Portuguese fado singer Mariza reaches beyond tradition and applies her peerless technique to sophisticated, borderless pop | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Portuguese fado singer Mariza reaches beyond tradition and applies her peerless technique to sophisticated, borderless pop 

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Carlos Ramos

Portuguese singer Mariza has built an impressive career essaying and stretching the sound of fado. Arguably the most celebrated indigenous music of Portugal, fado is traditionally played on acoustic guitar, bass, and trebly 12-string Portuguese guitar, with plaintive vocals that express saudade—a deep, melancholic sense of longing that is ineffably tied to the Portuguese spirit. Since she rose to fame at the start of the century Mariza has toggled between embracing fado in its purest form—following the lead of the genre’s ultimate diva, Amalia Rodrigues—and more modern pop sounds. Her 2011 album Fado Tradicional explicitly delved into her roots, but in 2015 she counterbalanced that excursion with her most commercial and expansive record to date, Mundo (Nonesuch). That album marks her second collaboration with the producer and composer Javier Limón, who’s found great success applying a sophisticated pop veneer to modern flamenco artists such as Buika and Niño Josele. There are moments of bracing directness on the new album, such as the opener, “Rio de Mágoa,” or Mariza’s take on the Rodrigues classic “Anda O Sol Na Minha Rua,” where her phrasing and tonal control are beyond compare. She also serves up a stirring version of the Carlos Gardel tango “Caprichosa.” But the presence of drums and keyboards on many of Mundo’s songs, to say nothing of a more Western flavor, leaves little doubt that Mariza wants to expand her reach to wider audiences rather than cater strictly to traditionalists. I’m not crazy about the glossy finish Limón applies to a version of “Padoce de Céu Azul,” a poppy Cape Verdean mourna previously recorded by the great singer Lura, but the crystalline beauty and precision of Mariza’s voice is so riveting I don’t mind.   v

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