Mariza began singing Fado as a child, before she could read. Her father sketched
out little cartoon stories to help her remember the lyrics. At the age of five,
she would join in the spontaneous singing in her parents’ restaurant in
Mouraria, one of Lisbon’s most traditional neighborhoods. Mariza was born
in Mozambique, but her family moved to Portugal when she was a baby, giving her
plenty of time to get immersed directly in the "Fado Houses" where singing
is part of everyday life.
She tells of a fifteen-year old boy learning to play the classic guitar that
would call her over to sing. "This little girl can sing!" he would
exclaim to his friends. Now this boy is a grown man and forms the instrumental
backbone of Mariza’s band along with an acoustic bass and Portuguese guitar,
unique because of its shape, 12 strings, and distinctive tuning. At the age
of twenty-six, Mariza releases her first CD, Fado em Mim, in the United States
on April 9, 2002 on Times Square Records/World Connection. The recording presents
six classic Fados and six original compositions, all of them tugging listeners
at the heart and soul.
Fado is Portugal’s Blues or Rebetika or Tango or Flamenco. "They
all stand on emotions," says Mariza. "Fado is an emotional kind of
music full of passion, sorrow, jealousy, grief, and often satire." Yet
Fado differs from its musical cousins in its poetic mystery and its ability
to fuse dichotomous traits: impossible pain and fervent joy, life’s cruelty
with love’s intensity. At the very outset of her career, Mariza was being
compared to one of the biggest icons of Fado: Amália Rodrigues. In the
words of Nuno Nazareth Fernandes, one of the greatest Portuguese composers:
"Mariza is an adorable extra-terrestrial being, someone sent by the Great
Creator to reinvent the Fado."
Mariza had her first major national exposure in 1999 as one of the guest performers
in Tribute Concerts for Amália Rodrigues in the Coliseums of Lisbon and
Oporto. Both performances were broadcast live on one of Portugal’s Network
TV channels. Mariza’s performances immediately sparked interest in the
public and in the national media. In 2000, she received the award, "Voice
of Fado," presented by Central FM (Portugal’s national radio station).
She was invited to "introduce" Fado to rock icon Sting by a highly
rated national television show Hermansic.
Mariza walks the fine line necessary to both genuinely carry the tradition
and bring it freshness for today. Her performance style captures the raw emotion
that characterizes the genre, but with her own personal twist. Fado em Mim has
already reached silver status in Portugal—practically unheard of for a
Fado album—and will likely reach gold in the coming weeks. Look out for
a summer tour in North America from July 4 onwards, culminating at the Hollywood
Bowl on July 14, 2002