In the city of Lisbon, situated on a narrow street in the prominent nightlife quarter of Bairro Alto, there’s a small cavernous bar called Bar Pescador (“The Fisherman”). Most nights the proprietor, a jolly Cape Verdean man named Horacio, excitedly paces in and out of the establishment, proclaiming “Bom dia!” to passersby and dispensing beers to patrons. The space is draped with posters and tapestries depicting Bob Marley. To Horacio, Marley is more than a beloved musician. The ethos of the reggae legend permeates all aspects of the bar, from the strong herbal scent to the entertainment — a nightly offering of live music. And not coincidentally, the musicians who play at Bar Pescador often cover Marley, translating his greatest hits into Portuguese but preserving the original melodies and vocal flourishes.
During a visit to Lisbon, I had the good fortune to stumble upon Bar Pescador and returned multiple nights to hear Marley tributes. My favorite performer was a Brazilian man with long dreadlocks and a broad smile. Dressed in loose, flowing clothing, he looked like a kindred spirit of Marley and interpreted songs such as “No Woman No Cry” with similar ease and charisma, substituting the verses with a Portuguese translation but keeping the English chorus.
Serendipitously, at Lisbon’s flea market, Feira da Ladra, I stumbled upon a copy of Marley’s first live record, Live! The album itself is a fantastic representation of Bob Marley and the Wailers energy. The band and the crowd’s reciprocal energy is contagious. But for me, having a recording of Marley’s live music is a vehicle for remembrance. Listening to the songs transports me to Bar Pescador, affirming the remarkable connection between music and memory.