The African Sound of Fado and Mariza
Although it is believed to have appeared in Lisbon in the 1820s, many say the exact origins of this music is difficult to trace and it may have its roots in the Middle Ages or in the African Moorish tradition. Historically, Fado was sung by sailors about the sea or about life in the poor port districts of Lisbon – Alfama, Barrio Alto and Mouraria. But today, as long as it sticks to a specific structure, Fado can be sung about basically anything. In 2011, Fado was officially inscribed on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List, which has given this unique music international recognition.
The famous singer Mariza has given new life and a modern twist to this traditional style. Born in Lourenco Marques (Mozambique) in 1973 to a Portuguese father and a mother of African heritage, she add "Africa" to her Portuguese sound. From the age of three, living in the historic quarters of Mouraria and Alfama in Lisbon, Mariza enjoyed singing all styles of music. As an outsider, (she was born in Africa) her father felt that if she embraced Fado, she would be more accepted within the community – he was right! Today she has sold over a million albums across the globe.
Her first album, ‘Fado em mim’ (Fado in me) was released in 2001 and went quadruple platinum in Portugal. The world noticed and the press hailed this as the birth of a new star. She has since performed at the most prestigious venues in the world – in New York, Sydney, London, Los Angeles, Rio, San Francisco, Cairo, Moscow, on the BBC and in Malaysia, China and Thailand. Few, who have heard her, have not fallen in love with her magic.
Some of her most memorable performance included singing the Portuguese national anthem at the 2002 FIFA World Cup and at the Athens Olympics in 2004, where Mariza sang "A Thousand Years" – a duet with Sting. She was also very moved and honored when she was invited to participate in Live 8 (at The Eden Project in Cornwall in the UK). Here she performed with Peter Gabriel and other African artists such as Youssou N’Dour and Angélique Kidjo. She was able to draw from her African roots which rejuvenated her emotional inspiration.
Mariza is a multi-award winning and Grammy nominated singer/songwriter who believes her unique sound keeps the tradition of Fado alive as she truly knows it and understands it – she also says, “I understand myself through it”.
She has also enjoyed a couple of interesting ambassadorial roles. One is for ‘the work and the spirit of Hans Christian Andersen’ and the other for UNICEF – so her appeal is universal! The Financial Times says “If any young performer can be credited with bringing Fado, the soulful Portuguese folk song, to a global audience, it is the Mozambique-born, Lisbon- raised Mariza.”
Mariza’s sound is timeless and European, but with a flavor of Africa. She produces music from the heart and with poetic ease. She has given Fado an elegance and an opportunity to renew and adapt itself - “Fado is not limited… but it must be treated with the utmost care”. And with her mature confident sound, this charming lady carries the responsibility of history, culture and the sound of the Portuguese with a unique African twist.
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