Saturday, February 9, 2013

In review--Portuguese Love Songs

Maria Ana Bobone
Fado & Piano
Arc Music

I would think by now fado has become a household word around the world with the international fame of Mariza and Ana Moura.  If you’re searching for a queen of fado, you’ll find yourself wading through an ocean of talent.  While Amalia Rodrigues still inspires the Portuguese people and younger generations of fado singers, the younger singers realize that folk traditions live on through innovations.  Maria Ana Bobone though is the first fadista I have come across who plays piano while she belts out fados.  She’s not the first to innovate or to bring in new instruments to a traditional setting since Cristina Branco has included piano on her recordings while also bringing in jazz elements, and Mariza has performed with orchestras or ensembles featuring trumpet and keyboards such as on her album, Fado Curvo.

Honoring her generation of singers, Bobone keeps her instrumental arrangements simple and allows space for her vocals.  Her album Fado & Piano features subtle but powerful vocals, and the rich timbres of the piano, framed by double bass and sometimes guitar and Portuguese guitar.  These aren’t vast canvases, but detailed miniatures where poetry and voice show up in the foreground.  Bobone, in alignment with her musical genre, conveys moods from heartache (Melancolia) to delight (Fado Xuxu) to hope (Enigma), and spirituality (São Bentinho).  The majority of fados are sung in Portuguese, except for Love Ballad (which sounds like a folk-pop song) and Twilight.

I had not heard of Maria Ana Bobone until finding this CD on the Arc Music website, however, I feel like I found a real gem in a treasure hunt.  I know little about Portugal with the exception that one of the country’s hottest imports is fado recordings.  Who’s going to argue with melodic voices backed by warm acoustic instruments and filled with heartfelt emotions? Fado means fate in Portuguese, but when we listen to fados, we realize that all our fates entwine as one.  To be human is to feel.

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