28 December 2013

First Report from Lisbon...2013

"Sr. Vinho", you say. "But don't they charge 50 euros per person?" Maybe they do, but we got there late and so the conditions were quite reasonable. Sr. Vinho is one of the more storied fado houses of Lisbon, even among the cognoscenti. It is now run by Maria da Fé and her husband, José Luís Gordo. She is one of the current grand voices of the fado, as well as the muse of Gordo, who has written countless lyrics for her. The house was originally co-owned by them and the late António Melo Correia, until his untimely death. It's out in the middle of comparative nowhere, south of the Assembly of the Republic, on a street with impossible parking. I've been saying "no" to going there for about five years. Big mistake.

Tonight we were in the company of Cristina Nóbrega and her husband (and manager), Manuel Rodrigues. I have had the opportunity to meet many singers. The first time I heard Cristina speak, I thought wow, this woman has a voice. Despite some personal hiatuses, her career is blazing forward. Manuel makes things happen. No parking? No problem, we will use the human system to manufacture a parking space and ensure we do not get a ticket. Need to put together a CD? Yes, we will find the musicians, writers and composers to get the work done in advance of the deadline.
Joana Amendoeira

Back to the Rua do Meio à Lapa. We arrived and stood outside waiting for a table while Duarte sung in the background. Inside, the space was somehow smaller than I imagined, with not a ton of fado iconography. Joana Amendoeira sang first. The magic number was four (not three) fados. Joana did fine--a fairly standard and eminently digestible repertory. With Joana, at times I feel she could bang out an evening of deeply obscure, very affecting fado (see her most recent album), but I haven't heard her enough to know if that actually happens.

Maria da Fé keeps her singers waiting in a small alcove in the back of the restaurant, tucked behind a large floral arrangement. Who was in there? Gisela João? Aldina Duarte? I had no idea.

It was Aldina. She is unquestionably one of my favorites. Where others go for the easy hits, Aldina hews to the obscure, the idiosyncratic, the deeply personal, the introspective. My contact with her has been sporadic: she was working with some director on a film about Beatriz da Conceição; she was doing a series of interviews for the Museu do Fado; she was writing again. I tried to get an interview. No dice.

She belongs to a tradition of psychologically intense singer/lyricists, tied inextricably to the "fado fado"--a music based on strophes, and not on a verse-chorus-verse structure. Lyrically, you can draw a straight line from Gabriel de Oliveira through to Carlos Conde and then to Aldina--despite their (apparently) wildly different themes. With Aldina, the barroom brawls of Gabriel de Oliveira are swapped out for scenes of domestic (or post-domestic) turmoil. It's a rich, infinitely reflective territory that, over the years, she has mined to devastating effect.
Aldina Duarte

She came on very strong. Stylistically, lyrically and musically, she opened new vistas through her own work and those of others. Antes de quê, like other lyrics she has written, spoke directly to some enigmatic third party (we were the interlocutors): to a lost love but one who should remain so.

Manuel and I practically jumped out of our seats when, after a brief musical introduction, Aldina dived into De Loucura em Loucura--a work identified unambiguously with the towering presence of Fernanda Maria. Aldina turned the lyric around for all of us to reconsider, inviting new and deeper interpretations. Her next two fados, both with lyrics by her--Xaile Encarnado and Espelho Meu--put the natural contradictions of the fado front and center: a jumpy, almost joyous music paired with unfiltered saudade. More than this I could not want. Then there was an intervalo: ten minutes or so to think it over.

The place cleared out--a reflection of the hour (close to 12:30am) and not the quality of the fado. This is most always a special moment, when the artists stretch out knowing the true intentions of the remaining patrons. Ana Marina sang two brave fados, raising visions of the Alentejo. Behind her--and behind all the other singers--were three exceptionally competent musicians: Rogério Ferreira on the viola; Paulo Pereira on the guitarra portuguesa, and the singer Duarte on second viola.

I knew about Duarte's singing from his work on the title song for the film "Mistérios de Lisboa", as well as his earlier recordings. In the intervening years, he has preserved the sentiment of this work but grown earthier, ready to take on less esoteric themes. Two notable fados were Fado Escorpião and Arraial--both eminently believable and professionally done. It's trivially easy to imagine him singing for a broad public, particularly outside Portugal: his timing and delivery are impeccable, and he is disarmingly handsome.

