Mísia was born in the city of Oporto, where she lived until the end of her adolescence. The daughter of a family with great sociocultural differences, and the third generation of artists on her mother’s side, she inherited from her mother and grandmother a fascination for the world of the performance stage.
Family reasons led her to interrupt her studies and to travel to Barcelona, where she became acquainted with new artistic tendencies. At the same time, distance and “saudade” (longing) began to come together in a new look at her own cultural roots. Thus there reappeared, and stayed, the memory of Fado (of her first experiences in the fado houses of Oporto), which became an inspiring force and, later a chosen vocation. Far from Portugal, a journey “inside” began, in muted fashion.
Meanwhile, Mísia worked as a “professional artist”. She took part in various television programs, sang in various styles, in various languages, in various locales of the “movida madrileña” cultural movement (the great cultural explosion that took place in Madrid). She tried a little of everything, still viewing her profession as an exciting way of life. Of these years, rich in anonymous artistic experiences, bohemian living and financial difficulties, Mísia retained memories and a useful stage skill. Without forgetting her special affection for boarding houses and trains?
In 1990, the journey “inside” had as its final destination Fado and the return to Portugal, where she still lives. Having decided to take seriously this urban music, temporarily in cultural and commercial disgrace following the Revolution of the Carnations (1974), Mísia began to work in Lisbon with musicians, composers, lyricists and poets. Thus began a long and solitary personal path, at a time when, between the enormous success of Amalia Rodrigues and the increasing success of world music (which aroused the commercial interest of recording companies and the curiosity of the media and public for this musical genre) there was a long wait.
The self titled Mísia, her first CD, was produced by EMI-Valentim de Carvalho in 1991. In 1993 it was followed by Mísia Fado, initially privately produced and subsequently taken on by BMG-Portugal, after proposals from Japan, Korea and Spain, countries in which Mísia worked regularly in that year.
Tanto Memnos Tanto Mais was released in 1995, also by BMG, and was considered one of the best CDs of the year by a number of European newspapers (Expresso, Liberation, Le Monde etc), and it heralded the consolidation of her international career, winning the French award Grand Prix du Disque de l’Academie Charles Cros. In spite of this, it was a difficult period of being a recording “orphan”, a fact reflected above all in the inadequate distribution of her CDs.
In 1996, Mísia performed for the first time in Paris (Maison des Cultures du Monde) and was contacted by Erato Disques, the French classical music label, part of the Warner Classic Music group.
Erato released Garras dos Sentidos in 1998. Distributed in 62 countries, it sold some 200,000 copies, earning a Silver Disc in Portugal. It was voted a “Choc de la Musique” in France, and in Portugal was in the list of the One Hundred Best Discs of the 20th Century in the newspaper Publico.
Paixaes Diagonais followed in 1999, in which Mísia sings a fado accompanied at the piano by Maria Joao Pires in a unique meeting of sensibilities. She received excellent articles and reviews of this project, notably, for the first time in Portuguese music, a “spotlight” in the highly regarded American journal Billboard. Three fados from this CD were used as part of the soundtrack for the film “Passionata” (Dan Ireland, USA), one of them being choreographed by Bill T. Jones.
Mísia took for her fados words by some of the greatest poets in Portuguese literature, such as Fernando Pessoa, Ant?nio Botto, Natalia Correia and Mario de Sa-Carneiro, and also the Brazilian Carlos Drummond de Andrade. The contemporary poets Lidia Jorge, Agustina Bessa Luis, Mario Claudio and the Nobel laureate Jose Saramago wrote especially for her voice. The word, poetry – used as a link between the present and an older way of singing – has been the principal element in Mísia’s work over the last ten years. Work which has acquired its own sound, with the introduction of the violin and the accordion, instruments which play fado in the streets. Ricardo Dias, producer of both “Garras” and “Paixaes,” provided the arrangements.
Meanwhile, there were concerts in the world’s most famous halls, such as Town Hall (New York), the Philharmonia in Berlin, the Olympia (Paris), Palacio de Los Congresos (Madrid), Cocoon Theater (Tokyo), Piccolo Teatro (Milan) etc, etc. The “concert” and the reaction of the audience are her principal source of energy. Her fados and her person have inspired work by artists from different areas and cultures, including American choreographer Bill T. Jones, Indian ballet dancer Padma Subramanian, and French director Patrice Leconte,.
With Ritual Mísia returned to the musical tradition of Fado (Portuguese guitar, fado guitar and acoustic bass). The lyrics were mostly written by songwriters and recorded in whole takes, using a valve microphone, as was done fifty years ago. The musical direction and two unpublished songs were provided by Carlos Goncalves, the great composer and accompanist of Amelia Rodrigues’ last years. About Ritual Mísia said: “”it is a CD which shows the course I have taken. Doing, undoing and redoing, knowing that there exists no pure art and that each artist must have his own universe. My hell and my paradise, my life and my death are contained in this disc. My Fado”
In 2003 she released Canto, which includes the best works of Portuguese guitarist Carlos Paredes with poems by Vasco Graca Moura, Sergio Godinho and Pedro Tamen.
Her 2005 release, Drama Box, is a collection of tangos, boleros and fados, sung in Portuguese and Spanish.
Mísia (EMI, 1991)
Fado (BMG Ariola, 1993)
Tanto Menos Tanto Mais (BMG, 1995)
Garras Dos Sentidos (Detour, 1998)
Paixões Diagonais (Erato, 1999)
Ritual (Erato, 2001)
Canto (Warner Jazz France, 2003)
Drama Box (Naïve, 2005)
Ruas (AZ, 2009)
Senhora Da Noite (Silène, 2011)
Delikatessen Café Concerto (Parlophone Music Portugal, 2013)
Para Amalia (Warner Music, 2015)
Do Primeiro Fado Ao Ultimo Tango (Warner Music, 2016)
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.