19 December 2010

Notable Fado Records or CDs of 2010 (or so)

Because this is the first list of this type on this site, I'm going to stretch the definition of "2010" to include records that came out either in 2010 or close to it. I'm also working on another list of records: ones that I only found out about last year, but that I wish I'd found long ago.

Porta do Coração (2010)
Ricardo Ribeiro
This is a record in the grand castiço style: tough and up-front, with plenty of self-administered vocal challenges thrown in. The message comes through pretty clearly on the cover, which is a throwback to a time when appearing with a cigarette was the norm. Ribeiro's previous record (self-titled, released by Companhia Nacional de Música) was on the soft side. It was, based on my experience of hearing him a few times, very different from his approach when singing live. The new record, on the other hand, has plenty of strong, forthright and emotional tunes such as 'Agua louca da ribeira' (see video below) and 'A porta do coração'. And there are two fados that really gallop along: 'Sonho fadista' and 'Fama de Alfama'.
Os Fados de Alvorada (2010)
The label Alvroada (now defunct) was responsible for producing many great fado records during the middle of the 20th century. José Manuel Osório, a fadista and scholar of the fado, spent a couple of years combing through the archives of Alvorada and other labels to compile "Fado de A a Z", a 16-CD compendium containing one example each from about 150 different fados, along with brief histories, photos and writings associated with each fado. It's a great collection that can still be found in bookfairs in Lisbon.

Through this experience, he got the idea of collecting his personal favorites from Alvorada's catalog. He found them, had them remastered, and did all the crazy detailed work of correcting years and years of errors in documentation: everything from musicians' names and birthdates to the titles of the lyrics. He also worked assiduously to reclaim detailed biographical information on the singers. The result is three CDs worth of fantastic music, covering many different styles of fado, organized by the first name of the fadista. Alot of music here is essentially impossible to find elsewhere. The quality is uniformly high, and the details on the singers are quite informative.

If you understand Portuguese, there are numerous interviews with Osório floating around in which he discusses the project. I'm not sure why I feel compelled to mention this, but he is one of the two men in Portugal who has been living with HIV the longest. Very interesting cat.

Leva-me Aos Fados (2010)
Ana Moura
It's interesting to contrast this record with Mariza's latest. This is the fourth fado record from Ana Moura (if you don't count the live one), "just" one less than Mariza (the differences in sales are probably best measured in the hundreds of thousands). The two singers are, to me, hugely different. Ana Moura's repertory is highly personalized. It's interesting to examine her choices of songs for each record, and also live. I once heard an interview with her in which she said something like, she sings the fados that speak to her, rather than the ones that 'should' be sung. To me this sentiment really shows through in all of her records. Onstage she is phenomenal. I once heard her singing at Joe's Pub in New York. Joe's Pub is a small space. At one point, Ana said "I am now going to sing the fado like we do in Lisbon: with no microphone and no amplification." Then she laid down "Loucura". I was there with my wife, mother and aunt. At the end of the show, my aunt said "I have heard Amália, Carlos do Carmo and plenty of others singing live. She is better."

live without a mic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qsWEm7KNpT8
live: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDnnn4Wdyn4

Fado Tradicional (2010)
For those wanting an introduction to the mainline fado repertory of Lisbon, this is a good choice. Every fado (that is, the music) is indeed a traditional fado (except maybe one--depends on who you ask). Plus, it has a brief appearance by Artur Batalha (see below).

The second thing worth noting here is the style of presentation o the music. Mariza's previous records have all, to greater or lesser extents, mixed in nontraditional arrangements with traditional poems. This record does not. The music is played by some top-flight musicians (Ângelo Freire on guitarra portuguesa, Diogo Clemente on viola and Marino de Freitas on viola-baixo)--and always in the traditional way.

The next three records are by Lisbon locals: Lúcio Bamond, Luís Ribeiro and Jerónimo Caracol.