He finished, and that was it: time to pack it up and head home. The next day, all of this music--and all of these artists--provoked more reflection and emotion than I could possibly jam into this single blog entry.

18 September 2013

You and me and fado

O Fado em Movimento
Nuno Saraiva
I wanted to make more fado happen in the US, and I convinced my friend Feligénio Medeiros to help. The consequences of this decision pushed all my fado writing (including this page) to the side for months. But now our efforts are close to bearing fruition. We've secured a number of sponsors, and have just launched a Kickstarter campaign to help raise funds.

We began with very lofty aims: the fado as a bridge between communities--especially Portuguese communities--in the US and in Portugal. Neither of us was interested in making money off the endeavor. My own inspirations are the many individuals in Lisbon (like Tony Loretti) who organize fado events because they feel the fado brings people together like nothing else. Along the way Feligénio and I have come face-to-face with some hard (but not insurmountable) financial realities, but we have also found that there are lots of other like-minded people who want to make the fado happen because it should.

Feligénio and I formed a nonprofit corporation, "Portuguese/American Cultural Exchange," specifically for this purpose. We wanted to reach and people and help them connect through fado performances and lots of other activities, like workshops and appearances at schools in the areas where the artists are performing. Luís Pires and José Pracana graciously agreed to serve on our board.

Rodrigo Costa Félix
We convinced Rodrigo Costa Félix to be the first fadista to work with us. He is a dynamic guy: driven and modern, but also deeply versed in the tradition of the fado. He is coming with a fado dream team: Marta Pereira da Costa on the guitarra portuguesa and Pedro Pinhal on the viola do fado. Marta is a classically trained musician--and former professional civil engineer--who decided to pursue the fado full time. The complementary female voices are the US-based fadistas Nathalie Pires (who has written previously for this blog), Catarina Avelar, Kimberly Gomes and Fátima Santos. All four are  accomplished singers, with different histories and tastes, suggesting that the fado can indeed flourish outside Portugal. Marta and Pedro will be joined by one more US-based artist, the musician Pedro Pimentel on the viola baixa. All of us look forward to hearing the dynamic that emerges within this small nucleus of artists as they play throughout the northeast US.

Marta Pereira da Costa
As word has gotten out about this endeavor, we have received help from a wide range of people and organizations--despite my many missteps! The Saab-Pedroso Center for Portuguese Studies and Culture at University of Massachusetts/Lowell saw how our mission complemented theirs and agreed to host the kickoff concert. The Boston office of the Portuguese Consul-General--together with the Camões Institute-- helped us make connections in Portuguese diplomatic circles and beyond.  SATA airlines agreed to  sponsor the artists' transatlantic travel. The illustrator Nuno Saraiva developed our logo and official poster. And then there are all the people who want to help simply because they love the fado. Despite all the help, this is a complex and expensive endeavor. If you want to contribute (and receive some nice benefits), please consider making a donation through our Kickstarter campaign.

These artists will be performing in alot of different places, from Portuguese social clubs and restaurants to high profile nightclubs.  All the dates and venues currently booked are here--with more to come.

Feligénio has done this sort of thing before, but not me. Normally, I am sitting in my office. If I go to Lisbon and hear the fado, I try to be as unobtrusive as possible. But I am excited at the prospect of seeing people at the shows, how they react, and how the artists react to them and to each other. It'll be two intense weeks, but I hope the first of many more.

29 April 2013

Where to hear fado in the US?

Ask Feligénio--he is on the case.

I've had the pleasure of many months of contact with Feligénio Medeiros: Açorean by birth, and a man with a voracious appetite for the fado. I first met him in person during a recent visit by the fadista Sonya da Silva to the US (see the post from this blog, with photos by Feligénio). This past month he brought  Sara Correia from Lisbon to Massachusetts to perform in a variety of venues (report coming soon).

But his major contribution to the fado to date is his web site: FadoNight. The site is a collection of information on upcoming and prior fado shows, particularly the more intimate ones, that are happening in the US and Canada. The site also contains a large and ever-growing list of restaurants that offer fado.

