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  • Thursday, September 26, 2019
    On Carminho and Fado
    Mariana Maltoni

    "While steeped in the essence of historic fado tradition, Carminho’s newest album is an enchanting musical work that demonstrates her thoroughly honed skills as a masterful creator and performer of exciting, contemporary fado," writes Donald Cohen, author of Fado Portugues: Songs from the Soul of Portugal, in this new essay on fado, Carminho, and the place of her new album, Maria, in that tradition.

    To speak of fado is to speak of Portugal. For to understand fado is to understand Portugal. It is an early music form unique to that country. Like the flamenco of Spain, the tango of Argentina, the bouzouki music of Greece and, of course, our own American blues, it is fundamentally an urban phenomenon—an urban folk music.

    Fado, as we know it, is only a little less than two hundred years old, but the musical traditions upon which it is based go back to the time when the Kingdom of Portugal was formed in 1143. Musical forms derived from various occupiers of the area—Greeks, Celtiberians, Visigoths, and Provençals—contributed to Portuguese culture. Additional significant contributions were those made by the Moors and Jews, both of whom were an integral part of Portuguese life for centuries.

    One final element was introduced as the result of the monumental Portuguese voyages and explorations of Africa, Asia, and the New World, particularly from the former colonies (now nations) of Brazil, Cabo Verde, Mozambique, and Angola.

    The word “fado” itself comes from the Latin word “fatum,” meaning “fate.” Unlike flamenco or tango, it is strictly a vocal music and is traditionally sung to the accompaniment of both Portuguese guitars—which resemble long-necked, round-bodied mandolins and produce a brilliant reverberating sound—and the Spanish guitar, which is called a “viola” in Portugal. Fado lyrics cover the entire spectrum of Portuguese life: romantic love, often unrequited; love of parents; saudade: a word of art, uniquely Portuguese, meaning loneliness, but more broadly: soulful longing, nostalgic memory, or yearning. The city of Lisbon itself is a favorite topic, as is the subject of fado itself. There are many songs about who sings fado and when or why it should be sung. Lastly, not all fados are sad or soulful; anything can be the subject of fado. For example, one old whimsical fado complains about the high price of codfish, a Portuguese staple.

    From its early days until the mid-twentieth century, following the end of the Second World War, fado continued to be sung traditionally, not only by professionals, but by amateurs as well, both young and old. In the years following the overthrow of the repressive Salazar dictatorship in 1974, some Portuguese, particularly the younger generation, rejected fado as being a reflection of the past reactionary regime. However, the succeeding decades have seen a great resurgence of interest in fado, both in its traditional form and in adapting and reinterpreting fado to reflect the modern Portugal. Portuguese people of all ages have come to realize that fado, rather than reflecting any one class or political system, is a deep and vital part of their cultural heritage and belongs to Portuguese of all ages and walks of life.

    With developments in modern recording and communication technology, fado has enjoyed a larger international audience, too. Concerts have been filling halls not only throughout Europe, but in North and South America and in parts of Asia as well.

    Lyrics from one early fado declare: “No one is a fadista who wants to be one, just because one day they sing a fado. To be a fadista one has to have their heart and soul stuck in their throat.” This is the Portuguese way of declaring that it is the ability to convey feeling and emotion that is the key to great fado performers.

    It is this talent coupled with a captivating voice, reflecting intense emotion, as well as her innate musical sensibility, that sets the singularly enchanting fado artist Carminho apart, and places her among the foremost performers of this generation.

    Each decade during the last half century has seen the emergence of a number of fine fado artists. Some perform traditional fados, others chiefly more contemporary songs, often borrowing, adapting, or incorporating popular Portuguese and non-Portuguese material into their repertoires.

    In Maria, her fifth and most personal album, Carminho reflects her faithfulness to the spirit of traditional fado while adding contemporary elements as well, with some of the songs combining modern lyrics with traditional melodies. Her given name is Maria do Carmo, and she was born already immersed in the world of fado. Her mother, Teresa Siqueira, a renowned fado singer, also owned a prominent Lisbon fado club, thus Carminho’s life has been intertwined with fado from early childhood, listening and absorbing from her mother and many of Portugal’s most acclaimed fado performers—her mother’s friends and colleagues.

    Carminho performed for the first time publicly in Lisbon’s Coliseum at the age of twelve. She began her recording career in 2009 and has won numerous awards both in Portugal and throughout Europe. She now performs extensively in Europe, Asia, and the Americas.

    Carminho has one additional talent that sets her apart from most of her contemporaries; few of her peers, if any, are capable of creating new fados with intense, heartfelt lyrics and haunting melodies to surround them, as she demonstrates so beautifully on her latest work, Maria. She does this while again reaffirming her devotion to traditional fado by including several of these haunting melodies as well; so determined was she that this particular recording would reflect her own feelings and choices that she undertook to produce it herself, maintaining full control over its content.

    Thus it is that, while steeped in the essence of historic fado tradition, Carminho’s newest album is an enchanting musical work that demonstrates her thoroughly honed skills as a masterful creator and performer of exciting, contemporary fado.

