Portuguese singer Misia is known for her superb vocals and unconventional approach to fado, exerting artistic freedom. This is evident as soon as she listen to the first track, “Rosa Negra no Meu Peito II” on her new album Pura Vida (Banda Sonora). Misia delivers a fado exclusively with voice and bass clarinet, a rare combination in the genre.
Throughout the album, the focus is on the vocals intertwined
with virtuosic instrumental performances. On track 2, “Ouso Dizer,” Misia continues
with her rebel approach by using Portuguese guitar and an electric guitar solo.
Although the first two songs are in Portuguese, she switches over to Spanish on track 3, “Corazón y Hueso.” This is a deeply passionate tango piece, with a mix of vocals, bandoneon, piano and guitar. She is joined by famed Argentine singer Melingo, a former rocker turned tango singer.
Misia returns to Portuguese language and exquisite fado on track
4, “Os Homens Que Eu Amei,” utilizing piano, guitar and violin.
Track 5, “Lágrima” includes reverberating ambient electric guitar
On “Ausência” she combines fado vocals with soaring electric guitar, clarinet and violin.
Track 7, “Fado dos 2 Pardais,” is a lovely classic fado with
voice, Portuguese guitar and piano.
On “Escrevo na Pele,” Misia’s ensemble includes impassioned violin,
piano and guitar.
Ghostly drone-like electric guitar, piano and bassoon give
way to Misia’s vocals on track 9,” Destino.”
On “Pasión”, Misia returns to Spanish language with another tango,
although this time she adds electric guitar to the familiar tango sounds. Portuguese
fado singer Ricardo Ribeiro joins Misia, singing in Spanish as well.
Track 11, “Fadinho do Anúncio,” mixes fado with a Gypsy Jazz
Back to fado on Track 12, “Santo e Senha” featuring piano,
violin and Portuguese guitar with dreamlike sounds underneath it all.
A third tango song in Spanish is included in Pura Vida. “Prelúdio
para el Año 3001” is a recreation of a song by Astor Piazzolla, a contemporary tango
with piano, bandoneon and clarinet.
The album ends with an outstanding classic fado titled that winds up with a final drone.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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)
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.
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.
Misia’s 2019 album, Pura Vida, features a mix of classic fado in Portuguese, tango in Spanish, intertwining traditional instruments and electric guitars.