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Europe Mariza - winner in the Europe category

Mariza (Portugal)

Winner in the Europe category

Song : Oiça Lá ó Senhor Vinho
Album : Fado em mim (World Connection, Holland)

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Album review | Interview

It's not often that you can accurately say "a star is born". However, the recent rise to prominence by Portuguese fado singer Mariza certainly justifies the use of this cliché. On stage she emanates charm and charisma in equal parts. And with her impeccable taste in haute couture, immaculately sculpted hair and strong but sensual voice, she has all the necessary prerequisites for a truly stellar career.

The release last year of her debut album Fado em mim attracted universal praise and drew the world's attention to a wider roots renaissance taking place in Portugal. As part of a younger generation of singers who had grown up free of the unfortunate political associations fado had acquired during the years of dictatorship (which only ended in 1974) Mariza was free to interpret "the Portuguese blues" with unprejudiced ears.

Though born in Mozambique, she spent most of her childhood in the Lisbon suburb of Mouraria, which some describe as the birthplace of fado. From an early age, it was clear she wanted to become a singer, and her parents' restaurant was the ideal place to begin singing fados. During her teens and early twenties, though, she largely deserted the style in favour of soul and funk. But when producer and musician Jorge Fernando heard her sing one of her occasional fados one night, he was so impressed that he suggested she record a whole album of them.

Hesitating at first, she finally agreed, and the results were so popular with the Portuguese public that Mariza was soon being compared to the great fadista Amalia Rodrigues, that mixed blessing which has long been the fate of most young female fado singers. 'It's like a huge compliment,' explains Mariza, 'but we are so different, because she had a way to feel, and I have my way to feel my music, and my way to see the world.'

And see the world she has, ever since her unexpected success began to unfold. Fado em mim has just been re-released with a bonus CD of 8 tracks recorded live at this summer's WOMAD festival in Reading, and plans for recording the follow-up during January are already well under way; it should be ready for U.K. release by September 2003. The word is that the material will be largely new fados specially composed for Mariza by well known Portuguese poets and musicians, and will be no great departure in terms of style and arrangements. For those who can't wait, there will be ten U.K. shows during the second half of February. Die-hard look-alike fans should stock up on hair gel now before the rush.

Jon Lusk 2002

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