This was a very special evening. Songlines has said it before, but Carminho is the exciting new name on the Portuguese fado scene. We’re proud to have had her UK debut at Songlines Encounters last year. In Portugal – and in neighbouring Spain — she has been in the charts with her duet with pop singer Pablo Alborán, but at the London Jazz Festival she was concentrating on the pure fado which she does so beautifully.
She opened with ‘Lagrimas do Ceu’ (Tears of Heaven), a song of tears, rain and sweet melancholy associated with Alfredo Marceneiro. It’s full of haunting phrases exchanged between Carminho and Portuguese guitar player Luis Guerreiro, surely the most expressive in the business, both in his facial expressions and his playing. When everybody is wanting to experiment, it was great to have the classic line-up of a singer backed by top players – Guerreiro on guitarra, Diogo Clemente on viola (Spanish guitar) and Marino de Freitas on baixo acustico (acoustic bass guitar).
Her voice is clear and focussed, but with a touch of husky warmth. She writes some of her own lyrics and clearly selects her songs carefully – she really feels their emotions, yet is collected on stage, not over emotional. She introduced some of the songs – and probably should have said a little more, but it’s always a fine line between explaining too much and just letting the music speak.
I happened to bump into a friend of mine who had heard her in the wonderful Mesa de Frades in Lisbon and had been hugely impressed. Carminho ended, before the standing ovation and encores, with her most beautiful song ‘Escrivi teu nome no Vento’ (I Write Your Name on the Wind), which has a beguiling tune and sense of loss as elusive as the wind. We both agreed that we’d been at an evening of rare beauty and intensity. At the end of the final encore the mics were turned off and the concert ended with the pure unamplified voice and guitars. Just like a Lisbon fado house. Gorgeous.
Part of this concert will be broadcast on world routes on Radio 3 on Sunday evening (November 18).