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Fado (“the saddest music in the world”)

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Jose Malhoa - Fado

by Everett True, Laura Witkowski and João Santos

A while ago this dude (Nirvana fan) contacted me on Facebook to ask if I was familiar with traditional Portuguese music.

Had to admit that I’m not exactly. So he sent me a bunch of links to a bunch of performances. I thought some of these were stunning. Absolutely stunning. So I thought I’d share them with you (see overleaf). The second song linked to in the first article, the one by Mariza, is the one that turned my world on its head. For a while, we would listen to nothing else every morning except a great Mariza compilation I’d found, Fado Em Mim (which includes a stunning second-CD live performance at WOMAD). It’s kind of like I always imagined opera should be, except opera always seemed to be too much of a rich man’s plaything and bombastic and stupidly formularised and too alien and everything: this fado music is formulaic in its own way, I can hear that, but it is so deeply, richly emotional. The article below has it down as “the saddest music in the world” and sure, I can hear why folk might hear that. But for me it makes me feel so wonderfully happy, so happy that I can exist in a world where folk can give extraordinary voice like this and, furthermore, that music still has the capacity to surprise and overwhelm me at the age of 50. So I thought me, João (the guy who contacted me) and Laura could share a little Fado with you: first an explanation, then some context and finally some links to some incredible music.

I know it’s not Collapse Board’s usual territory. But again, it makes me so happy that we can make it Collapse Board territory.

Here’s Laura’s article.

Mariza

The Saddest Music In The World
by Laura Witkowski

The other day a person I love told me she was watching the video clip of Rebekah Del Rio singing Roy Orbison’s ‘Crying’. Over and over. This hauntingly beautiful song appeared in the movie Muholland Drive in a creepy scene in which two lesbians sit in a dark theatre and cry. Or something. I don’t really know. David Lynch confuses me. For the uninitiated, here’s the clip:

Of course, the normal thing to do when somebody you care about confesses to watching an exceptionally sad and beautiful music video on repeat  is to, for instance, ask them if they are OK. But my reaction was to immediately send her a link to this song by Mariza. It is called ‘Primavera’ and it is Portuguese Fado music:

The response I get back for sharing this beautiful piece with her?

“Are you trying to make me kill myself?!”

Sigh. I am awesome at making people’s days better.

But this Fado music! That’s some beautiful sad bastard stuff, yes? Which I’m a sucker for. Do I like a little pain, tears and drama with my music? Oh, yes. Yes I do. The more the better! There’s a reason I love Guy Maddin’s 2003 film The Saddest Music In The World. And it’s not just because I long to be a beer barroness with a glass leg. It’s because I can’t think of anything more awesome than a worldwide contest to find the saddest music ever made. It would be like the Eurovision Song Contest meets American Idol and people would weep for days after each round. I would be in sad bastard heaven.

It’s safe to say that a Fado music piece would be a front-runner in this sort of contest. Whenever people describe music to me using the terms “gut-wrentching” or “overwrought” or “highly dramatic” I get excited. That’s how Fado music was originally described to be, and it easily covers all three. I am by no means an expert in this genre. I only know a handful of songs well, and language-wise cannot understand the lyrics. I can say for a fact that a lot of the lyrics are, in fact, sad. But if you listen to ‘Primavera’ and can’t figure out by the sound of Mariza’s voice that the song is not about pasta, I don’t know what to tell you. Other than your heart is made of stone and I am sad for you. Not knowing the language is better in a way. It lets you plug your own emotional discordance into the song. The emotion transcends the words. It is very cathartic. Unless it makes you want to kill yourself. But I don’t think the Portuguese want that to happen. I think they’d rather you cry your guts out and then get back out there to face another day. Even if your life is like one long goddamn Fado song.

[This following clip is … I can’t find the words. The world’s largest rock festival or something, and Mariza kills it absolutely dead. Whoa – Ed]

(continues overleaf)

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