Fadista diva Mariza brings her mesmerizing voice and enormous Euro-chic charisma back to the Wisconsin Union Theater on April 8, nearly five years after her Madison debut.
Fado, Portugal's urban soul music, evolved from the songs of medieval Moorish Iberia and the crosscurrents of the Brazilian slave trade. The name literally means fate. Fado's drenched in saudade, a Portugese meme for existential longing, lost love and the sea. Twentieth-century fado queen Amália Rodrigues made this melancholy music world famous, though her crown was tarnished when Portugese oligarch António de Oliveira Salazar co-opted her songs in the name of national identity. After the right-wing, one-party state he established fell to a left-leaning coup in 1974, fado bore the taint of fascism.
"The music went underground," Mariza says. "But it was everywhere. I grew up around clandestine fado houses. My parents owned a small taverna in the center of Lisbon. There was fado on weekends, rootsy and basic, pure and traditional. That's why I know it so well."
Mariza's not the only singer of her generation to reclaim the art, though she's by far the most famous on the world circuit. On her 2001 debut album, Fado em Mim, Mariza, then 26, sang several of Rodrigues' signature songs - points of departure for fado's new wave. "I think people were waiting for a new voice, an opening door," Mariza says. "Styles change. I changed the music a little; my record was made for the new century."
Since Fado em Mim, which went quadruple platinum in Portugal, she's recorded four albums, reaping two Grammy nominations and various international awards.
"I'm not trying to win them," she says. "I'm not trying to make records that sell. I'm not that type of person. I make albums my way. I put what I feel into them. I think, 'What would I like to listen to in my own house?' Then I start working on that record. I research poetry [for lyrics]. I get together with writers and composers. Once it all comes together I show the producers what I have. They can give their opinions, I give mine. If I don't like their approach I say so."
Mariza's own approach is increasingly global and contemporary. Terra, recorded last year but just released in the States, features impressive guests - ascending Afro-Spanish chanteuse Concha Buika, Lisbon-dwelling Cape Verdean singer/guitarist Tito Paris, reigning Cuban piano king Chucho Valdés, Brazilian pop-jazz piano superstar Ivan Lins.
Without softening her grip on its sound, Mariza molds fado with their influences. "I don't try to put fado in a compartment," she says. "I just think of it as music. It has roots, it comes from a cultural base, but all the traveling I've been doing around the world helps me see other cultures, understand other styles and rhythms. When I hear something new to me I think, 'How can I make fado from this?' That's the difference between me and other fadistas - I deal with fado from an unconventional perspective."
This is the Terra tour, sans guests, so expect mostly songs from that album. I don't know who's in the lineup, but instrumentation includes the pear-shaped, 12-string Portuguese guitar, acoustic guitar, bass, piano, trumpet, drums and percussion - plus Mariza, and that's plenty.