This is an indispensable service to those (expecially in New England) who are looking for fado. The site is updated regularly. And if you know of some fado happening in the US that is not listed on the site, send him some email: info at fadonight dot com.

P.S. Feligénio and I are also both steady contributors to the group "Fado in the US" on Facebook, where you can go for additional background and reviews of fado shows in the US. The group is open. If you want to post, simply request permission to join.

26 March 2013

Carlos Macedo and Anita Guerreiro in the US

Anita Guerreiro and Carlos Macedo will be performing on 30 March in Newark, NJ. Tomorrow (27 March) at 2:00 EDT on Rádio Amália (www.amalia.fm) you can hear Carlos Macedo live. These programs are always worth listening to. So, tune in--and be sure to go see them this week!

04 March 2013

Interview with Rodrigo Costa Félix

The fadista Rodrigo Costa Félix will be performing on 16 March 2013 in Toronto, Canada at the Casa do Alentejo, where he will be joined by the musicians Marta Pereira da Costa (the two are married), Pedro Pinhal, and Rodrigo Serrão.

Both Rodrigo and Marta are fiercely hard working. In the last year, they have been thundering through various European venues, and continuing to communicate their work via traditional and new media. While these activities may not be particularly novel, they are noteworthy for coming from two performers whose work is deeply grounded in the traditional fado. I corresponded recently with Rodrigo (in English) about his life in the fado, and he offered some sparkling insights into his formative years, current activities, and thoughts on the fado in general, including its growing profile.

He was raised in a family that was deeply connected to the fado: his father co-owned a fado house in Cascais with the great fado guitarist José Pracana, and his family's circle of friends included the fadistas João Ferreira-Rosa, Ricardo Novaes, António Noronha, Carlos Zel, Manuel de Almeida, and others. As a young boy after the 1974 Portuguese revolution, Rodrigo moved with his family to Brazil, staying there for five years (even now, he feels very much at home in the country). About these early days he says:

"My mother's taste for Fado was a great influence. And because both my parents knew many fadistas and musicians, I began socialising with them relatively early. But I only really began understanding fado at 16 or so. I think you have to have some kind of maturity to fully understand a music that speaks about deep emotions and serious matters. My greatest influences at the time were Carlos Guedes de Amorim, António Melo Correia, Carlos Zel, João Braga, Manuel de Almeida and, of course, Amália Rodrigues. But I was also influenced by amateur singers that I began to know. Back then you didn't have the amount of young people in fado houses that there are today. So my friends--apart from our little group of 8 or 10--were all 50 or 60 years old. And that was a good thing. I learned a lot."

He continues:

"The first time I ever sang in public was at Nuno da Camara Pereira's Nove e Tal near Santa Isabel church, in Lisbon. I was with a group of friends who knew I had been singing Fado lately at private parties, among friends and family, and they challenged me to get up there and sing. I sang the two or three songs I knew at the time: 'Canoas do Tejo, 'Fado Rosita' and 'Fado do Estudante.' My first contract as a fado singer was with the fado house São Caetano, in the Lapa neighborhood of Lisbon, one or two years later. I was 18."

In the 20 or so intervening years, he has been singing steadily, most recently at Mário Pacheco's Clube de Fado in the Alfama neighborhood of Lisbon, but also, earlier in his career, at the legendary Taverna do Embuçado (then owned by Teresa Siqueira). A key person during this early period was the fadista João Braga:
with Marta Pereira da Costa

"With João Braga I had my first stage experience (at Teatro Garcia de Resende, in Évora) and some of my most amazing travels (Newark, NJ twice; as well as France, Luxembourgh, and Spain). He was one of the people most responsible for the visibility of my generation of fadistas. The CD 'Alma Nova' (Strauss, 1994)--the first of the 90's generation--was his idea, and many fadistas, such as Katia Guerreiro, Mariza, Mafalda Arnauth, Gonçalo Salgueiro, António Zambujo, Maria Ana Bobone and many more had their first stage appearences with him. This is something that one day will be acknowledged more than it has been."

