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/
2008/11/artur-batalha.html
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.

15 comments:

  1. Dear friend,

    First of all, I would like to congratulate you on a wonderful site about fado written in English. The depth and variety of information that you offer is astounding, and I am glad to have bumped into your site. I myself started a fado blog in English some years ago, although due to lack of time, it has been idle for quite a while now. If you are interested, you can check it out at:

    http://fadous.blogspot.com

    Being originally from Spain, though having lived in the United States for many years now, I also have a blog in Spanish about fado, which you will find at:

    http://guitarrasdelisboa.blogspot.com

    Once again, congrats on your wonderful blog. Keep the good posts coming!!!

    Anton Garcia-Fernandez
    Memphis, Tennessee.

    P.S.: I just added your blog to the list of links of interest in mine.

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  2. Thank you for the nice comments and the encouragement--as well as for linking to my blog. I know your English-language blog (and was sorry to see it go into hiatus), but did not know the Spanish-language one, which looks really great. I've added a link. Keep in touch! David

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  3. Dear David,
    Voltei há pouco de Lisboa de um lindo convívio fadista. Tive a ocasião de ver o Batalha na Tasca do Chico de Alfama, mas esse dia não tinha vontade de cantar. Foi uma pena. Vamos lá a esperar numa outra ocasião.
    Ainda o meu inglês não da para seguir o blog mas passo por cá a miúdo.
    Já falaram contigo a Sandra Correia e o João Costa? a menina canta muito bem e esteve em Barcelona como sabes e agora vai para os EUA.
    Um abraço e os meus desejos de boas festas de Natal e Ano Novo.
    jaume

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  4. Hi, everybody,

    I am George from Bradford, MA, located north of Boston, near the NH border.

    When I was young, I discovered the emotional music of fado and it touched me and moved me very strongly.

    I can remember starting to fall in love with fados when I was 17 years old, even though I am now 44 years old.

    All my best friendly regards to the fado fans.

    George

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  5. George:

    Thank you for visiting and for sharing these memories. Keep an eye out for some great fado that is supposed to be happening soon in the Boston area. Watch this site for more info as plans are confirmed with the organizer.

    DM

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  6. Conheci pela primeira vez a voz de Artur Batalha,na radio Amália,as chinelinhas,adorei aquela voz. Procurei o disco e só encontrei na fnac. Comprei, desde então o disco não para de tocar. Adoro a voz excelente desse homem e pergunto,como só agora? põem nas rádios tanta gente a cantar e ás vezes não valem nada,porque uma voz como a de Artur Batalha, raras vezes se ouve?

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  7. @Joaquina948
    Obrigado pelo comentário seu. Os discos de Batalha podem ser encontrados ou na FNAC ou, se não estou enganado, aonde ele canta (quer dizer, n 'os Ferreiras). Há também uma discoteca na Baixa de Lisboa (1o andar) que deve ter quase todos daqueles que foram re-editados por Metro-Som (quatro ou cinco em total). Quanto a voz do Batalha, concordo completamente com os seus sentimentos. Coloquei recentemente no YouTube as minhas duas listas de fados cantados ao vivo e dispostos naquela plataforma. Pode entrar na página mas recente deste blogue para ficar com as ligações. Cumprimentos e mais uma vez obrigado pelas suas dicas.

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  8. Gerald Da Silva Croft25 January, 2012

    Has anyone tried to find out about Artur Batalha? his name is not on Wikipedia nor is it easy to find out about his career elsewhere. After hearing his voice on the Mariza album I want to see if I can find some more of his work. A very unique voice so suited to Fado. I'll have to wait until my next visit to Lisbon and find a record store.
    Fado, by the way, is one of the worlds greatest music if you wish to contemplate life and relax listening to voice and musical instrument in perfect harmony. Another great thing to come from Portugal

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  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  10. You might be able to buy his CDs on the FNAC online store (fnac.pt) and have them shipped to you (in the US or elsewhere). You might also try getting in touch with Metro-Som directly. In Lisbon, you can typically find his records at the FNAC in Chiado–or just go one evening to Os Ferreiras and buy some there! Thanks for the comments.

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    Replies
    1. Muito Obrigado. vou O Portugal em Verao!! I will certainly take a trip to Lisbon and get a few cd's. If not I'll try the Web site. Thanks once more

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  11. Artur Batalha,adoro ouvir esse homem!!! A voz de Artur é ternura. Gostava de dizer a Artur Batalha que tenha confiança,pois a sua voz encanta e o homem tambem.

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  12. Para eles que chegam até aqui e que querem ouvir a voz do Artur Batalha (entre outros) ao vivo n'Os Ferreiras, pode seguir as links:

    http://noitesperdidas.net/01OF.mp3
    http://noitesperdidas.net/02OF.mp3
    http://noitesperdidas.net/03OF.mp3

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  13. Ola, My wife and I met Artur Batalha last Spring and heard him sing when we were visiting our son in Lisboa. We went to a Fado restaurant one evening and there he was. From the pictures you've posted, I believe it was Os Ferreiras. In the guide we were using, this venue was described as "authentic", and we very much agree. We bought one of his earlier CDs, Joia de Fado, and it has become our favorite to listen to back in Maine. Agora estudo a lingua Portuguese, so I'll be able to understand more of the lyrics when we visit again next year. By the way, the Museu do Fado in Lisboa is well worth the visit. Adeus. -Tom

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  14. Tom--thanks for this great comment! That is great that you are now studying Portuguese. As I hope you have already seen, many new CDs include the lyrics in both Portuguese and English. A great site for fado lyrics in general is http://www.fadosdofado.blogspot.com. One other (which frequently has links to fado performances) is http://bocaslindas.blogspot.com.

    Os Ferreiras was definitely authentic, but now it is closed. On the bright side, you can hear Batalha (and others who sang at Os Ferreiras) in Alfama. Check out the Esquina d'Alfama and Sr. Fado. Best regards and thanks again!

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