Thursday, March 22, 2007

Interview with Mariza

Mariza doesn’t just sing fado, the emotion-packed Portuguese song form. She gives this old-school music a new sense of cool.

World-music fans adore it, but her task is a bit trickier in Portugal, where a nasty whiff of fascism still surrounds fado.

“We’ve heard the stories and we’re still trying to understand what happened,” Mariza said in accented English from her home in Lisbon. “But I didn’t live at that time. That was the old generation.”

Long before the 33-year-old singer became the international phenom she is today, the traditional music she mines was abused as an implement of oppression by Portugal’s fascist dictatorships.

For decades after the 1930s, fado lyrics had to be approved by censors so as not to undermine the reigning nationalist party line, and this haunting music - often compared to the blues - took on yet another layer of dark melancholy.

For Mariza and other young fado singers such as Cristina Branco, Misia and Katia Guerreiro, the history they’re building on isn’t political, but musical and cultural.
“The fado of today is about the new generations, the new Portugal, while also gravitating towards some of the traditional things,” said the singer, who appears Saturday at Berklee Performance Center. “Our music isn’t connected to political history.”
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