Sunday, July 22, 2012

fado, some history

The history of the Fado has always reminded me of that of the Tango, as they were both initially perceived by the bourgeoisie as a disreputable, lower-class music and introduced by visitors from afar.

In the case of Fado, the most widely recognized music of Portugal, its roots are frequently traced to Brazilian immigrants who brought their fofa and lundu dance music to Portugal in the early 1800s.

It wasn't until after 1830 that Fado appeared in Lisbon where it was introduced in the port districts of Alfama, Mouraria and Bairro Alto. There are many theories about the origin of Fado. Some trace its origins to "cantigas de amigo" (friends songs) from the Middle Ages, or Moorish songs, and also to African-Brazilian rhythms.

Portuguese Guitar

The crucial instrument of Fado is the Guitarra Portuguesa, a 12-string guitar derived from a lute common to the Congo region of Africa. During the early years of the slave trade (15th century), this lute was carried by Africans to the Portuguese colony of Brazil. The instrument eventually made its way to Portugal. 

Africans and Afro-Brazilians had favored their lute as an accompaniment to dance, but in Portugal musicians began to use the modified version of the instrument to accompany ballad singers, and this is where the Fado was born. 

Lundu as practiced in the 18th century - 
in a painting by Rugendas - 1835 
The word Fado comes from the Latin word fatum, from which the English word fate also originates. The word is linked to the music genre itself and, although both meanings are approximately the same in the two languages, Portuguese speakers seldom utilize the word fado referring to destiny or fate.

Fado is a form of music characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor, and infused with a characteristic sentiment of resignation, fatefulness and melancholia. The music is usually linked to the Portuguese word saudade which symbolizes the feeling of loss.

Fado remains first and foremost music for voice and guitar. Bass, violin, viola, and/or cello are frequent contributors to modern Fado, and percussion is used by some arrangers. 

There are two main varieties of fado, namely those of the cities of Lisbon and Coimbra. The Lisbon style is the more popular, while Coimbra's is the more classic style. Modern fado is popular in Portugal, and has produced many renowned musicians. According to tradition, to applaud fado in Lisbon you clap your hands, while in Coimbra one coughs as if clearing one's throat. 

Famous Fado interpreters
Amália Rodrigues, Ermelinda Vitória, Lucilia do Carmo, Bévinda, Carlos do Carmo, Margarida Bessa, Mísia, Teresa Silva Carvalho, Esmerelda Amoedo, Erícilia Costa, Joana Amendoeira, Mafalda Arnauth, Cristina Branco, Dulce Pontes, Ana Moura, Madredeus, and Mariza 

Significant contemporary Fado songwriters
Jorge Fernando, Maria Manuel Cid and Manuel D'Andrade.   

Luís Vaz de Camões
1524 – 1580

As for the literary component of Fado, the thematic soul of the music is represented in poetry that dates to the 15th century and the writings of Luís Vaz de Camões, who is considered Portugal's and Portuguese language's greatest poet. His mastery of verse has been compared to that of Shakespeare, Vondel, Homer, Virgil and Dante. He wrote a considerable amount of lyrical poetry and drama but is best remembered for his epic work Os Lusíadas (The Lusiads). 

Amor é fogo que arde sem se ver 

Amor é fogo que arde sem se ver; 
É ferida que dói e não se sente; 
É um contentamento descontente; 
É dor que desatina sem doer; 

É um não querer mais que bem querer; 
É solitário andar por entre a gente; 
É nunca contentar-se de contente; 
É cuidar que se ganha em se perder; 

É querer estar preso por vontade; 
É servir a quem vence, o vencedor; 
É ter com quem nos mata lealdade. 
Mas como causar pode seu favor 

Nos corações humanos amizade, 
Se tão contrário a si é o mesmo Amor? 

Love is a fire that burns without being seen

Love is a fire that burns without being seen; 
It's a wound that hurts without being felt; 
It's an unhappy happiness; 
It's a pain that drives you crazy without hurting; 

It's a wishing no more for what you like; 
It's walking lonely within a crowd; 
It's never being contented with contentedness; 
It's seeking to find oneself in losing oneself; 

It's wishing to be a prisoner of wishes; 
It's serving who you have overcome, you the victor; 
It's being faithful to someone who kills us. 
But how can its favour cause friendliness in human hearts, 
if love itself is so contrary to itself?

read more

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

cristina branco, recommended listening

Her grandfather had fled the dictatorship of Salazar and she was raised in the village of Almeirim, in the Ribatejo countryside north of Lisbon, away from the traditional Bairro Alto fado houses of the Portuguese capital.  

As each and every young Portuguese person of her generation, born during the Pink Revolution, she preferred jazz, blues or bossa nova rather than the traditional fado singing."My ears were turned toward so many different rhythms and styles," Cristina said, "that fado made no sense compared with the capabilities of other music." 

She fell in love with fado on her eighteenth birthday, when her grandfather presented her with a record of unpublished songs of Amalia Rodrigues. Suddenly she discovered the passion and emotion within the music and the close ties linking poems, music and voice. 

