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A new face of fado

Maria Smith | Tuesday, October 12, 2004

At first glance, Mariza does not look like a purveyor of traditional Portuguese music. The bleached -blonde, short-haired singer who loves to perform in bright dresses, full skirts, striped stockings and dramatic jewelry doesn’t look much like anyone in any genre of music. But this is entirely appropriate for the highly-unique performer. Mariza, a diva as famous in Portugal as Janet Jackson or Celine Dion in the United States, has been hailed as the new queen of the fado, the national music of Portugal that is said to embody the Portuguese soul. She puts her own spin on the music, through her own differing musical tastes as much as her appearance. The artist also performs with artists far outside her genre, including recording a version of “A Thousand Years” with Sting for this summer’s Olymnpic games.”I have different approaches, I think even in my country people feel it,” Mariza said. “I have different tastes. [In my recordings you can hear] a little bit of classical, a little bit of jazz.”In essence, however, Mariza’s music holds true to the fado tradition. On her solo tour of North America Mariza has performed with a traditional ensemble of guitar, a smaller heart-shaped Portuguese guitar, and bass. The origin of fado is not certain, but is thought to have originated from a mixture of African slave rhythms, Arabic influences and the traditional music of Portuguese sailors. What is certain is that fado is all about feeling, and Mariza is famous for her skill in capturing the emotion of the music. A central theme of fado is the Portuguese word “saudade,” which does not have an exact translation in English but represents feelings of pain, sadness, longing and love, among others. “I like to call it a kind of Portuguese blues, because the music talks about a lot of feelings ” Mariza said. “When you are singing fado you need to feel it, you need to understand. We are telling a story about life, about things that are happening.” Mariza grew up with the art of fado, and was determined to become a singer at an early age. Although she was born in Mozambique, her family moved to Portugal when she was a baby. As young as the age of five she would join in spontaneous singing of fados at her parents’ restaurant in Mouraria, one of the most traditional neighborhoods in Lisbon. The artist sings with a depth of feeling well beyond her years. Although she has gained fame quickly, Mariza is relatively new to her field. She released her first CD, entitled “Fado Em Mim,” in 2002 at the age of 26, and her second, entitled “Fado Curvo,” in 2003. Even on her first release the artist has a dark maturity to her voice and to her interpretation that promise to carry her through the early hype of her career. To really understand music like fado or a performer like Mariza, however, you have to see a live performance. During her North American tour Mariza has introduced her music to thousands of people who have never before been exposed to the genre. The singer narrates her shows with a history of fado to help audiences unfamiliar with the fado understand her art. “I love [performing] my concerts for people who don’t know about fado. I talk with the people,” Mariza said. “I think we’re going to have lots of fun.”Mariza will perform tonight at 8:00 p.m. in the Leighton Concert Hall at the DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are $37 for the general public, $30 for faculty and staff and $15 for students.At first glance, Mariza does not look like a purveyor of traditional Portuguese music. The bleached -blonde, short-haired singer who loves to perform in bright dresses, full skirts, striped stockings and dramatic jewelry doesn’t look much like anyone in any genre of music. But this is entirely appropriate for the highly-unique performer. Mariza, a diva as famous in Portugal as Janet Jackson or Celine Dion in the United States, has been hailed as the new queen of the fado, the national music of Portugal that is said to embody the Portuguese soul. She puts her own spin on the music, through her own differing musical tastes as much as her appearance. The artist also performs with artists far outside her genre, including recording a version of “A Thousand Years” with Sting for this summer’s Olymnpic games.”I have different approaches, I think even in my country people feel it,” Mariza said. “I have different tastes. [In my recordings you can hear] a little bit of classical, a little bit of jazz.”In essence, however, Mariza’s music holds true to the fado tradition. On her solo tour of North America Mariza has performed with a traditional ensemble of guitar, a smaller heart-shaped Portuguese guitar, and bass. The origin of fado is not certain, but is thought to have originated from a mixture of African slave rhythms, Arabic influences and the traditional music of Portuguese sailors. What is certain is that fado is all about feeling, and Mariza is famous for her skill in capturing the emotion of the music. A central theme of fado is the Portuguese word “saudade,” which does not have an exact translation in English but represents feelings of pain, sadness, longing and love, among others. “I like to call it a kind of Portuguese blues, because the music talks about a lot of feelings ” Mariza said. “When you are singing fado you need to feel it, you need to understand. We are telling a story about life, about things that are happening.” Mariza grew up with the art of fado, and was determined to become a singer at an early age. Although she was born in Mozambique, her family moved to Portugal when she was a baby. As young as the age of five she would join in spontaneous singing of fados at her parents’ restaurant in Mouraria, one of the most traditional neighborhoods in Lisbon. The artist sings with a depth of feeling well beyond her years. Although she has gained fame quickly, Mariza is relatively new to her field. She released her first CD, entitled “Fado Em Mim,” in 2002 at the age of 26, and her second, entitled “Fado Curvo,” in 2003. Even on her first release the artist has a dark maturity to her voice and to her interpretation that promise to carry her through the early hype of her career. To really understand music like fado or a performer like Mariza, however, you have to see a live performance. During her North American tour Mariza has introduced her music to thousands of people who have never before been exposed to the genre. The singer narrates her shows with a history of fado to help audiences unfamiliar with the fado understand her art. “I love [performing] my concerts for people who don’t know about fado. I talk with the people,” Mariza said. “I think we’re going to have lots of fun.”Mariza will perform tonight at 8:00 p.m. in the Leighton Concert Hall at the DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are $37 for the general public, $30 for faculty and staff and $15 for students.