Ana Lua Caiano – Vou Ficar Neste Quadrado




“Experimenting with the fusion of the traditional and the contemporary (Ana Lua Caiano’s) sonic palette nods melodically to her country’s history but is resolutely forward thinking. She creates music that’s disconcertingly confrontational and sonically expansive.”
– The Line of Best Fit

Ana Lua Caiano’s debut album melds rural Portuguese music traditions with layered vocals, synthesizers, insistent beats and field recordings. Her music is visceral and tightly focused pulling from a rich mosaic of influences that includes traditional group singing, musique concrete, songwriters from Portugal’s 70’s revolutionary period and electronic icons like Bjork and Laurie Anderson.

Hailing from Lisbon’s fertile musical underground, Caiano’s music – and its international reception – are moving forward quickly. Her lauded recent performances at Eurosonic and Transmusicales (where she recorded a KEXP session) certainly attest to that, as do the laser sharp emotions and highly individual sonics of her much anticipated first album: Vou Ficar Neste Quadrado (I Shall Stay in This Square).

Silence can be the perfect way to sharpen the senses. To let the world in, to allow thoughts to come to the surface. For Lisbon’s Ana Lua Caiano, those empty spaces – when she’s walking or can’t sleep – are when the ideas creep in. They’re her time to create. She takes them and moulds them into the songs that have poured out of her over the last two years. Initially for a couple of EPs (Se Dançar É Só Depois / 2023 & Cheguei Tarde A Ontem / 2022) that made a name for her around Europe and the world, and now on her debut album for Glitterbeat.

It’s electronic music. Utterly contemporary. Pulsing, glitchy, atmospheric and beat driven but with roots deep in the traditional Portuguese music her parents listened to when she was a child. “They had a lot of cassettes that they’d play,” she recalls. “I loved to mimic and I’d imitate the singers. I took it in by osmosis, I suppose, and the elements are still there in what I do.”

That’s the foundation; everything else has grown and flowered out that. But music has always been part of the fabric of her life. There were the classical piano lessons Caiano took until she was 13, then the four years of study at a jazz music school. All of it was discovery, but it was only a start. “Jazz gave more freedom, but it still had rules. By then I was listening to artists like Björk and Portishead, who offered a different tonality. I started going to workshops, learning about musique concrète, group singing, whatever I could learn outside of jazz.”

Everything fed into the pieces she began composing when she was 15, writing and singing for a couple of bands and playing synthesiser. But it was with Covid and lockdowns that she really had chance to take charge of her music.

Unable to play with other musicians, Caiano began experimenting at home with electro textures and clubby beats, expanding her horizons and fully blending her love of both electronic and Portuguese musical traditions.  She notes that “when I talk about traditional Portuguese music, I’m not talking about Fado, I’m talking about a type of sonority sung in the countryside using canons, harmonies, and chorus. It was mostly transmitted orally.”

By 2022 she’d recorded a single, an online live session and had submitted material to Womex, the influential global music exposition which was taking place in her hometown that year. She was offered a showcase that brought her to an international audience, and then things truly began to explode.

A pair of EPs that highlighted her unique vision and appearances at festivals followed, always as a one-woman band, with a midi keyboard, sampler, looper and a small arsenal of percussion instruments. All moving rapidly and building up to Vou Ficar Neste Quadrado. “The songs I write start with a melody. I record it, then I put it in my computer,” she explains. “Later, sometimes it could even be a year later, I’ll go through and select what works. Sometimes I sing words that make no sense. But it all begins with a small melodic idea.”

Rhythm is also a vital part of her music. It’s right there in her physical performance, constantly moving as she plays, pushing the song along, her body feeling every beat as she uses the bombo drum or the colourful brinquinho de madeira, a piece of traditional percussion made of small dolls in outfits from Madeira, mixing the most natural of instruments with her electronics.

Everything is layered, one thing built on another, both music and voices, with Caiano’s words often curiously oblique, as on “Cansada” (Tired), where an evolving refrain that forms the song’s spine feels more like a reflective chant: “You know/ you know, you know/ I don’t even like to leave/I don’t even like to sing/ I don’t even know how to love you anymore.”

They might sound personal, but, she says, “most of the lyrics are stories I’ve made up. They come from hearing people’s conversations.” Some are observations on life, like the title track, with its sarcastic look at the way people spend their days, stuck in a “square,” a comfortable place they’re afraid to leave. “Sit down and look at the sun, the sun that is far away, look at the sun that is so far away/ Let’s remain seated until the night arrives at home, until the night arrives at home.”

While Caiano’s lyrics are filled with strong images, her attention to visual details doesn’t stop there. Onstage, her performing space is very carefully arranged with her percussion instruments in front of the keyboard, as a focus for the eyes. Indeed, she feels her music is made to be seen as well as heard. That’s why she uses video as an important way to present her songs. “It’s crucial for me to have a visual element so each song has its own visual identity. The videos are short surrealistic films trying to expand the ideas of the music.”

Since she began her sonic experiments during lockdown, Caiano has been relentlessly pushing the borders of her music. It is of course a process that already began when she first imitated traditional singers or took her first piano lesson. It is a process that’s led her to the road she’s on now, one where tradition and electronics walk side by side. “I think it’s quite experimental,” she says, affirming that her music emphasizes the restless and evolutionary. “I believe traditional music evolves with the world – nowadays you can make traditional music with a computer or talk about themes that weren’t relevant or didn’t exist in the past. Traditional music is always evolving.”

Travelling forward fast and sure, Ana Lua Caiano is definitely not stuck in a square.