Monday, October 29, 2007


Some time ago - at least a year or so ago - I heard a song on the radio. The singer was a young woman named Ana Moura, and the song was Sou Do Fado, Sou Fadista (I Belong to Fado, I'm a Fadista). The song appears on her CD Guarda-Me a Vida Na Mão.

The songs she sings are from a Portuguese song tradition called Fado (Fate or Destiny), which appeared in Lisbon in the 1820's following the return of Portugal's king from exile in Brazil (at the end of the Napoleonic era).

I had never heard of Fado before, but I was very impressed with some of the songs on that CD. I find the music to be poetic and joyful, though it is generally described as mournful, and the Portuguese language is very beautiful. Fado music is thought to reflect African and Moorish influences and reminds me somewhat of American Blues.

A few weeks ago, I saw that a Fado singer named Mariza would soon be appearing at Carnegie Hall. I thought this was something my daughter and I would enjoy -- we share an appreciation of a wide range of female vocalists, and she had recently completed her BA in Comparitive Literature, establishing her bona fides as a lover of world literature -- world music seemed a good bet.

The concert was amazing!

Mariza is perhaps the greatest living singer of Fado - and she is the most gifted and entertaining vocal performer I have ever seen and heard in concert. She performed with an accompaniement of three guitars - the Portuguese guitarra, a Spanish or classical guitar, and an acoustic bass guitar, and occasionally a percussionist whose instruments resenbled a wooden box and a ceramic vase. These musicians were a delight on their own, and performed one instrumental number without Mariza on stage. They provided the perfect complement to Mariza's dramatic style of singing and her equally dramatic stage presence.

Mariza has a beautiful voice that can slide from one end of her great range to the other, with flamboyant virtuosity, and always fitted perfectly to the emotional tone of the song - she uses her versatility to build a dramatic dynamism into her delivery, and embellishes it all with her dancing and sweeping gestures. She is very tall (I thought she had to be on stilts under her swaying floor-length hooped black dress) and quite thin, and has an exotic appearance that she uses to maximize her stage presence.

She closed her concert by singing Gershwin's Summertime and Chaplin's Smile -- I think I have never heard anyone handle Summertime with as much style and grace. It was proof of her great talent as a singer that Mariza could step out of her culture and apply so much feeling and musical taste to this great standard of American song, and I was very happy that I had stepped out of mine for that magical evening.

Check out this YouTube clip for a taste of what I am talking about.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Although you posted this a while ago, I have just come across it.

I must say that you captured the essence of Mariza perfectly!

I have been to 21 of her concerts over the years, and not one was identical to the other!

For me, she is THE BEST! There is no other!

Thank you for you wonderful words on Mariza.

Ubi Rhodes-Malin