the trade that would support him after his return to Portugal, that of barber. Shortly after his return to Lisbon, he opened his own unisex salon, entitled “P´ró Menino e P´rá Menina”, frequented by a clientele in tune with the most daring style and fashion novelties of the time. António is part of the small cultural and artistic elite that begins to develop, in a still provincial Portugal, symptoms of a developed, cultured, civilized and open to the world Europe.
This elite began to change the cultural life of the city from now mythical poles, such as “Trumps”, inaugurated in 1980 – a true launching pad for António’s musical career and meeting point for several notables from the world of arts, television and television. and music – as well as “Frágil”, opened in 1981, in a disreputable neighborhood that would become the quintessential territory of avant-garde cosmopolitanism of this period. The beginning of the 1980s saw a veritable revolution in customs, which was introduced through Lisbon’s nightlife, effectively opening the city’s provincial atmosphere to winds of change. António and his iconoclastic spirit were at the forefront of this radical change that gave new worlds to the small Portuguese world – relatively untouched, in essence, by the 1974 revolution.
The period between 1981-84 corresponds to the brief but intense development of António Variações’ career, catapulted by his television appearance on Júlio Isidro’s Passeio dos Alegres (1981), and finally consolidated through the publication of his first album “Anjo da Guarda ” (1983), several years after signing the contract with the publishing house Valentim de Carvalho. His premature disappearance, in 1984, put a promising musical career along the way.
It is already on his deathbed that António receives the news of the edition of the second album “Dar e Receiver” (1984) – an edition that saw the light of day at the insistence of António himself, since the publishing house EMI intended to postpone the edition due to the your illness. However, his memory has not faded, largely as a result of the tributes and revisitations made to his work by various figures in Portuguese music during the following decades, a movement that continues today. His memory remains in the ears of Portuguese people of all generations, which attests to the timelessness of his music and texts.
António, seen from a distance of 30 years, inevitably emerges as one of the founding fathers of contemporary Portuguese pop/rock music. The label is, in spite of everything, reductive and betrays the eclecticism and innovative richness of the songs he left us. His ghost hovers over Portuguese music, as an element of connection between a profound and ancestral Portugal – eventually lost – and a cosmopolitan modernity in whose heart he conquered a surely deserved place. Antonio was not ahead of his time. António was in his time and managed to show it brilliantly.