Sunday, May 3, 2009


Went to Oakland's beautiful Art Deco Paramount Theatre last night to hear Mariza. Even for those of us who became utterly cynical about fado as it was force-fed to us by the censored radio of an oppressive regime (maybe especially for us), Mariza live breaks the cynicism. She acts the songs, she shares good jokes with the audience and the band, she recreates fado standards by bringing out a rhythmic core that had been swamped by treacle in the “official” renderings, she takes songs and poems that we had consigned to the dustbin of self-indulgent lament for lost glories and loves and revives them in a fierce, self-aware fight to take this culture from the hypocrites that exploited and suffocated it. She may not always succeed (there's too much baggage in 400 years of self-pitying colonialism), but she fights with such intelligence and energy that she completely won this audience, even us cynics. Her band (Angelo Freire, Diogo Clemente, Marino de Freitas, Vicky Marques, Simon James) is an outstanding group of traditional and contemporary musical talent from Portuguese guitar (Angelo Freire) to samba-inspired drums (Vicky Marques).

Maybe only the daughter of an European father and an African mother, growing up in the not-so-subtly racist former colonial capital, could have given its music back to a culture still paralyzed by guilty denial.

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