António Variações Bookmark and Share


3 December 1944 –  13 June 1984

António Joaquim Rodrigues Ribeiro was born in Lugar do Pilar, a small village in Fiscal (Amares, Braga), the fifth of ten children of Deolinda de Jesus and Jaime Ribeiro. At the age of twelve, he moved to the capital, Lisbon, to work at an office. From 1964 to 1967, he served the compulsory army duty in Angola during the Portuguese Colonial War, returning home safe, but almost immediately departing to London, to work as a dishwasher at a school, for the duration of a year. He then moved to Amsterdam where he took up hairdressing, which he would continue to practise when returning to Lisbon in the following year, opening the first unisex salon in the country and afterwards a barber shop downtown (among his clients there would be several people from the music industry, who would help launch his career).

Parallel to this day job, he started working the local club scene at night, along with a group of musicians dubbed Variações. His garish visuals and camp fashion accessories, uncommon for a man at the time in Portugal, soon started to become noticed. António Variações had no formal music training. Not knowing how to play or compose music he would mimic sounds and rhythms while he sang, using his own voice or even tapping his hands on different objects. He would record this for his demo.

In 1978, António submitted that demo to the label Valentim de Carvalho. Although getting signed he would not be allowed to record anything for another four years because the executives were unsure about the genre that best suited his work, folk or pop music. In February 1981, he appeared with his band in a popular TV show presented by Júlio Isidro, called Passeio dos Alegres. Billed as António e Variações he performed two songs. In July 1982, his first single was released, this time under the name of António Variações. This recording featured a cover of the fado Povo Que Lavas No Rio made famous by Amália Rodrigues. The cover caused for immediate controversy amongst the Portuguese public. His first album was recorded with the help of Vítor Rua and Tóli César Machado (both from the band GNR). After a series of concerts, António returned to the studio to record his second, and what would turn out, his last album. This album was recorded together with Pedro Ayres Magalhães and Carlos Maria Trindade of the band Heróis do Mar.

On May 18, 1984, Variações was admitted to the Pulido Valente hospital with symptoms of asthmatic bronchitis. Rumours about his condition being brought on by AIDS started to circulate, which, given the prejudice towards the disease at the time, made him a target of some discrimination. Save for his family and closest friends, he received few visitors during his stay at the hospital. At the dawn of June 13, António Variações died. The family did not acknowledge that AIDS was the actual cause of death (or that he was a homosexual), but it is assumed by most that he was one of the first public victims of the disease in Portugal. His funeral was held on June 15 at the Estrela Basilica which was also attended by Amalia Rodrigues. The funeral stirred some controversy, because the authorities ordered that his coffin being sealed for public health concerns. His remains were buried in the cemetery of Amares.

At the time of his death, Variações left behind a box containing over forty tapes and studio reels, which were forgotten for a long time. EMI’s David Ferreira and journalist Nuno Galopim dug them up for a musical project called Humanos which featured popular singer David Fonseca.

On the web:

- Website dedicated to Antonio:http://www.antoniovariacoes.pt/

If you like this, you probably like.. / european counterparts:

- Pave Maijanen (Finland)

What do we think:

DB: With only two albums the impact of Antonio on Portugues popmusic huge. He is as much a culthero as a pop icon. Even decades after his death compilations are being sold and he is a household name in Portugal. If you're not from Portugal be prepared for something else. Variações has a unique voice and singing style. Somehow it reminds me of Ron Mael (of the Sparks) singing Klaus Nomi...or the other way around. To foreign ears it may sound a bit bizar. But the music he made with the help of GNR and Herois do Mar is quality popmusic. And he also experimented with synths mixing it up with folk melodies and music. Which was revolutionary for that time. Note that when Humanos tried to interpret his musical style they only partly succeeded. A unique phenomena in Europe and a sad miss that he only left us with two albums. .


♪♪♪♪ - Anjo da Guarda - 1983

 ♪♪♪ - Dar & Receber - 1984


♪♪♪♪♪ = outstanding album, an absolute must-have
♪♪♪♪ = great album, highly recomended
♪♪♪ = nice album
♪♪ = be careful, requires listening before buying
♪ = best to be avoided






Like us on
Your newsletter

Do you want to receive our monthly newsletter? Just tick in your e-mail adress below and stay in touch.

You will receive an e-mail message (sorry, in Dutch) that you have to confirm.