Tag Archives: Ana Moura

The Passionate Story of Fado

Fado star Mariza

Fado music is the heart of the Portuguese soul. It is one of the oldest urban folk music styles in the world. Some say it came as a dance from Africa in the 19th century and was adopted by the poor on the streets of Lisbon. Or perhaps it started at sea as the sad, melodic songs created by homesick sailors and fishermen.

Whatever its origins, fado’s themes have remained constant: destiny, betrayal in love, death and despair. A typical lyric goes: “Why did you leave me, where did you go? I walk the streets looking at every place we were together, except you’re not there.” It’s a sad music and a fado performance is not successful if an audience is not moved to tears.

All fado is dominated by the sentiment known as saudade. While there is no precise English definition for this word, it may be translated roughly as ‘yearning.’ Essentially it describes the soul of the music and is the measure of understanding that passes between performer and audience.


Cover of A Origem do Fado by José Alberto Sardinha

Fado History

By the early twentieth century, fado had become popular in the everyday life of Lisbon’s working class. It was played for pleasure but also to relieve the pain of life. Skilled singers known as fadistas performed at the end of the day and long into the night. Fado was the earthy music of taverns and brothels and street corners in Alfama and Mouraria, the old poor sections of Lisbon. (Another strain of fado, Coimbra fado, was favored among university students and professors.)

The fado is normally sung by men or women and accompanied by one Portuguese guitar and one classical guitar, which in Portugal is called viola. This song reached its golden era in the first half of the 20th century, when the Portuguese dictatorship of Salazar (1926-1968) forced the fado performers to become professional and confined them to sing in the fado houses and the so called “revistas”, a popular genre of “vaudeville”.

The main names of that period were: Alfredo Marceneiro, Amalia Rodrigues, Maria Teresa de Noronha and guitar players Armandinho and Jaime Santos.


The Queen of Fado Amalia Rodrigues

From the 1940s until her death in 1999, the towering figure of Portuguese fado was Amalia Rodrigues. She was the diva of fado, worshiped at home and celebrated abroad as the most famous representative of Portuguese culture. When she died the country’s prime minister called for three-days of national mourning. Such is the hold of fado over the people of Portugal.

Saudade

The essential element of fado music is saudade, a Portuguese word that translates roughly as longing, or nostalgia for unrealized dreams. Fado flowers from this fatalistic world-view. It speaks of an undefined yearning that can’t be satisfied. For Portuguese emigrants fado is an expression of homesickness for the place they left behind.

Like other forms of deeply moving folk music such as flamenco, American blues, Argentine tango or Greek rembetiko, fado cannot be explained; it must be felt and experienced. One must have the soul to transmit that feeling; a fadista who does not possess saudade is thought of as inauthentic. Audiences are very knowledgeable and very demanding. If they do not feel the fadista is up to form they will stop a performance.

Duarte at EXIB 2016 in Evora – Photo by Angel Romero

Fado can be performed by men or women, although many aficionados prefer the raw emotion of the female fadista. Dressed in black with a shawl draped over her shoulders, a fadista stands in front of the musicians and communicates through gesture and facial expressions. The hands move, the body is stationary. When it is done correctly, it is a solemn and majestic performance.

Carminho

Aside from the Lisbon fado there is another completely different form of this song, sung by the students of Coimbra University whose ancient roots can be found in the medieval songs called trovas. Here the subjects are mainly love, friendship and nostalgia. This form of fado reached its most famous period in the 1950s and 1960s when names like Edmundo Bettencourt, Luis Gois, José Afonso and the musicians Artur Paredes, Carlos Paredes and Antonio Portugal among others, combined new forms and lyrics to a song which was limited to student circles.

Fado guitarist Antonio Chainho playing the Portuguese guitar – Photo by Alexandre Nobre

The traditional accompaniment for the fadista is a Portuguese guitar, or guitarra, a 12-stringed instrument, and a bass guitar, or viola. Sometimes a second acoustic guitar is added. In recent years, fado recordings have added piano, violin and accordion, instruments which sometimes accompany the music on the streets of Lisbon.

