Listening Low-Cost: Ethnography, the City, and the Tourist Ear

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Book Chapter

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Publication Title

The Routledge Companion to the Study of Local Musicking


A tuk tuk tourist rickshaw carrying two passengers turns the corner around Lisbon's Sé cathedral in June 2015, taking the tourists into the narrow, cobbled alleys where the cars cannot go, honking, honking again. New forms of tourist accommodation spring up in renovated buildings in Lisbon's historic center: bright hostels with Wi-Fi and IKEA furniture, bed and breakfasts owned by northern Europeans, rooms for let on Airbnb, and boutique hotels. These displace Lisbon's long-standing hierarchy of tourist accommodation options: hotel, pensão, and residencial (and increasingly, displace long-term residents). Low-cost European airlines begin arriving at Lisbon's Portela airport in 2005. Curated "low-cost" experiences and souvenirs emerge to fill the low-cost Lisbon market. "Lisbon tourism invasion seen threatening ancient city's identity,""Portugal's capital is experiencing a tourism boom like no other major European city," proclaim articles in Bloomberg News and El País in 2014-15. "Disneyland!" a friend says as the tuk tuks roar past her home in Lisbon's Alfama neighborhood in June 2015. Legions of tourists pass on foot: some in shorts, T-shirts, and hiking boots; some carry backpacks and bottles of water; others dangle their arms precariously from windows of passing trolleys, clutching mobile phones and selfie sticks, taking photos of themselves as the trolleys creak, rattle, and ring up the hill. Many of these tourists will cap their day by consuming an experience of fado, Portugal's internationally renowned music, an urban popular song form that is deeply linked in its legends, lore, lyrics, iconographies, histories, and practices to the everyday sounds textures, place names, and senses of place in the city of Lisbon.


For more information on the published version, visit Taylor and Francis's Website.

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