Portugal is known for its summer music festivals, and every year, music lovers from across Europe and abroad descend on the southern European country to catch their favourite acts live. Last summer, I decided to join in on the fun, and headed to Portugal to attend the FMM-Sines Festival Músicos do Mundo, a multi-day world music festival held in the coastal town of Sines, a two-hour drive south of Lisbon.
Sines is a small parish port town with few attractions save for its quaint old-town and its 14th century castle (allegedly the birthplace of famous explorer Vasco de Gama). The festival was created in the late 1990s by the local City Council in an effort to drive tourism to Sines. Their efforts seem to have paid off, for every year, thousands of visitors attend what has become the largest world music festival in Portugal.
When my Lisbon-based friend Rui told me about the festival, I imagined a Portuguese version of the type of music festival I was accustomed to having grown up on the West Coast of the US. All my previous music festival experience had been characterized by big stages, long rows of vendors selling food and clothing, camping, partying, and lots of strict checking of wristbands. While FMM Sines definitely had some of the trappings I was used to, I was surprised at how casual everything was. Most of the festival was free, and the stage that required ticketing was smack in the middle of the town’s castle!
Moreover, while there was no camping on-site (the festival is held smack in the middle of town, after all), plenty of visitors simply found spots on nearby beaches, unrolled their sleeping bags, and called it a night. And while there was a long stretch of licensed stalls selling everything from snack food to chocolate cups full of ginjinha, Portugal’s signature cherry liqueur, plenty of people simply showed up with a blanket and their wares and set up makeshift booths.
Although I partook in my fair share of beach camping and ginjinha imbibing, the real reason I was there was for the music. Throughout the three days I was at the festival, I had the good fortune of seeing bands from across the planet, ranging from legendary Indian slide guitarist Vishwa Mohan Bhatt to headlining act Sly and Robbie, arguably the most influential music production team of the 20th century. I also got turned on to plenty of new artists from the Portuguese-speaking world (my personal favorite was Cape Verdean singer Mário Lúcio).
This year’s line-up—although not yet complete—looks equally promising, and features acts from across the world, ranging from US group Otis Taylor Band to Bosnian reggae-dub outfit Dubioza Kolektiv. The festival will be held over two weekends: July 19-21 and July 26-28. For more information on tickets, accommodations (including in the nearby resort town of Porto Covo), and transportation options, visit the festival’s website: http://fmm.com.pt/en/