Posts Tagged ‘portugal’
Michael Macaroon speaks to the Portuguese singer and guitarist who will make a welcome return to London in April for La Linea
The title of António Zambujo’s latest album, Até Pensei que Fosse Minha (Until I Thought it was Mine), could stand as the tag line for his whole musical career. His extraordinary popularity as a singer and guitarist, both in his native Portugal and abroad is founded on a seemingly effortless absorption of musical influences ranging from fado to bossa nova, taking in Chet Baker, Serge Gainsbourg and Bulgarian folk choirs on the way.
This latest outing is a tribute disc to Chico Buarque, the Brazilian singer whose 50-year career has encompassed dozens of albums, as well as plays, poems and novels, not to mention political protest. Buarque’s samba and tropicália roots may not seem obvious material for a fado singer, though the points of cultural connection are there, and in any case, Zambujo is not exactly a fadista from central casting.
Zambujo’s own roots are in the Alentejo region in the south of Portugal, and he’s steeped in the social and musical traditions of cante alentejano – choirs of men and women who sing of the land they work, local saints and lost love. Cante has an austere harmony built up in parallel thirds, pregnant with Arab influence from centuries back. By his teens, however, Zambujo had discovered the fado of Amália Rodrigues and before long made the move to Lisbon. Mentored by guitarist and composer Mário Pacheco, it was four successful years in the role of Amália’s husband in the eponymous musical that gave him his big commercial break. The recording and touring career that’s followed has charted an individual’s cultural coming of age – a transition from local to international fame, yielding in the process some wonderful tunes, poetry and albums.
His early discs are noted for bridging cante and fado – notably 2004’s Por Meu Cante – though wider interests soon emerge, and a passion for Brazilian music in particular receives the full Zambujo treatment in albums such as Outro Sentido (2007) and Guia (2010).
Now on his eighth disc, Zambujo is established enough to follow his personal enthusiasms without compromise. This is a fan’s tribute: “Chico Buarque is one of the biggest poets of the Portuguese language and I love him,” says Zambujo. Unlike an ordinary fan, though, he has drawn on his idol’s help in whittling down a long list of a hundred songs to create this personal playlist of 16.
What’s more, Buarque, together with the likes of Carminho and Roberta Sá, perform alongside Zambujo on some of the tracks. This dynamic of collaboration is no doubt important morally as well as musically. If you are reinterpreting a classic protest song such as ‘Cálice’ – written in the face of government censorship following the Brazilian military coup of 1964 (cálice or ‘goblet’ is a near homophone for cale-se or ‘shut up’) – then direct engagement with its author helps reconcile a 21st-century perspective with the authenticity of the original (not to mention avoiding the pitfalls of cultural appropriation).
For future projects, Zambujo claims not to have any plans: “I just want to sing and play my guitar… I know that we will tour this year with this album, then we’ll have a live album being released around September, and after that we’ll see…” It doesn’t take much probing, however, to get him to admit there are other enthusiasms he’d like to explore further: “Tom Waits, Caetano Veloso, Agustín Lara, Chavela Vargas, so many…”
The Portuguese singer first emerged in the 90s and now makes a welcome return with the release of her first album in six years, Archivo Pittoresco (on Crammed).
Read more about Pena and her own, unique interpretation of fado in the current issue (January/February 2017, #124). Archivo Pittoresco will be reviewed in the next issue, out January 27.
Lula Pena will perform at Celtic Connections in Glasgow on January 21 and at London’s Cafe OTO on March 11 & 12. Click here for more details.
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.
Words by Gonçalo Frota
Up to this point, António Zambujo had been gradually climbing a ladder that meant both more international recognition, establishing a firm and personal way of addressing fado music. Even if it was apparent from the very beginning that his voice was not vaguely interested in abiding by the rules of traditional fado, he spent years testing what his music could actually sound like. With Outro Sentido (2007) Zambujo started to show some consistency, but it was Guia (2010) and Quinto (2012) that finally tied together all the various influences upon his singing: Chet Baker, João Gilberto, Caetano Veloso, Chavela Vargas, Cesaria Evora, Amália Rodrigues and Maria Teresa Noronha, to name a few.
Rua da Emenda sounds as if Zambujo is moving sideways, taking the time to enjoy the place all that work took him to. It sounds effortless and it maintains a loose pace, maintaining the African, Brazilian and South American flavours without making a big fuss. It’s clear that he has proven himself and is claiming the right to lay back a little bit and sing like he would do among friends. He’s telling us that this time it’s just for fun. The fact that he’s so good is all the justification he needs.