At 40 years old, Rodrigo is therefore already something of a veteran. With time he has witnessed a number of changes in the fado, including those brought about by new communication technologies and new media. As shown by his heavy presence on the web, he has helped usher new technologies into the fado, yet his approach to his repertory is very much traditional. Discussing the changes of the past twenty years, he says:

"There's a huge difference between then and now, of course," he says. "Back then things were taken more lightly and in a more amateur way, with a few exceptions. Now it's easier to show the world what you do, and the communication between artists and fans is easier and faster. But I think we also lost a bit of the ingenuity we had then, maybe even some authenticity. Fadistas are now more professional, more cerebral, more cautious of what they say or do, and this affects the way they interact with each other and others. There's a good and a bad side for all things, I guess."

Rodrigo is now roughly the same age as some of the people who were in his family's circle of fado. In reference to the young (i.e., teenage) singers of today, he says:
In recital…(photo by Jorge Simão, used with permission)

"I see that many singers evolve very quickly, sometimes too quickly. One thing we might have lost with this boost in Fado was that genuine sharing of experiences and knowledge with the elders. As a younger singer, I dealt daily with artists a lot older than me and learned alot from them. Now, youngsters jump very quickly from singing in their shower to the big stages. And you lose something in the middle that is needed."

"I tend to appreciate many of the new singers and players, and I also learn from them. The likes of Carminho, Ana Moura, Marco Rodrigues, and also less known people like Lina Rodrigues, Carlos Leitão, Vanessa Alves and Gisela João really impress me. I have no idea what they'll be singing in the coming years, but what I always try to do and say is: keep genuine and true to yourself. Sometimes I think some people use fado as a mean to go somewhere else...but I guess that happens with other kinds of music with these characteristics, like Flamenco or Tango, or even Blues or Country...but Fado goes on and keeps getting stronger and livelier than ever."

As he suggests, another important change has been UNESCO's recent designation of the fado as Immateral Patrimony of the World. This has generated plenty of discussion about whether the designation is making the fado "more fado," or watering it down:

"I would say both. I hope it will help to define and explain to foreigners what the Fado really is, and to help them distinguish real Fado from what is not. But of course it has attracted loads of people from other genres, people that maybe before this visibility either diminished the fado or spoke poorly about it, but who are now profiting from its increased media exposure. Some artists have brought good things, others have not. The problem is that this confuses people. But I guess, like always, time will manage to separate what to keep and what to dispose of--and I believe that quality will be the decisive factor."
Marta Pereira da Costa

Of course, the designation has led to an increased profile for the fado worldwide. He says:

"I think Fado is flourishing well internationally. There are artists from the Netherlands, Croatia, Japan, Brazil and several other countries singing Fado, people that don't speak the language. Disregarding the lack of quality of some, the point is that Fado is becoming a worldwide recognised music style. But I continue to think that Fado needs to flourish and establish itself in the country of Portugal: there are still loads of anti-bodies against Fado, although some people now feel forced to speak well of it, because it's in fashion."

In various interviews, Rodrigo has spoken about the importance of fado's lyrical content (and of poetry in general) to his work and career, both as a singer and lyricist. He says:

"I have a great passion for poetry, and it has been a guide throughout my career. Normally the process of creating a fado performance begins with me choosing a poem with which I identify, and I then try to find a Fado that will do it justice. Either that, or I will ask someone to compose original music for the lyric, like I did with Tiago Bettencourt, who composed the music for 'Amigo Aprendiz,' and previously with Mário Pacheco on my first solo album."

"I also like to write a few verses, which I don't dare to call poems, for poetry is a much more profound and mysterious thing, and my lyrics are plain and simple. But I started writing a long time ago: the first poem I recorded was "Ainda te quero" and that was back in 1994 for the album Alma Nova, the first Fado CD from my generation (with Maria Ana Bobone and Miguel Capucho). Later, in Fados d'Alma I also wrote a couple of lyrics: 'Balada ao meu amor,' with original music by Fontes Rocha, and 'Mãe,' an adaptation of a song by Zeca Afonso."

