In partnership with MEO Kalorama 

As well as offering a vibrant array of renowned global musical talent, MEO Kalorama is a festival that prides itself on highlighting the creative communities on its very own doorstep.

Built upon three core pillars of music, arts and sustainability, the second edition of the festival is set to push such values even further this summer. As well as bringing mainstage giants like Blur, Florence & The Machine and Foals to the Portuguese capital, the festival will also proudly shine a light on the culture from the city’s vibrant streets who truly make Lisbon what it is.

To bring such characters and stories to life, MEO Kalorama has compiled seven individual stories to represent Lisbon’s seven hills. Capturing the very essence of what it means to be a Lisbon citizen in 2023, we hear from individuals using the city as inspiration to create, share and drive forward their art. From visual artists to ceramists, tattooists, booksellers, skaters and more, you can discover these vibrant individuals and groups below:

Episode 1: Betesga Skate Zine

“Our goal is to get girls all around the country together and make women’s skateboarding known,” explains Joana, co-founder of Betesga Skate Zine. As a community driven publication striving to unite and connect female skaters across Portugal, she continues to stress: “We want to show them that they’re not alone and I think that’s massively important.”

Co-founder Maggie explains how music bleeds into skating culture across the city. “Music is a part of our lives, especially while we skate. Without music skating wouldn’t be the same, it’s part of the mood, part of the culture, part of the attitude.” Afro-rap trailblazer Dino d’Santiago and revolutionary punk upstarts Amyl and the Sniffers are just some of the names they’re looking forward to seeing at MEO Kalorama this August.


Episode 2: Sasha (Tattooist)

“When I am drawing my art or making my tattoos, I always need the presence of music,” says Sasha, a Ukrainian artist who has called Lisbon home for over twenty years. “It’s something that motivates me,” he continues. “It engages me and helps the process itself.” Having been drawn to his love of art through drawing at a young age, the 26-year old says he eventually combined it with his love of tattoos in his teenage years and two worlds collided.

Though the city originally offered a sense of security, Sasha says he loves Lisbon’s simple charms like the weather and people, and would recommend a great way to soak up the city would be to walk around and get a coffee just like the locals do. Speaking on how important music is to his work, Sasha adds, “It’s an essential part of life because without music there is no art in the sense that there’s no source of inspiration.”


Episode 3: Carlota Rodrigues (Professional Dancer)

Perched on a balcony overlooking the picturesque city skyline, professional ballet dancer  Carlota Rodrigues is quick to share her love for Lisbon, a city she returned home to after studying at the prestigious Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow. “Lisbon is a very multicultural city and as I lived abroad I grew as a person surrounded by many different nationalities so I feel at home here, I really love the light of the city and the river.”

Naturally as a dancer, she says that music is fundamental and constant in her life. “It’s what stimulates me and what motivates me, it sets the mood and it’s always present with me.” This year at MEO Kalorama, Carlota cites headliner Florence & The Machine as a standout act.

“I’ve been getting a lot of inspiration from the videoclip works she’s been doing recently. I have choreographed two music videos in recent times so I find her work very interesting.”


Episode 4: Cécile Mestelan (Ceramicist) 

From her boutique sheet-white ceramics studio, Cécile explains how the surroundings of Lisbon inspired her craft after she relocated from France. “I used to do a lot of things all in white but then I got inspired by the colours of the city.” Describing Lisbon itself, she says she was charmed by the blend of city, seaside and nature. “I like to walk around and get lost a little bit.”

As well as being in the studio every day, she says music is also a huge part of her daily routine. “I think music always gives a dynamic in life and supports happiness and also sadness.” Looking forward to this year’s festival she highlights Arcade Fire as a big set and also festival-seasoned indie legends Metronomy who will bring their colourful leftfield alt-pop to town.


Episode 5: Rui Campos (Bookseller)

In a cosmopolitan city like Lisbon, it’s natural that artforms come from all over the globe. Brazilian bookseller Rui Campos, who runs Livraria da Travessa is a fine example of just that. With a hand over his heart, he says his bond and love with music is strong, as the shop also doubles as a record store, “I like to choose the moment I listen to music and which song I want to listen to. Music is a divine thing for me, for me it overpowers me.”

With origins in Brazil, he said it was natural for the bookstore to open in a forward-thinking city like Lisbon. “When I was 20 years old I started working in a bookshop, the bookstore was a place where people could fight for freedom and democracy. One of the reasons [to come to Lisbon] was to increase the flow of Brazilian books to the Portuguese and international public.”


Episode 6: Helen Butler (Artist)

Having originally spent time in Lisbon for an artist residency, English painter Helen Butler says the city’s magnetic charm pulled her back to stay. “I fell in love with the light,” she enthuses from her vibrant studio. “In Lisbon I really love to see the sunrise over the river. I love to just walk around in the streets, it’s such a visual feast with all the coloured buildings and the little roads.”

As well as the colour pallette of the city, she also uses the power of music to inspire her art. “My paintings are really contemplative and peaceful but actually I find working with music is a really important contrast to the quietness of the work.” Looking ahead to MEO Kalorama this August, she also highlights Florence & The Machine as an unmissable set. “We’re actually from the same neighbourhood in London so it will be nice to see that!”


Episode 7: Batukadeiras (Orchestra)

A bridge between Portugal and Cape Verde, Orquestra de Batukadeiras is driven by a sense of community and connection. Founder and mentor of the orchestra Maria De Lurdes Monteiro explains their mission statement, “Music for me represents life, unity, solidarity, we have been taking on social work and cultural work to empower women.”

Stressing that music stretches beyond borders and dialects, Keila Cabral who is part of the Women of Cabo Verde Association says the group is part of her personal journey. “For me music has a big impact because it’s been in my life since I was a child when I sang in the church choir in Cape Verde.” Turning her thoughts to the driving factor behind the projects, she adds, “The goal is to make our culture known and make it more connected.”


MEO Kalorama takes place between August 31 – September 2. Tickets are on sale now

The post Exploring the magic of MEO Kalorama Festival: seven stories of Lisbon’s cultural fusion appeared first on NME.