The Passion of Portuguese Fado Music
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because everyone should understand the nature of Portuguese saudade.
By Carl Pettit
While it does occasionally rain in Spain (on the plain and elsewhere), if you’re in search of a melodic downpour in southern Europe, look to Portugal. The Portuguese fado song “Chuva,” or “Rain,” originally composed by Portuguese singer and producer Jorge Fernando, has been given new life by the internationally renowned fadista Mariza, in a rendition that cannot be beat for heartfelt passion and poetic precipitation.
Fado — for those of you not in the know — is a kind of folk music born from the Portuguese capital, Lisbon. The emotional and lyrical content of fado combines a very particular type of melancholic sentiment with a gut-wrenchingly powerful singing style that borders on the operatic. The song “Chuva” has made quite an impact on the fado community. According to the Lisbon-based fadista Carolina (one name, like Rihanna), Mariza’s exquisite interpretation of this evocative melody illustrates the heart of fado music, known as saudade.
Kindred fado spirits like Mariza rip open their souls for the pleasure of the audience in attendance.
Saudade is an emotional state describing a deep sense of nostalgia and loss for someone or something that once brought pleasure, but is now gone. Mariza, the global face of modern fado, follows in the giant footsteps of Amália Rodrigues (the “queen of fado”); and like the late great fadista, Mariza is skilled in exuding just the right amount of saudade when she performs.
Carolina, who came up in Lisbon’s Alfama district performing in the same iconic Clube de Fado as Mariza, describes fado as her “refuge. Fado is a kind of confession. I think it’s my church.” While most people are going out to bars and discos for fun, Carolina (when not singing herself) is heading out with other vocalists and musicians to listen to kindred fado spirits like Mariza rip open their souls for the pleasure of the audience in attendance.
Mariza, who performs with her eyes open (many fadistas sing with their eyes closed during the most profound passages), belts and intones with an extremely powerful and emotive voice, connecting with her fans in ways few performers can, and carving out a phenomenal career as a result.
“Chuva” is a romantic song about loss and love, like most fado songs. And yet it is still a joyful musical experience, whether the listener is immersed in the world of fado or only stopping by for a visit. You might even close your eyes and find yourself enthralled by the longing of the Portuguese soul.