Concerto em Lisboa
When I was in high school, I dreamt of having a voice like Janis Joplin; the yearning that she captured in her voice was simply extraordinary. I would drive down the freeway, stereo blasting, screaming out of the window of my rusty sedan in an attempt to make my voice, too, sound like the sandpaper vocals on “Cry, Baby.” Mariza’s album Concerto em Lisboa may make those who yearn to sing songs of, well, yearning reconsider a strict regimen of Southern Comfort and cigarettes. There is no crackling of vocal cords here, but rather the soft and passionately calculating tremolo of Fado, the national musical pastime of Portugal.
Fado, according to the accompanying DVD documentary, roughly translates to “fate” or “destiny.” The musical origins began in the cities of Portugal in the early 19th century. Originally sung by the impoverished and poor, who used the music as a way to express their melancholy and longing, Fado was later adopted (and tainted with propaganda) by Portugal’s fascist government. Sadly, it was subsequently abandoned in the 1970s after the introduction of democracy into the country. Mariza is a fabulous artist in a growing repertoire of new Fadistas who have embraced Fado once again.
Her vocals, dueling with the fiery tinkling of Portuguese guitar (courtesy of Luis Guerreiro) are utterly transfixing. Her voice is a rich vibrato that conjures the darkness and passion of the past, while still mesmerizing audiences in the present. The disc was recorded live, which absolutely blew me away. There are few rock bands that are capable of recording a live CD that is even remotely listenable. However, on stage Mariza sounds as if she has done take after take in a studio. Her music truly speaks a magical and universal language of longing and pain – even without that extra shot of whiskey.