Fado Today


Cover of the album New Queens of Fado (Arc Music, 2016), featuring Joana Amendoeira, Ana Moura, Carminho, Mariza, Cristina Branco, Katia Guerreiro, Mafalda Arnauth, Misia

Today the younger generation in Portugal is respectful but not dedicated to fado. However, a new generation of young musicians have contributed to the social and political revival of fado music, adapting and blending it with new trends.

Contemporary fado musicians like Misia have introduced the music to performers such as Sting. Misia and fadistas like Cristina Branco and Mariza, Amelia Muge, Antonio Zambujo, Ana Lains, Ana Moura, Joana Amendoeira, Katia Guerreiro, Mafalda Arnauth, walk the fine line between carrying on the tradition and trying to bring in a new audience.

Cover of the album Queens Of Fado – The Next Generation (Arc Music, 2017) featuring Cuca Roseta, Yolanda Soares, Carminho, Raquel Tavares, Gisela João, Claudia Aurora, Carla Pires and Joana Rios

One of the biggest names in the new generation of male fado singers is award-winning Marco Rodrigues.

2018 saw the rise of a new fado revelation, Sara Correia, who released her debut album Sara Correia.

(Sources: World Music Central, World Music Institute, World Music Network)

Coimbra Fado

Coimbra Fado is a genre of fado originating in the city of Coimbra, Portugal. This fado is closely linked to the academic traditions of the University of Coimbra and is exclusively sung by men; both the singers and musicians wear black capes during performances, the remaining part of the students outfit. It is sung at night, almost in the dark, in city squares, streets, or fado houses. (source: Fado group Verdes Anos)

Recommended Fado Recordings

Portugal: The Story of Fado
Fado: Exquisite Passion
The Rough Guide to Fado
Queens of Fado
Fados from Portugal
Great Voices of Fado
Queen of the Fado by Amalia Rodrigues
Rough Guide: The Music of Portugal
Queens Of Fado – The Next Generation

Fado Artists:

The following artists perform fado or fado-influenced music: Ala Dos Namorados, Almaplana, Amélia Muge, Ana Laíns, Ana Marina, Ana Moura, Antonio Chainho, Antonio Zambujo, Armenio de
Melo, Bicho de 7 cabeças, Camané, Catarina Cardeal, Cristina Branco, Custodio Castelo, Duarte, Grupo Cancao de Coimbra, Joana Amendoeira, Jorge Fernando, Katia Guerreiro, Lula Pena, Mario Pacheco, Madredeus, Mafalda Arnauth, Maria Amelia Proen, Mariza, Melian, Mike Siracusa, Misia, Nem Truz Nem Muz), Ramana Vieira, Sonia Tavares, Teresa Salgueiro, Verdes Anos – Fado group, Cuca Roseta, Yolanda Soares, Raquel Tavares, Gisela João, Claudia Aurora, Carla Pires, Marco Rodrigues, Joana Rios, and Sara Correia.

Fado Books:

A History of the Portuguese Fado by Paul Vernon (Routledge, 1998)
Fado Portugues – Songs from the Soul of Portugal by Donald Cohen (2004)
Fado and the Place of Longing, Loss, Memory and the City by Richard Elliott (Routledge, 2010)
A Origem do Fado [includes 4 CDs] by José Alberto Sardinha (Tradisom, 2010)
Fado Resounding: Affective Politics and Urban Life by Lila Ellen Gray (Duke University Press, 2013)
Fado and the Urban Poor in Portuguese Cinema of the 1930s and 1940s by Michael Colvin (Boydell & Brewer, 2016)

Fado sites:

Portal do Fado, Portuguese portal dedicated to fado.

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Artist Profiles: Ana Moura

Ana Moura – Photo by Augusto Brazio

Ana Moura was born September 17, 1979 in Santarem, the bustling capital of the Ribatejo province in the center of Portugal’s heartland on the Tejo (Tagus) River northeast of Lisbon. The city of half a million souls is also one of Portugal’s most historic cities-an ideal place to develop an appreciation for fado. “I’ve been singing fado since I was little, because grew up listening to it at home,” she recalls of her early home life.