O Meu Fado Cumplice (Metrosom, 2010)
Lúcio Bamond
The quality of the musicians on a fado record is often an indicator of the quality of the singer and the repertory. This record was produced by Jorge Fernando (see report on Fado in NJ, below)--a wunderkind of the fado. The Portuguese guitar is played by José Manuel Neto (also mentioned below), the viola by Carlos Fonseca and the viola-baixa by Tó Moliças (longtime bassist for Rodrigo). Lúcio himself has been around for awhile. The first time I heard him sing was at the Taverna d'El Rey in the Alfama and I was really impressed. Now he is at a new place near the Elevador da Glória that looks good. I think the thing I like about Lúcio Bamond's work--aside from the high quality of his singing--is his highly personalized repertory. While he does sing the classic fados, I really appreciate his treatment of newer and less popular ones.

interview and stuff
live (with Luís Ribeiro and Lelo Nogueira)
Lúcio's own site

Espelho de Alma (2009)
Luís Matos
I first heard Luís Matos singing around the Mouraria and Bairro Alto, often with Pedro Galveias in the desgarrada (check purofado's channel on youtube for some good videos from this time). He is a smart singer, and in a live setting is very quick-witted (something essential when singing with Pedro, where the surprises come fast). The record is from the time just before he got a very high-profile gig, in Filipe Lá Féria's newest production, Fado: Historia de um Povo, which as of this writing is playing at the Salão Preto e Prata at the Casino Estoril (near Lisbon). Before this, he was singing at the Parreirinha de Alfama, and before that in Bairro Alto (in a regular gig with his wife, Ana Maurício). He gave an interview a short time ago on Rádio Amália, where he also sang some fados from the new record (link is dead, unfortunately). I mention the podcast and the new work because, since joining Lá Féria's production, Luís' voice has really matured and his stage presence has become even more confident than it was.

Fados na Voz do Jerónimo Caracol (MetroSom, nd)
Jerónimo Caracol

The Rádio Amália disco jockey Virgílio Pereira is frequently asking his late-night listeners to call in during the day and request fados by this man, Jerónimo Caracol. You can hear some samples at the link below (of the fados provided, I recommend "Sinas Trocadas"). I met him when he was singing at Vossemecê (he might still be there--I don't know). The videos below were recorded there by the great documentarian of the fado, user rosabranca on youtube. This record is worth seeking out.

Jerónimo Caracol recently (29 Dec 10) appeared on Rádio Amália for the program "Estrela da Tarde". The program is archived here. "A não perder!"

Am I missing something special that you heard this year? Leave a comment and let me know!

05 December 2010

Artur Batalha

As mentioned in a previous entry on this blog, Artur Batalha appears on a track of Mariza's new album, Fado Tradicional. Batalha is probably my favorite living male fado singer--and his appearance on the album is a big professional break--so I thought this would be a good time to write about him. The information below is taken mainly from two interviews conducted by me or by my friend António Lisboa with Batalha himself during the last 18 months.

Life and Work
Artur Henrique dos Santos Batalha is a fadista born in the Alfama (Lisbon) on 14 April 1951. His first time singing in public was at age nine, and he began his career at the age of 14 in the Taverna do Embuçado, which at the time was owned by João Ferreira-Rosa. In 1971 Artur Batalha won the Noite do Fado at the Coliseu dos Recreios in Lisbon, and went on to sing in various countries and on television.
from http://fbfadoporto.blogspot.com/
Batalha is known as the "Prince of the fado" (Fernando Maurício is known as the "King of the Fado"). His repertory reflects a profoundly human sensibility. A query on José Fernandes' database with the term "Artur Batalha" will give you an idea of what he has recorded. These are songs about loneliness, abject poverty, love between man and woman, and, importantly, empathy for other human beings. When I asked Batalha for three lyrics that he considers essential in his repertory, he stated "Promete, jura" ("Promise, Swear"), "Hoje morreu um poeta" ("A poet died today"), and "Noites sem fim" ("Nights without end"). The track on Mariza's record is "Promete, jura", which is also known as "Estás a pensar em mim" ("You are thinking about me").

Below at left is Batalha's version from sometime during the 80s. The track was re-released recently on the record Príncipe do Fado from Metro-Som. Below at right is the version with Mariza from the new record.

Metro-Som has done a good job of re-releasing selected tracks from Batalha's catalog, even if the documentation is downright anemic (and the production occasionally sketchy). Here is a list of the tracks from the reissues of his early work on that label. The records I have are Príncipe do Fado (volumes 1 through 3), Jóia do Fado, and Filho do Fado. I have no idea how big his original catalogue is. However, there are a few scans of releases in vinyl here (scroll down to "capas" then find his name).