The same applies to a whole new generation of young musicians who in the last decade have contributed to the social and political restoration of the music, adapting it to and blending with new trends.  Little by little, this amateur singer who studied psychology and thought about forging a career in journalism, took advanced courses in vocal technique and took up her new vocation. 

Cristina Branco’s stage debut in a Dutch club brought immediate success (first in the Netherlands, then in France) and spawned the release of her album Live in Holland in the Netherlands. 

In January, 2001, she made her American debut in New York. The art of Cristina Branco is inseparable from that of Custodio Castelo, her husband. He plays the Portuguese guitar and composes most of the fados she sings. His sense of melody, the subtlety of the connections he achieves between words and music and his instinctive understanding of Cristina’s tones are all integral ingredients of the expressive fado. 

Fados convey passionate moods with the famous ‘saudade,’ the fatalistic sadness inherited from the country’s maritime past, alternating with subtle, light episodes, to create a unique and haunting atmosphere. One cannot but recognize Cristina Branco’s style within the genre. Guitar, Portuguese guitar and bass guitar blended with a voice, both warm and light, create mesmerizing traditional fados and original pieces. The words are carefully chosen pieces from famous poets (such as Pessoa) and the not-so-famous, so Cristina is on the edge of modern Portuguese culture. 

In 2000, she dedicated a whole album to a Dutch poet of the beginning of the 20th century, Jan Jacob Slauerhoff, who had known Portugal, loved it and written about it. Released only in the Netherlands, the album has gone platinum. more

J.J. Slauerhoff (1898-1936)
The life of the ship’s doctor and poet Jan Jacob Slauerhoff satisfies all the criteria for literary stardom. He was restless, adventurous, and intriguing, a tormented loner who suffered poor health and died young – a poète maudit in every way. ‘My poems are my only home,’ wrote Slauerhoff, and despite the romanticism of these words, his life really was a lonely undertaking. A similar non-conformism characterizes his literary work. Slauerhoff’s prose exhibits the same features as his poetry: it is strongly autobiographical, restless and world-weary, and revealing a yearning for the unreachable and for a more passionate age. 

De Eenzamen

Stil sta ik in de steppe,
De doffe zon gaat onder,
De schrale maan verschijnt.
 Het gras dampt, klam en vochtig,

De grond blijft stijf bevroren
In heete korte zomer:
t Blijft winter in de zomer.
 De klokjes zijn nog hoorbaar,
Het rulle spoor nog zichtbaar,

De kar is al verdwenen.
 Ja, alles gaat, verdwenen
Wat over is gebleven
Is lief maar onvoldoende
Om op te leven.


Os Solitáros

Na fria planície me quedo em silêncio; 
Um sol mortiço vai descendo a ocidente. 
Pálida, a lua assoma ao firmamento. 
Em fumos se expande a terra orvalhada. 

Nos campos hirtos, sob o Verão quente 
E fugaz, esconde-se o gelo eterno: 
É o Inverno numa farsa de Verão. 
Ainda se ouvem os chocalhos tilintar, 

Ainda se avista o trilho irregular, 
A carroça, essa, deixou de se ver. 
Sim, tudo passa, desaparece... 
E, embora inspire ternura, 

O pouco que ficou 
Não chega para viver.

The Lonely Ones

Quietly I stand in the steppe
The dim sun is setting
The thin moon appears
The grass steams, damp and moist

The soil stays frozen solid
During the short and hot summer:
It stays winter while summer
The little clocks are still audible
The loose trail is still visible

The cart has already disappeared
Yes, everything goes, disappeared
What has remained
Is sweet but insufficient
For life


read more

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

marta gómez, recommended listening

Marta Gómez has developed an extensive music career in the US, which has placed her as one of the most interesting singer-songwriters on the world music scene today.

With more than seventy composed songs, this singer-songwriter not only traverses a whole range of Colombian cumbias and bambucos, Argentine zambas, Cuban sones and Peruvian landos but she also writes the kind of melodies and refrains that translate across whatever language she is singing in.

Marta and her group perform a repertoire of original compositions based on a vast amount of rhythms from Latin America. Her songs mix the joy of the Caribbean with the nostalgia of the Andes while adding jazz and pop elements, taking the authenticity of South American indigenous folk music into a hip new realm.

Her album Entre Cada Palabra placed Marta Gómez as The Best National World-Music Artist of 2006 (Boston Phoenix).  In an interview on the National Public Radio, journalist Steve Inskeep said he admires Marta’s capacity of turning the bitter history of her native country into sweet musicHer latest album El corazón y el sombrero was released in 2011

Marta Gómez also initiated the "Agua Dulce Foundation" which has joined the efforts of several nonprofit organizations in Colombia and other countries of Latin America, donating money and offering benefit concerts. On her website she writes: ... It's a dream becoming reality, little by little, day by day, as life itself. It is the vision to create a better future for Latin American children and through them, their families and communities... more

read more