Songlines Fado Series

The international success of fado singers like Mariza and Ana Moura has created a huge popular interest in this soulful and distinctive Portuguese music. But what these big concerts can't convey is the intimate atmosphere of the renascent scene in Lisbon's restaurants and fado houses.

The Songlines Fado Series brings top fadistas, often for the first time in the UK, to The Pheasantry at PizzaExpress on London's King's Road, on the last Friday of every month. It's a rare chance to experience fado up close, with some great instrumentalists, to see how every singer makes the music his or her own.

Friday 26 January, 2018

Buba Espinho

Buba Espinho
Buba Espinho's fado story is not the typical one. He was not precociously shaken from his peaceful childhood by a stunning voice coming from the radio or TV. But it's not that different either. Born in Beja, in the Alentejo region of southern Portugal, Bernardo 'Buba' Espinho was still a young kid when he felt drawn to cante alentejano, the region's intense former work songs that were kept alive in local taverns all over the region. He started to attend informal musical gatherings in the Alentejo town of Cuba, listening to the elderly sing those weighty polyphonic songs and waiting to be called and join the circle.

Fado only made a big impression in his life later on, once he started to make a name for himself as a singer with Bubedanas, a band he put together with his young pals in Beja, loosely reinterpreting cante. But as soon as he set foot in Lisbon, Buba quickly got closer to the fado he so admired in the voices of Antonio Zambujo and Ricardo Ribeiro. When he began visiting the casas de fado, not only was he fascinated with the old repertoire, but he unquestionably felt that was right for him to leave behind the collective singing of cante and take on the responsibility of having a voice of his own.

And it didn't take long for Buba to stand out among the rising young talent. For the last couple of years, he's caused quite a stir in fado circles. Maybe because the cante roots lend his fado a totally different flavour and an irresistible twist. He's only 22. It's not difficult to work out that this is just the exciting beginning.

photo © Ana Espinho

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