One thing that impressed me with Batalha was his singing of the fado Menor, something that was not done very often in the fado houses I frequented. (In fact Felipe Lucas, one of Dulce Pontes' guitarists, once told me that, after a week at the Baiuca, not one person had asked him to play the fado menor.) In addition to the Menor, Batalha stated that the fado Proença and the fado Vitória are essential in his repertory. His choices for fadistas and/or musicians of reference to him provide some further insight into his work. These are Tristão da Silva, Amália Rodrigues and Fernando Farinha.

Batalha and Zé António (date unknown)
from http://sylvielasserre.blogs.com
It is well known that Batalha went through a number of years of very serious personal difficulty, including addictions to various substances. These are over and he is in great form. At the time of my interview with him (16 April 2010), he reported having sung in public more than ten times over the previous months, in the bairros of Serafina and Bairro Alto, and in the freguesia of Pena.

Personal Impressions
I first heard Batalha singing live at the restaurant “Os Ferreiras”, on Rua São Lázaro em Lisbon, and I continued to visit there to hear him and the other excellent fadistas that sang under the late António Ferreira's stewardship (Batalha is third row down from the top, in the middle). (A complete list of my videos from these visits is here--just do a query on "Artur".) I can't make out exactly who is in all of the photos, but from top to bottom, left to right. they are probably (unknown), Júlia Lopes, José Cardoso; Joana Veiga, Jaime Santos, Kátia Santos; António Pinho, Batalha, Eduardo Leite; Ricardo Aires, António Ferreira, (unknown).
Montage of Artists Outside Os Ferreiras

I was impressed by the quality of his voice, and also with his physical presence--particularly his ability to command attention in the room. 

It is worth watching the video of Batalha singing a few years ago at A Barraca, with Carlos Gonçalves on the Portuguese guitar, and Lelo Nogueira on the viola. After an introduction by the manager, Batalha thanks everyone and dedicates the fado, "Noites Perdidas" to a friend who is there. The video is rare for showing how the fado happens in an intimate setting among friends, and is really one of the most emblematic I've found (sorry I cannot embed it).

One night I visited the Os Ferreiras with a friend from out of town, and as the hours waned we watched the crowd gradually diminish--until, at sometime around 2am, there were only about ten people left. Batalha asked what we would like to hear. Another client and I tried to convince him to sing "Meu Irmão Fora da Lei", but to no avail: it was "Sonho Tropical", a lovely fado but on a very different theme. Here are the two fados.

Meu Irmão Fora da Lei

Sonho Tropical
But on the other hand, I never heard Batalha participate in any of the desgrarradas that happened frequently at Os Ferreiras. Perhaps that is not a particular strength of his. The desgarrada requires a ready repertory of phrases that can be employed to challenge prior singers. I've never heard Batalha sing the kind of humorous stanzas that are the stock in trade of the desgarrada, so perhaps this is one factor. Fortunately, some friends were at Os Ferreiras one night when Batalha did in fact participate in a desgarrada at Os Ferreiras (with Jorge Fernando no less). Here is the evidence.

One thing I have to mention. The first night of fado after the death of Michael Jackson (yes, that one), I was at Os Ferreiras and talking with Batalha during one of the breaks. Batalha wanted to talk about Michael Jackson. "Morreu o nosso colega", he said ("Our colleague has died."). I was pretty floored, but I guess great music is great music.

04 December 2010

Fado essentials on the Internet

Here's my very subjective list:

Fado on the Internet [1]

Rádio Amália (live from Lisbon): www.amalia.fm/
Fado TV (in-studio performances): fadotv.com/

Videos on YouTube
Lisbon 2008-2009: mendodm
Amália: Alexcaruzdemalta2010, AmaliaNoel
Various: casadofado, Rosabranca2010

How to listen to the fado:
www.jose-lucio.com/Fado/Acontece.htm (Portuguese), www.fado-today.blogspot.com (English)


How to play the three fundamental fados on Portuguese guitar:

Poets, composers, singers and musicians associated with the fado

History and Day-to-day of the fado:


[1] All sources in Portuguese unless otherwise noted.