Blesok no. 42, May-June, 2005
Sound Reviews


Fado has something like a watermark

Ljupčo Jolevski


It’s a great complement to be compared with the biggest icon, and I guess that’s the way for people to say they like my work in music, but people remember Amália in her forty’s, her best époque, and I am only at the beginning of my journey. – says young Portuguese singer, one of stars at the Heineken Off Festival.

Mariza is 29 years old fado singer. Fado is traditional song born in Lisabon inns and taverns more than 200 years ago. Her story about the path to success sounds alike those of other great Portuguese vocal divas. She started singing songs about loneliness, passion, despair and lust when she was a little girl. Yet, her restless spirit forced her to discard the traditional black shawl of “fadistas” singers and to transform the fado into living matter with each and every of her gesture and movement on the stage. That is the way to transform fado into vivid music.

These days, the Portuguese branch of the mighty concern EMI published your new album Transparente, a new lovely collection of fado songs. Tell us how long have you been preparing the project, which are the authors you've been collaborating with, and what was the reason to choose Jacques Morelenbaum as your producer?
I was in Brazil, recording for 2 months, but before that I spent some time researching through Portuguese Poetry, in order to find the poems, where I can express myself better, my way of seeing life itself.
    Jacques Morelenbaum was my choice, I’ve known his work for a long, long time, and I’m a big, big fan. I had a dream that maybe one day he could produce just one song, not a whole record, just one song. But the record company suggested me to invite him for producing the album, I’ve done it, he said yes.
    For Transparente, I could count on the help of three of the most important Portuguese songwriters. They had written and composed songs, especially for me, like “Meu Fado Meu”, or “Fado Português de Nós”.
    I also wanted to work with a younger composer from the new order; able to write and compose about the new Lisbon, so I found Pedro Campos, who composed “Montras”.
    In this album I also make my tribute to the three most important persons in the history of Fado, which I consider my teachers and my gurus: Amália Rodrigues, Fernando Mauricio and Carlos do Carmo.

How did the collaboration with Morelenbaum went on, and how much did he influenced the final result, having in mind that he is a great instrumentalist and producer, who worked with big time musicians such as are Caetano Veloso, Marisa Monte, and even Ruichi Sakamoto.
With Jacques Morelenbaum’s help as producer, I was able to reach a bigger intimacy, not only with music but with poetry as well. I was able to reach the sonorousness that I was looking for. He understood and respected my feelings.
    Transparente, it’s like reading a book with sounds in it, which we discover chapter by chapter and has a story at the end. Jacques Morelenbaum was the illustrator.

What was the thing, which, according to you, you had to do in order to give the already set form, such as the traditional fado, a new color, and to adjust it according to your sensibility? How different is Transparente from Fada em Mim or Fado Curvo?
Fado em Mim is the result of themes I listened to when I was a teenager and sang until the moment I recorded it. Fado Curvo, however, is the result of a seek of an identity, a sonority; it was like the turning of a page.
    Transparente, is an album where I only cared about doing good music, working with good musicians, good composers and good poetry. It’s, in fact, the most transparent album I have ever done. It’s completely «naked» in a lyrical way and in the way of singing.
    I feel that Fado is different. Now I understand that everything is possible without shocking anyone nor cause offence. I had to get through my two last albums to reach this. It’s not a need of change, but a need of reaching more and more the sonority I’m looking for and to express myself even better in the music I’m doing.

Having in mind that for a longer period, with every new album, you've been trying to place the traditional form in more contemporary frames, especially with your knowledge in jazz and blues, what is your personal definition of the fado? Of course, you can not conserve the tradition, but how far can you go in changing it?
Fado it’s like breeding. It's a kind of music that talks about live and brings all these feelings together. There are many feelings to be explored; like joy, happiness, love, passion. I transfer all these feelings to what I do. They appear on stage. Fado has something like a watermark; we can’t see it but it’s there. It’s inevitable to accept the different influences, which are a sign of evolution, but we can’t pass this watermark. We have to respect it.
    Regarding Transparente guidelines, it was Jacques Morelenbaum who opened my door. During the recordings, I was always talking about Fado, and he was always saying that it was music, not just Fado, but music.
    And that’s it, I just can express myself through Fado, and Fado is my music.

Does the fact that you are Mozambique-born living in Portugal allows you to treat the traditional form more freely? Have you ever tried to blend, or bring together the two cultures, the two traditions, and the two musical expressions?
I respect all the codes of Fado, but the influences are clear. I was born surrounded by completely different styles of music. In one way I have my father who loves Fado, on the other way I have my mother with a completely different music world to explore, since she listened to Jazz, music from Cape Verde, Antilles or Senegal, and to singers like Miriam Makeba. So I was listening world music without knowing. This influenced me a lot, and it’s present in one way or another.

What was your road to the fado? What was the music that you've started singing first? Whose interpretation was your role model? Who are the musicians, who influenced the international star that Mariza has become today?
I grew up in one of the most traditional neighbourhoods of Lisbon, Mouraria (where Fado was born on the 19th century), I sang for the first time in public when I was five, and it was Fado.
    My father used to listen to male fadistas (fado singers), like Fernando Mauricio (popular singer from Mouraria) or Carlos do Carmo, but there are of course the female voices like Amália Rodrigues.
     My mother used to listen to African music, from Miriam Makeba to Cesária Evora, and I’ve always loved different styles of music from Jazz to Classic, I love from Maria Callas, or Nina Simone to Jaques Brel.

They say that Mariza is the new, true heiress of Amelia Rodrigues. I know that it can be pleasing, but is it compelling at the same time? Can you handle such a burden?
Amália was the big Diva of Fado. It’s a great complement to be compared with the biggest icon, and I guess that’s the way for people to say they like my work in music, but people remember Amália in her forty’s, her best époque, and I am only at the beginning of my journey.

It is generally accepted that your international success started with Fado em Mim, an album produced by Jorge Fernando and a project for which you've received the German audience award. Three years after this project you are on a big European tour, and I can only assume that you are also preparing for Southern America. How do you explain the interest that the audience, and especially the western audience, showed for this type of music?
As I said before Fado is a music which makes the commemoration of the different types of sentiments, and I think that’s what people fell more, transmitting those feelings ends with the language barriers and other frontiers.
    We live more and more in a “global village” and everybody wants to know is “neighbours” habits, language, sentiments and culture as better as possible.

Where do your ambitions begin, and where do they end? What is the thing that you would like to happen to you in the period that follows? Do you wish for many concerts, albums from those performances, collaborations with big time performers… money? Which is your recipe for happiness in the world of today?
My ambition is to do more and better work, to be an even better professional. If Fado reaches big concert halls, these two elements are essential. My goal is having a loyal audience; is doing an album and people recognizing my sonority, where my audience know that this album is mine and that they know that this is my style, my music.

You are coming to Macedonia, the land where the fado was sang by Madredeus and Misia, for the first time. Do you know anything about our music tradition, our history and what is your massage for the fans of your music?
I don’t know much about your history or culture. I do know a little of your music, specially the gypsy music, like Esma, who’s songs I love.
    I hope that during my stay in Macedonia, I have the chance to get to know more about your culture, history, traditions and music.
    I would like you to be at my concert on the 7th in Skopje and share with me a bit of your culture and your history.




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