His latest release, Fados de Amor, has generated plenty of interest inside and outside Portugal. Indeed, the song "Amigo Aprendiz" was voted one of the 12 best ballads of the year the The Atlantic magazine in the US--a rare feat for a fado recording. The record also represents his further exploration as a lyricist:

"With Fados de Amor, I went a bit further and wrote two lyrics ('Canto Breve' and 'Partida') and composed one song ('Partida'). There's also a song written by the four of us (Marta Pereira da Costa, Pedro Pinhal and Rodrigo Serrão) for a poem by Rodrigo Serrão, called 'As palvras que eu procuro.'"

The invitation to perform in Canada was a consequence of a previous visit by Marta Pereira da Costa:
"My wife Marta went to play at Hugh's Room in Toronto, in a festival called Proud to be Portuguese-Canadian. The director of Casa do Alentejo, Mr. Armando Viegas. met her and invited her to return with me for this concert, which will celebrate the 30th birthday of this iconic and exemplar institution of the Portuguese diaspora."

Rodrigo Costa Félix will be playing at the Casa do Alentejo de Toronto (1130 Dupont Street, Toronto, Ontario M6H 2A2) on 16 March 2013 at 7:30pm as part of the "GRANDIOSA GALA DO FADO." He will be accompanied by the musicians Marta Pereira da Costa, Pedro Pinhal and Rodrigo Serrão. Also performing that evening are local fadistas Tonny Gouveia and Jennifer Bettencourt, accompanied by Hernâni Raposo, Eduardo Câmara and Pedro Joel. Reservations at ++1 (416) 537-7766.

02 March 2013

Reissues from Ovação Records

The music label Ovação is beginning to release a number of fado recordings that were originally released by the label Polysom/Discos Estúdio in the 1970s and 1980s. Included among these are three recordings reviewed here by Fernando Maurício (Fernando Maurício), by Fernanda Maria (Fados) and by a group of performers associated with the fado house "A Severa" entitled Wellcome to Severa.

As the promo materials state, these are reissues of the original recordings, down to liner notes. Judging from these three, the sound quality is merely good, but far short of that achieved in, say, the uniformly excellent Fados do Alvorada. The audio quality on the Fados, for example, is shockingly bad: it is full of pops and crackles and deeply buried highs and lows. This is the kind of work that I'd expect out of a fado chop shop (there are many), but not Ovação. In contrast, the sound on the other two is reasonable, though still far murkier than it should be (after all, Ovação is in possession of the masters).

This is a good place to mention that the Smithsonian Institution has a number of excellent fado records available online. These are impeccably curated reissues. For example, I have a digital copy of the Fernanda Maria record that is completely clean and strong (it is available here if you search for "Fernanda Maria" and look for the title "Portugal's Great Fado Singer"). 

Back to these recordings.... Wellcome to Severa is a time capsule portrait of touristic fado and folklore of the 1970s, with some very good singers but a conventional repertory. Fernando Maurício and Fados, on the other hand, capture some glorious moments of recorded fado. You can hear excerpts from the tracks on Ovação's web site. Despite the diminished audio quality, the Maurício is worth seeking out, particularly at this price. Indeed, with just a couple of exceptions (including compilations such as Saudade de Fernando Maurício - Antologia 1961-1995, which is still available on Amazon), those interested in the recorded work of this great fadista have to suffer through the soulless production quality of his Metro-Som recordings (Branco de Oliveira is the culprit there). If there is one artist whose discography is in urgent need of re-editing an re-distribution, it is certainly Maurício.

As for Fernanda Maria, hers was a protean power of fado (she is still alive, but has retired from performing). As with Maurício, she was a consummate stylist: able to sing the same lyric in many different ways, even when that lyric was paired with the same music (her various versions of "A candeia" are a good example). Unlike Maurício, she recorded prolifically (those interested in her earlier work can check out any of the recordings available on the Smithsonian site). There are also many, many videos of her on YouTube (again, in contrast to Maurício). Put Fernanda Maria and Fernando Maurício together and you will be looking into two of the fado's most blinding lights.