    —Donald Cohen

    Journal Articles:Artist News

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On Carminho and Fado

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on September 26, 2019 - 12:00pm
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Thursday, September 26, 2019 - 12:00
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"While steeped in the essence of historic fado tradition, Carminho’s newest album is an enchanting musical work that demonstrates her thoroughly honed skills as a masterful creator and performer of exciting, contemporary fado," writes Donald Cohen, author of Fado Portugues: Songs from the Soul of Portugal, in this new essay on fado, Carminho, and the place of her new album, Maria, in that tradition.

Copy: 

"While steeped in the essence of historic fado tradition, Carminho’s newest album is an enchanting musical work that demonstrates her thoroughly honed skills as a masterful creator and performer of exciting, contemporary fado," writes Donald Cohen, author of Fado Portugues: Songs from the Soul of Portugal, in this new essay on fado, Carminho, and the place of her new album, Maria, in that tradition.

To speak of fado is to speak of Portugal. For to understand fado is to understand Portugal. It is an early music form unique to that country. Like the flamenco of Spain, the tango of Argentina, the bouzouki music of Greece and, of course, our own American blues, it is fundamentally an urban phenomenon—an urban folk music.

Fado, as we know it, is only a little less than two hundred years old, but the musical traditions upon which it is based go back to the time when the Kingdom of Portugal was formed in 1143. Musical forms derived from various occupiers of the area—Greeks, Celtiberians, Visigoths, and Provençals—contributed to Portuguese culture. Additional significant contributions were those made by the Moors and Jews, both of whom were an integral part of Portuguese life for centuries.

One final element was introduced as the result of the monumental Portuguese voyages and explorations of Africa, Asia, and the New World, particularly from the former colonies (now nations) of Brazil, Cabo Verde, Mozambique, and Angola.

The word “fado” itself comes from the Latin word “fatum,” meaning “fate.” Unlike flamenco or tango, it is strictly a vocal music and is traditionally sung to the accompaniment of both Portuguese guitars—which resemble long-necked, round-bodied mandolins and produce a brilliant reverberating sound—and the Spanish guitar, which is called a “viola” in Portugal. Fado lyrics cover the entire spectrum of Portuguese life: romantic love, often unrequited; love of parents; saudade: a word of art, uniquely Portuguese, meaning loneliness, but more broadly: soulful longing, nostalgic memory, or yearning. The city of Lisbon itself is a favorite topic, as is the subject of fado itself. There are many songs about who sings fado and when or why it should be sung. Lastly, not all fados are sad or soulful; anything can be the subject of fado. For example, one old whimsical fado complains about the high price of codfish, a Portuguese staple.

From its early days until the mid-twentieth century, following the end of the Second World War, fado continued to be sung traditionally, not only by professionals, but by amateurs as well, both young and old. In the years following the overthrow of the repressive Salazar dictatorship in 1974, some Portuguese, particularly the younger generation, rejected fado as being a reflection of the past reactionary regime. However, the succeeding decades have seen a great resurgence of interest in fado, both in its traditional form and in adapting and reinterpreting fado to reflect the modern Portugal. Portuguese people of all ages have come to realize that fado, rather than reflecting any one class or political system, is a deep and vital part of their cultural heritage and belongs to Portuguese of all ages and walks of life.

With developments in modern recording and communication technology, fado has enjoyed a larger international audience, too. Concerts have been filling halls not only throughout Europe, but in North and South America and in parts of Asia as well.

Lyrics from one early fado declare: “No one is a fadista who wants to be one, just because one day they sing a fado. To be a fadista one has to have their heart and soul stuck in their throat.” This is the Portuguese way of declaring that it is the ability to convey feeling and emotion that is the key to great fado performers.

It is this talent coupled with a captivating voice, reflecting intense emotion, as well as her innate musical sensibility, that sets the singularly enchanting fado artist Carminho apart, and places her among the foremost performers of this generation.

Each decade during the last half century has seen the emergence of a number of fine fado artists. Some perform traditional fados, others chiefly more contemporary songs, often borrowing, adapting, or incorporating popular Portuguese and non-Portuguese material into their repertoires.

In Maria, her fifth and most personal album, Carminho reflects her faithfulness to the spirit of traditional fado while adding contemporary elements as well, with some of the songs combining modern lyrics with traditional melodies. Her given name is Maria do Carmo, and she was born already immersed in the world of fado. Her mother, Teresa Siqueira, a renowned fado singer, also owned a prominent Lisbon fado club, thus Carminho’s life has been intertwined with fado from early childhood, listening and absorbing from her mother and many of Portugal’s most acclaimed fado performers—her mother’s friends and colleagues.

Carminho performed for the first time publicly in Lisbon’s Coliseum at the age of twelve. She began her recording career in 2009 and has won numerous awards both in Portugal and throughout Europe. She now performs extensively in Europe, Asia, and the Americas.

Carminho has one additional talent that sets her apart from most of her contemporaries; few of her peers, if any, are capable of creating new fados with intense, heartfelt lyrics and haunting melodies to surround them, as she demonstrates so beautifully on her latest work, Maria. She does this while again reaffirming her devotion to traditional fado by including several of these haunting melodies as well; so determined was she that this particular recording would reflect her own feelings and choices that she undertook to produce it herself, maintaining full control over its content.

Thus it is that, while steeped in the essence of historic fado tradition, Carminho’s newest album is an enchanting musical work that demonstrates her thoroughly honed skills as a masterful creator and performer of exciting, contemporary fado.

—Donald Cohen

featuredimage: 
Carminho 2019 by Mariana Maltoni bw hnds scrf

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