News Column

Fado star Mariza to perform at Weill Hall

October 25, 2013


Oct. 25--Rising out of Portugal in the early 1800s, the musical style called Fado -- translated as "fate" -- has won recognition worldwide for its wistful, sometimes melancholy, blend of folk music and poetry mixed with exotic rhythms.

Mariza (Marisa dos Reis Nunes), born in Mozambique and raised in Lisbon, has become one the style's leading advocates, and she'll bring Fado to Rohnert Park with a performance Nov. 2 at the Green Music Center.

Touring constantly, Mariza keeps crossing international borders and time zones, which makes it hard to reach her by phone, but recently she took time for an interview by email.

It's a rare chance to have the difficult-to-define Fado style described by someone who grew up with it:

Q: How did you start singing?

A: I started to listen to and sing Fado at around 5 years old in Mouraria, a typical neighborhood in Lisbon where I grew up and where my parents had a small tavern. I grew up right in the centre of the tradition, surrounded by the purists ("fadistas"). I've heard them all sing. They still remain in my memory, and they were my teachers.

Why did you enjoy singing in the Fado style?

Because it was something always very present in my life since I can remember. It is something that comes naturally.

Can anyone learn to sing Fado?

Fado is unique. It doesn't exist anywhere else. It's different, and it can only be sung by Portuguese.

How does a singer learn the Fado style?

Fado is an oral tradition. That's how one can learn it, and it was how I learned it. It was a process made unconsciously.

Why do you think Fado has become popular in other countries?

It's about emotions, sometimes sad, sometimes happy, but it relates to our soul. It's that deep. Even when they're not understanding all of the lyrics word-by-word, people can relate to and can feel the emotion that is transmitted. Besides, we have a group of magnificent musicians who are incredible and make beautiful music.

Which singers outside the Fado style have influenced you most?

My influences in music are very diverse. I think it is healthy to listen to a lot of different musicians, from all types of music, from all around the world. It's important to stay aware of new coming artists, as well as keep listening to the classics.

You still live in Lisbon, but you travel constantly to perform. How does that shape your music?

Lisbon is a very cultural city with a lot of traditions. But so are all other cities that I visit. Everywhere I go, I learn or find something interesting that can be translated to a musical aspect. It is not the places that change or influence me, but it's mostly the people, and the experiences of life that help me in the process of making music.

What would you like to say to people coming to hear you for the first time?

Come to one of my concerts with an open mind, open to feel emotions and not be afraid to do it. Fado is about feelings, emotions, about life. Be prepared to feel involved. I will be more than glad to introduce a new audience to Fado. It's a challenge for me, but I do it gladly. Every night it's different and a challenge.

You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at 521-5243 or See his ARTS blog at


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