24 February 2013

Fado at Tabacaria Açoreana, Fall River, MA

Sonya da Silva
The Portuguese fadista Sonya da Silva is in the US for a series of performances in the New England area, beginning yesterday (24-Feb-13) at the Tabacaria Açoreana in Fall River, MA. The evening showed the re-emerging nucleus of the fado in this area, and particularly how a number of local fado stalwarts--including the Luso-American fadistas Ana Vinagre and Rosa Maria--are maintaining the fado tradition despite the long distance to Portugal. The three singers (plus a surprise fourth, Ana Vinagre's husband, José Vinagre) were joined by the musicians José Silva (guitarra portuguesa) and Viriato Ferreira (viola) of the group Guitarras do Atlântico.

Sonya da Silva is a a member of the Lisbon fado scene, performing at many of the typical fado houses in Alfama and Bairro Alto, as well at other locations in Portugal. As she discussed during an interview before the show, her current repertory draws on classics of the modern fado, and is now expanding to include lyrics written specifically for her and set to the music of traditional fado. It's likely to be a winning recipe: the influx of new lyrics (and, occasionally, musics) keeps the fado vibrant but also true to its tradition. Sonya da Silva has firsthand knowledge of the fado's inner workings: her father was a dancer with the great fadista Maximiliano da Sousa (Max) of Madeira; he was also a cousin of the fadista/guitarist Carlos Ramos. It was Sonya's father, in fact, who impressed upon her that her voice was made for the fado.

José and Ana Vinagre
The program brought together not only two distinct generations of the fado, but very different approaches to performing it. After an opening guitarrada, Rosa Maria opened the evening. She is a singer with an uncompromising, even iconoclastic approach to her repertory. Ana Vinagre--a full-voiced singer with lots of crowd appeal--opened with a lively Fado Pedro Rodrigues ("Amor não é pecado"), before hitting both newer and older mainline fado. On taking the stage, Sonya da Silva confessed to a bit of opening night jitters, but no worry: she demonstrated throughout the evening an ability to work closely with her material and to reach her audience, despite not having performed previously with these musicians. This is is the kind of exchange between Portuguese communities that, judging by this evening, could and should happen much more often.

Some of the livelier points during the night (and there were plenty) happened during duets: Sonya and Ana on "Tudo Isto É Fado, Ana and José Vinagre on "Só nós dois", followed by the same couple again on an upbeat and humorous desgarrada--a series of back-and-forth challenges between two singers. The strength of the voices of all the singers, as well as the relative quiet in the crowd, made me question again the use of amplifiers for this music, particularly when the performance space is not large. Perhaps some future shows will drop the electronics and go fully acoustic--which is how it happens in the most typical fado houses of Portugal. My own feeling is that, when the fado is unamplified, the evening has the best chance to turn into a real conversation between audience and performers.
José Silva, Rosa Maria, Sonya da Silva, Ana Vinagre, Viriato Ferreira (l-r)

The evening's common denominator was the musical duo of José Silva and Viriato Ferreira. As fado guitarists, they have to be ready for the singer to "call" any one of a large number of fado musics in any number of keys (e.g., "fado meia-noite em ré"). In a given night, the same fado music (here, the Fado Pedro Rodrigues) can be called numerous times. The challenge, then, is to present the music in a way that is true to its form, but that says something different from what has been said earlier. This is an improviatory side of the fado that, much like the ongoing invention of fado lyrics, keeps the fado experience moving forward. Silva and Ferreira kept the music fresh, and more. In fact, at one point in the second set, the singer Ana Vinagre turned around to face the musicians and said to them and thus, "I let them play what they want, and I then sing."

According to the singer José Vinagre, the Tabacaria Açoreana (or "TA") once held regular fado nights, and it is easy to see why. The community of singers is strong and tightly-knit, the performance space (downstairs in the restaurant) is intimate but not small, and the food (typical Portuguese) is excellent. Tonight the room was full with a distinctly Portuguese crowd, and the service timely.

Sonya da Silva continues to perform in the area with upcoming appearances at Restaurante Dinis Paiva in East Providence, RI (with Rosa Maria) (25 February), and two more dates in New Bedford: Tilia's Café (3 March) and Inner Bay Café (4 March).

Many thanks to Feligénio Medeiros of FadoNight.com for permission to use his photographs. Be sure to check out his site as well as the Facebook group Fado in the US for more information on fado events in this country.

