30 January 2012

Where this blog has been, where it's going

This blog has reached 10,000 hits, so maybe it's time to reflect very briefly on its equally brief history. First off, I must say that I am grateful for those hits. The fado is not exactly a topic with universal appeal, and this blog does not attempt to cover the big names.

Given the scope and readership of the blog, it has been interesting to see Artur Batalha's stock rise (both here and on my YouTube channel). Batalha gets the most queries and the most hits. There are bunches of hits associated with fado performances in the US, and with recent fado records, especially the preview and review of the January 2012 show at Carnegie Hall. The traffic sources are interesting. Somebody in Russia is out there, and there are people coming in from two excellent sites: "Fado Cravo" and "All This is Fado" (come back Anton, we need you!).

Speaking of this, if you want to see some heavy traffic (and excellent) Portuguese language fado sites besides "Fado Cravo", check out Lisboa no GuinessFados do Fado, and de fado. Someday I am going to write an article about the fado in the blogosphere: there is some really good stuff out there. For now, back to work!

25 January 2012

Fado at Carnegie Hall

Jorge Fernando
Jorge Fernando brought a very unique fado show to Carnegie Hall last night (24-Jan-12), one that exploited the tension between the old and the new fado in ways that I'd never have expected.

The typical fado show has a very predictable structure: guitarrada (just the musicians playing), followed by a number of individual singers, each of whom sings three fados and then leaves the stage. There is usually an intermission (the intervalo) somewhere along the line, after which the cycle restarts. The folcloric music and touristic fado of the early evening are gradually replaced by the "fado fado", so that as the night goes on, things usually get more serious and heavy. Jorge's structuring of the show tonight was something else. In sentiment and in intention, it was somewhat like, but both more and less.

Waiting for the fado to happen
The layout of the stage sent a clear signal: six chairs arrayed in a semi-circle—very different from the typical single microphone and a place for the musicians to sit. After the performers entered, instead of a guitarrada, they played something of a ronda, with each singer taking turns singing verses during perhaps half a dozen fados. One fado transformed seamlessly into the next, thus keeping everyone in the audience slightly off balance and attentive.

Filipa Cardoso stepped to the edge of the stage to sing "Reviver o passado", followed by Fábia Rebordão for two fados, including a classic about Chico do cachiné—a song for all the Portuguese in the upper balcony. Then Filipa came forward again for "Meu amor marinheiro". So, one singer sandwiched in by another? In the fado? Very strange.

Before the intermission, Jorge Fernando himself sang, this time in duet with Fábia Rebordão—another rarity. But this one worked well because the two harmonized perfectly. (They have been playing together in a trio with one other musicians for some time.) The opening set mainly included songs from straight out of the fado tradition, but expressed within a structure that sat far outside it. My only complaint is that the excellent guitarist, José Manuel Neto, was given very few opportunities to shine (and there were fewer still for the player of the viola baixa, Gustavo Roriz).
In performance

After the intervalo, the musicians opened with a guitarrada that included some beautiful playing by Neto. He has a precise rhythmic touch, purposefully falling a bit behind the beat on his way to a spectacularly fast finish.

During the remainder of the set, there were many times when I felt that Jorge had taken us beyond the fado, whether that meant into new frontiers or over the edge of the precipice.

Filipa Cardoso was followed by Fábia Rebordão, who sang one of Jorge's best known fados, "Chuva"—dosing her delivery with soul and blues inflections. Celeste Rodrigues, the artist of honor for the night, then gave us two pure fados: "Lisboa" and "Meu Corpo" ("My body"), both of which speak of loneliness and separation, from the city in "Lisboa" and from a lover in "Meu Corpo". Reader, I cried. After these fados, and indeed throughout the night, Jorge showed a special tenderness towards Dona Celeste: looking at her warmly, taking her hand after she sang. This made me think of their long history together, bridged by Celeste's sister, the great Amália Rodrigues.

After Celeste's turn, Jorge staked out the opposite frontier of the territory: "Pode ser saudade." Those who knew this song were compelled to sing it, almost by reflex. It's one of those songs, like "Triguerinha"—another of his—that always shows up in the fado, and is always sung by everybody in the audience. But is it fado? Hard to say, but it is now part of the fado. And for me, that makes them fado.

Filipa Cardoso represented the another vein of the traditional fado: her delivery, her presence, her appearance, her repertoire, all sat squarely in it. She is the type of singer you would be lucky to find some evening in Lisbon as you wander from tavern to tavern. Hearing her at 2AM you  suddenly realize you are in the midst of the real thing. As my old musician friend used to say, she has all the coração, sentimento e alma (heart, sentiment and soul) you could want.

