If the legendary singer Amalia Rodrigues is the queen of fado, the national song of Portugal, then Fado Em Mim
, the debut by Mariza, announces her coronation as its crown princess in the 21st century. This 20-something, Mozambique-born beauty of Portuguese, Spanish, German, African and Indian descent rapidly rose from the Mouraria district of Lisbon to become its newest and brightest star. The 12 selections on this recording are arranged in chamber-style ensembles consisting of bass, piano, classical guitar and its 12-stringed, Portuguese cousin, the viola
. Songs like "O Gente Da Minha Terra" and the traditional "Por Ti" ring with a haunting feeling of saudade
well beyond Mariza's years. "Maria Lisboa", "Ha Fest Na Mouraria", with cellist Davide Zaccaria, and "Barco Negro" are peppered with Iberian and African-flavoured percussion. Mariza sings these songs of love, God and country with a youthful vitality that proves that fado is alive and well. --Eugene Holley, Jr.
This music is elegant, sophisticated and yearning. There's something about the guitars and the cadences of the voice that evoke the mystery and sadness of the ocean. Someone waits at a café on the quayside for a lover they know will never return...
Mariza has created a stir in Portugal and internationally this year with this debut album. She's young, looks the part and has a fabulous, keening, lyrical voice. She reinterprets the Portuguese tradition of Fado singing, a form of urban folk music based around café society. "Loucura" the opening track and "Que Dues Me Perdoe" feel like they embody the form: sad yet dignified, powerful and dramatic and beautifully sung, with simple accompaniment fromportugese classicalguitars.
With a voice as intense and potentially as unrelenting as this a little drama can go a long way. But the material here has enough variety to ensure a satisfying programme of many different moods. "Poetas" starts with a brooding arrangement for piano and cello, before the guitars come back and lift the track into uptempo jauntiness. "Terra D'Aqua" is simply a very strong and compelling melody.
"Barco Negro" is just a drum and Mariza's soaring voice and has an unmistakably Celtic feel to it. (Well, I suppose it's only a brief skip across the sea from Portugal to the south coast of Ireland). And there's a "hidden" track at the end, which for once is essential and not time wasting filler: a stark, great version of "Loucura" for just piano and voice.
This is state of the art "world music". Every detail is just right. It's beautifully recorded, with a deluxe sleeve and packaging. Anyone who likes emotional music, dramatically and skillfully expressed should enjoy it. --Nick Reynolds
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