08 February 2013

Fado at Alfama restaurant, New York City

There's a warm and winning group of singers and musicians evoking the fado in Manhattan, at the Alfama restaurant on E 52nd St. While Newark, NJ is the place to hear big, bustling fado--in larger venues, with lots of singers--Alfama gives you a chance to hear and feel this music up close.

The upstairs restaurant at Alfama is known for high quality food and a classy atmosphere. Downstairs, where the fado happens, the space is more intimate: when I was there on 6 February with five other friends and family, about 25 people were enough to fill it. As in a classic Portuguese fado house, the musicians and singers perform from the corner, without microphones. The effect--so important for the fado--is that you are keenly aware of the fact that you're all in the same space, part of the same conversation. Amazingly, there was not a peep from anyone as the music played--something that, even in Lisbon, is a rarity.

Nathalie Pires
The singers, particularly the luminous Nathalie Pires, provided background on many of the fados they played, describing the lyrics, sometimes the people behind the music, and what the fado means to them and to Portuguese culture. However, this is NOT tourist fado: what you'll hear at Alfama is actually closer to the "real" fado than some of the fado you might hear in Lisbon (particularly if your tour bus is parked outside).

Nathalie Pires is tireless in her devotion to the fado, singing both in the US and abroad (including gigs at Mario Pacheco's Clube do Fado in Lisbon). Her impact in the US has been enormous, so it was a pleasure to hear her in this more intimate space. It appears that, as her career evolves, she is branching out--exploring new lyrics and new sensibilities. I particularly appreciated her more upbeat performances, such as "Nunca há silêncio vão" ("Silence is never in vain"). I look forward to hearing how far she is willing to push this new direction: she certainly has the personality and technical skills to pull it off.
Tarcísio Costa

Tarcísio Costa, a co-owner of Alfama and also one of the singers, brought a romantic sensibility to the fado, notably on the lovely Vielas d'Alfama. His singing was as confessional and as unpretentious as one might find in the actual Alfama quarter of Lisbon. He is the kind of singer who obviously has many stories to tell, not the least of which is trying to make a "real" Portuguese restaurant happen in NYC. In a strange twist that shows just how tight the fado's grip can be, he began singing after his mother--who, Tarcísio says, instilled in him a affection for the fado--died in 2009. But his mother wasn't of Portuguese descent, but Italian. And Tarcísio isn't from Portugal, but from Brazil.

Francisco Chuva
A night of fado would not be complete without a few surprises. The first was the unannounced appearance of the young fadista Pedro Botas, a fixture of the Newark fado scene. Pedro has a rich vibrato to his voice. He worked his way confidently through "Acordem as Guitarras" and "Lisboa Menina e Moça", both valentines to the city of Lisbon. The second surprise was the musicians, both of whom brought a bright, vibrant playing to the evening. The guitarist, Pedro Henriques da Silva, built a rich dialogue with each singer. He led the way through the music (including a notable Fado Pedro Rodrigues) and, in the final set, a guitarrada centered on the traditional fado. The viola player, Francisco Chuva, laid an immense foundation for all of the fados performed tonight. His is the kind of playing that leads singers (and guitarists) to take risks, knowing that the beat will be there to provide a soft landing.

FADO at Alfama restaurant happens every other Wednesday during most of the year. Best to call ahead and confirm. Given the size of the space, a reservation is essential. They are located at 214 E 52nd St  New York, NY 10022; Phone (212) 759-5552.

06 January 2013

Fado Radio on the Internet--Something new

Thanks to a recent post by Ricardo Ribeiro, I learned about a new fado program on Internet radio, and it sounds great. The station is Rádio Sim (Radio Yes). 

The station broadcasts fado every day between 22:00 and 24:00. They promise "the most important music taken from the history of fado, as well as the best new work of this distinctly Portuguese musical genre." Follow this link, then click on Ouvir Emissão.

Check them out!

And here are some other alternatives:
Rádio Amália: the pre-eminent station. 24 hours/day
RTP Fado: a relative newcomer with a wide range of programming, including live concerts. 24 hours/day.
Popular FM: Wednesdays, 21:00-23:00. You can always check out the homepage of the DJ, José Nobre.