The next moment cut me from my moorings: Fábia sang "Bridge Over Troubled Water." It is no stretch to say she is technically an excellent singer, and her rendition of this song probably drew the biggest applause of the evening. While it was definitely not fado, it was a thoughtful nod to her audience, to her sister (to whom she dedicated the song), and perhaps to the realities of the music world these days.

The next stretch of songs was almost all folklore—more evidence of Jorge turning convention on its head. By this point, there was alot of good will in the audience. Celeste sang "Verde Limão", followed by Jorge with "Quem vai ao fado", and Celeste with "Havemos de ir à Viana". All of these are songs about happy times and another vital element of the tradition.

Mais um fado!
They left the stage and it really looked like the show was done: people started leaving, the lights came on, and yet more people left. But the ones who had stayed started clapping, and this was enough to bring the performers back. As they moved towards their seats, Jorge clearly said "No", and directed them to the front of the stage. The musicians propped up their legs on chairs, and the singers stood alongside them. Now we are going to the fado. Celeste wondered aloud if we would be able to hear her. Thanks to the acoustics of the space, we could. What happened next was a thing of beauty, of intimacy, of everything that enables the fado to bring people together, even if the room is Carnegie Hall.

Details on the show:
Singing by Celeste Rodrigues, Fábia Rebordão, Filipa Cardoso, Jorge Fernando.
Portuguese guitar: José Manuel Neto
Viola: Jorge Fernando
Viola Baixa: Gustavo Roriz
Organization: Michael da Silva (left), MD Fado Productions

18 January 2012

Four Upcoming Fado Shows in the US

Carnegie Hall
New York, NY
24 January 2012
See my report.

Incl. New Bedford on 4 February 2012

Clube dos Açores
Newark, NJ
7 April 2012
Also in Mineola, NY on 14 April 2012
Salão da Igreja Nossa Senhora de Fátima
Elizabeth, NJ
18 February 2012
$45–including dinner

Pedo Botas is a young fadista, based in New Jersey, who has been getting a lot of justly-deserved attention. This is his CD release concert, so I expect that he will be in good form.

I have been following Manuela Cavaco for just a few years. She did ask me to rectify a recent comment about her. She said, "Eu não era amiga íntima de Amália, sou sim perdidamente apaixonada por Amália." That is, "I was not an intimate friend of Amália [Rodrigues], but I am hopelessly enthralled by her." She has a very refined and dignified style, and has played with some top-notch people (always an indicator of the quality of the singer). I spoke with Manuela recently about this show, and she is looking forward to performing here. I think this will be a very good show, and at this price it is likely to sell out fast! See and hear a sample of her work here and on her own blog here.

More on this one later...

02 January 2012

Pedro Galveias

Pedro Galveias is an established fado singer in Lisbon who has been on the scene since he was a young boy. With this release from Saudade Records, his singing is finally getting a proper representation on disc. Here he reveals a deep sensitivity for both established and new material. Tracks such as "Eu Quero" ("I want") and "Uma Gota de Alegria" ("A drop of happiness") suggest his compelling presence as live singer. This is an excellent introduction to the fado as it is happening now in Lisbon--the kind of view that you normally have only by visiting there. For a sample of Pedro singing with some top-flight musicians, see this.

Pedro Galveis, 1995 Grande Noite de Fado
Pedro recently (12-Jan-2012) appeared on Portuguese TV singing Eu Quero, and also being interviewed. Pedro is worth seeking out if you ever visit Lisbon. He sings regularly at Os Ferreiras, and at various locations around the city (tough to predict exactly where). Though still only in his 40s, he has been singing for more than 30 years--and the experience shows. He won the Grande Noite do Fado twice, first in the young people's category (in 1986), then in the adult category (in 1995--see photo). He is one of a group of very successful singers of this generation, including Jaime Dias, Luis Matos, Vítor Miranda, Ricardo Ribeiro and Miguel Ramos. All of them were deeply influenced by the great Fernando Maurício, particularly in their ability to communicate directly with their audience.

I've had many opportunities to hear Pedro and to speak with him, both in Portugal and in the US. In Lisbon, he sang frequently in the Mouraria (here's a writeup, in English, of one such event, along with video, but here's another). In the US, he visited Newark, NJ not so long ago. Here's a sample.

The record is available on iTunes (even in the US!).