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My Traditional Portuguese Experience in the Algarve

by Sun’s Dragon   

A very strange thing happened to me last night when I went to dinner at my friend’s house. After a delicious soup, followed by a delicious lasagne, I was asked if I would like a cup of coffee. Nothing strange in that is there? But when I said I would love a cup of coffee they said, “Right then we will go to the local cafe where their coffee is so good”. Now that is strange!

So, without further ado, we set off to Filopa’s bar in Santa Barbara de Nexe which is round the corner from my friend’s house; and lo and behold the Charolas were in full swing as we arrived. The bar was packed to the gills with villagers and expats alike and everyone was joining in the fun.

Charolas Algarve PortugalHave you ever heard or seen Charolas in action? They are a group of people who play to the crowds from the 1st to the 26th of January each year, heralding in the New Year with topical songs and verses. Some are based on ridicule, some are based on religion and some are just shouting out their love of family, friends and neighbours. All, however are wishing everybody health, wealth and happiness for the coming year. This is a very old Portuguese tradition and much appreciated by all.

I have only ever seen Charolas once before, in the indoor market in Faro last year where they had the crowd roaring with laughter at their ridiculing of the Government and all its ministers and their shenanigans. Not being a Portuguese speaker as such, it went over my head somewhat but I did enjoy watching everyone else having a good laugh at their antics.

This time the Charolas were Groupo De Charolas Flõr Oriental of Santa Barbara de Nexe, all of them coming from this tiny village in the foothills above Faro. With 21 people, between the ages of 6 and 60, playing accordions, tambourines (pandeiros), castanets (castanholas) as well as a single triangle, and carrying their banners, they put on a brilliant performance.

Charolas Music Algarve PortugalDirected by Luis, each performer would call out their message between the musical encores and the crowd would respond with a resounding “Viva”! Gales of laughter would ring out from some of the “messages” being sent to friends in the crowd and much clapping and stomping would accompany the laughter.

Many in the audience would raise their hand thereby getting a chance to shout their own message, which would be answered by the chief caller of the Charolas, (Fabio).

The whole thing is done off the cuff and nobody knows what anybody will have to say when it’s their turn. It could have been chaos but it wasn’t, it was just good fun. They even managed to shout some of their messages in English to the many Inglésias present which went down well with everyone present.

During the short break, I managed to chat to Guida, one of the accordionists (who has been in the group for 6 years) and she explained how it all worked. This particular group has been playing for 25 years and another group from the village has been at it for 40 years! They spend two months rehearsing the songs and music, but the “messages” are spontaneous and they never know who Luis will call upon to deliver the next message or what the audience will call out for them to respond to. Fabio certainly has to be on his toes but then he has been in the group since its inception.

A great evening’s entertainment

Charolas Playing Algarve Portugal

I got chatting to Jane who hails from Goldra de Cima and has followed the group for many years as well as joining in all the other events the Junta lays on throughout the year. Like me, her Portuguese is rather limited, but we still had huge fun and agreed that we are always made so welcome by the locals wherever we go. Tom and Linda Bowden were also there and as Linda said, “Even if you can’t understand a word of it, it’s still a very enjoyable evening”. Tom’s comment was, “This was another fantastic evening with the Charolas in Filopa’s bar”. Neither of them would miss it for the world. They go each year and sometimes Tom will shout out a message for the Charolas to respond to in English, just to get the crowd going even more.

Every town and village throughout the Algarve has groups of Charolas and they will be putting on their entertainment until the 26th of January; so make sure you find out when and where they will be playing in your area and go and see them for a good evening of fun and entertainment; I did, and I will be back next year for more.


    Let us know if you have a group of Charolas who perform in your area.

Charolas Singing Algarve Portugal



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