My parents sang well, and at family gatherings we all would sing.” Like young people everywhere, she soon developed an appreciation for other styles of music. The lure of singing fado, however, never waned. In her late teens, while sing pop and rock music with a local band. Ana always included at least one fado in each performance. Then, one night on a whim, about the year 2000, she and some friends went to one of Lisbon’s storied fado houses-small performance venues where singers, guitarists and aficionados gather to worship the affecting style that’s become Portugal’s most important music export. At the urging of her companions, she sang.

People liked me,” she recalls of her first foray into a venerated bastion of the fado culture. Later that year, at a Christmas party that was attended by a lot of fadistas (fado singers) and guitarists, she sang again and, as fate would have it, noted fado vocalist Maria de Fe was in the audience and was duly impressed. “She asked me to sing at her fado house,” Ana recalls of the fortuitous moment that launched her career.

My life changed when I began going to the fado houses,” Ana states today. “There’s no microphone-it’s very intimate. New singers leam through a kind of apprenticeship, learning the intricacies of the style from the older, more established singers.” Before long, word of Ana’s rich contralto, stunning looks and innate affinity for the demanding style spread, winning airtime on local television programs devoted to fado and rave reviews in Lisbon newspapers.

Music critic Miguel Esteves Cardoso captured her essence when he wrote of her “rare and primitive quality” and her “natural truth, without effort or premeditation.” Ana has emerged as a leading voice of traditional fado just as the venerable idiom is enjoying a renaissance of popularity.

The singer’s association with composer, producer, arranger and guitarist Jorge Fernando, the former guitar player of Amalia Rodrigues (the undisputed queen of fado, who died at the age of 79 in 1999) has helped stimulate her artistic development and has provided her with an alluring repertoire. “Today,” she explains, “there’s a new generation that sings lyrics related to our time. There are some older fado songs that we, the younger singers, cannot perform, because the lyrics are about a time and themes we don’t identify with. We don’t feel it, and fado is all about feelings. We must feel what we sing, and there are many older fados that don’t belong to our generation. Younger singers use lyrics that speak of today, so young people have begun to get more interested in the music again.”

Fado sprang from the culture of working class people and over the years the style evolved from humble origins to win broad appeal. Today, as Ana proudly proclaims, “In Portugal, fado is for everyone.”

Like virtually every aspiring fadista, Ana drew early inspiration from the example of Amalia Rodrigues, the revered singer who most personified the style. “It was her soul and her voice,” she comments of the late vocalist’s singular imprint on the music. “She had everything in her. Some singers have a great voice by no soul, no intensity. Others have feeling but not a suitable voice. She had it all, and, she was a very good improviser.”

Ana Moura

Improvising is an under-appreciated part of the fado tradition. One technique, which Ana uses to great effect on the song “Lavava no rio lavava” (I Went to the River to Wash), is what the Portuguese term vocalizes-the expression of words and effects through use of vocal trills. The practice is believed to have been absorbed over centuries of exposure to Spanish flamenco and Moorish styles.

A key track from her debut album exquisitely sums up the magnetic pull fado has exerted on Ana. “Sou do fado, sou fadista” (I Belong to Fado, I Am a Fadista) by her mentor and primary collaborator, guitarist Jorge Femando, eloquently explains Ana’s total surrender to the style: “I know my soul has surrendered, taken my voice in hand, twisted in my chest and shown it to the world. And I have closed my eyes in a wistful longing to sing, to sing. And a voice sings to me softly, and a voice enchants me softly, I belong to fado, I belong to fado, I am a fadista.”

Discography:

Guarda-me A Vida Na Mão (Universal Music Portugal, 2003)
Aconteceu (Universal Music Portugal, 2004)
Para Além Da Saudade (Universal Music Portugal, 2007)
Coliseu (Universal Music Portugal, 2008)
Leva-me Aos Fados (Universal Music Portugal, 2009)
Desfado (Universal Music Portugal, 2012)
Moura (Universal Music Portugal, 2015)

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