Camané, the fado singer, with José Manuel Neto on guitarra portuguesa, at Brooklyn Academy of Music in the Next Wave Festival.
By JON PARELES
Published: December 4, 2011
Fado, the Portuguese tradition of elegant, emotive songs filled with tragedy and longing, was named to Unesco’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list in late November. By happy coincidence the Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music had scheduled two nights of fado that began Friday with a concert featuring the United States debut of Camané, 44, a major star in Portugal who is one of his generation’s leading fado singers, or fadistas. At this concert fado’s past was never far from its present.
Camané performs in a genre dominated by women. Fado (which means “fate”) was defined for decades by its greatest singer, Amália Rodrigues, who died in 1999. It was music forged in the clubs called fado houses in Lisbon, entwining Portuguese song with tinges of Arabic music and echoes of the Portuguese empire returning to that port city: from Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde and perhaps Macao. Fado became the national style of Portugal under the dictatorship that ended in 1974; although it was largely spurned during the 1970s, a younger generation embraced its musicality as the political taint receded.
The essential fado instrument is the guitarra portuguesa, a long-necked, teardrop-shaped, steel-strung 12-string guitar that offers filigrees and countermelodies at a respectful distance from the singer’s voice, which is dramatically and mercilessly exposed.
Fado now toys with fusions and hybrids, mingling with New Age music, African rhythms, rock and electronics. But Camané came to Brooklyn as a traditionalist, dressed in black and accompanied only by guitarra, bass fiddle and acoustic guitar. It was a string band attentive to his every expressive fluctuation of tempo, or to a silent pause before words like “torment” and “suffering.” The closest it came to hybridizing was a tinge of jazz harmony and a slightly more prominent bass line in “Lembra-te Sempre de Mim” (“Always Remember Me”). Camané even ended his set with vocals and instruments unamplified, as if playing at a traditional fado house; his voice was large enough to fill the opera house.
Camané sang about separation, sorrows, haunting eyes and sad memories, along with some rare lighter moments. And he sang about fado itself, as a calling and a burden, though he carried them suavely, in long lines that crested and eased back with nuanced theatricality. He didn’t push toward the tearful, cathartic peaks of female fadistas like Mariza. But in hushed songs like “Ser Aquele” (“To Be That”) and — from Amália Rodrigues’s repertory — “Abandono” (“Abandonment”), there was passion behind the urbanity.
Lisboa Soul, an 11-member collective gathered for the occasion by its musical directors, Ricardo Parreira on guitarra and Yami on bass, was a revue working backward in history, from young singers with modern fado offshoots — adding drums, keyboards and electric bass — to older ones performing more traditionally. The set looked toward Cape Verde, with upbeat songs from Ritinha Lobo and Yami, before turning more somber with fado-rooted pop from Micaela Vaz and Vânia Conde. With the band shrunken to a trio, the guitarist Marco Oliveira revealed a richly imploring voice. He was followed by the elders: Rodrigo, singing in a weathered voice about fado’s history, and Beatriz da Conceição. Wearing the black dress and black shawl of classic fado performers, she was imperiously mournful, declaiming each phrase as a freshly felt lament.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: December 7, 2011
A music review on Monday about performances by the singer Camané and the group Lisboa Soul, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, misstated the surname of a guitarist with Lisboa Soul in some editions. He is Marco Oliveira, not de Oliveira. A version of this review appeared in print on December 5, 2011, on page C5 of the New York edition with the headline: A Fado Traditionalist, Embracing Torment, Suffering and Song.
Artigo New York Times