Words by Nigel Williamson
Classic fado, gorgeous pop ballads: showstoppers galore
Mariza’s last album, 2010’s Fado Tradicional, was, as its title implied, a relatively conservative affair that lovingly restated a firm commitment to her heritage. After a five-year hiatus, to return with another trad-oriented album might have implied a lack of progression. But there’s no chance of that here: this is a set of bold and expansive ambition, brilliantly produced by serial world music collaborator Javier Limón (Buika, Yasmin Levy, Eleftheria Arvanitaki and Anoushka Shankar among others). It combines deep fado roots with sparkling pop ballads and subtle washes of electronica.
The heartbreaking ‘Sombra’ and the upbeat ‘Missangas’ are both reassuring examples of Mariza’s status as the queen of traditional fado. But the gorgeous pop balladry of ‘Melhor de Mim’ and ‘Adeus’, the ethereal ‘Sem Ti’ and the stunning, shimmering ‘Saudade Solta’, composed by brothers Pedro da Silva Martins and Luís José Martins from the Portuguese award-winning group Deolinda, find her dramatically spreading her wings. There’s a newly expressive maturity that lends her voice greater nuance than ever before. Given that she occasionally sings Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ in concert, perhaps the pop-fado fusions of Mundo should come as no surprise. But she’s pulled it off with a poise, artistry and self-assurance that is simply breathtaking.