20.1.06

Mariza

I've been looking at Pessoa again (he's never far from my thoughts) because Wednesday night I went to a concert by fado singer Mariza, during which she sang a song which is a setting of a Pessoa lyric: Há uma música do povo or There is a Music of the People, from a collection, which I don't know, called Unknown Poetries. Mariza's concert was extraordinary in every way: wonderful voice, magnificent presence, excellent songs, an impeccable band ... seven men in black, the core was the traditional three acoustic guitars - Portuguese, Spanish, bass - plus violin, viola and cello, plus a percussionist. And then there was the audience who were equal to the occasion as well. It was out at the Riverside Theatre in Parramatta, where I've been just once before, years ago, to see a production of King Lear. Mariza is tall and slender, with very long legs and arms, brown skin and silver hair, cut short; she is part African, born in Mozambique, but raised in the port district of Lisbon, her parents ran a taverna there where fado singers performed and she learned how to sing as a small child. I went to the concert by myself because my friend had to cancel but I needn't have worried about that - I was surrounded by Portuguese who were so hospitable, delighted that someone who wasn't, would come to hear their music. My seat was in what the theatre calls a box, at one end of the circle, almost right above the stage; as a consequence I couldn't see the percussionist unless I leaned forward but the compensation was a remarkable addition to the performance. They used a lot of side light and as a consequence Mariza's shadow appeared, elongated, distorted, on the black drapes at the other side of the stage. In herself she is magnetic; in shadow, like an antique figure out of a Gallantee Show: something about the way the shadows fell turned her into an ancient or perhaps immemorial figure of grief, of sorrow, of passion, of joy. Those dimensions or emotions are there in her voice and her live performance anyway but, in shadow, they translated into something else, something more, something I've never quite seen before and can't really describe. It would be like trying to describe the quality of the silence she was able to conjure up, not between songs, but in the middle of them. When she sang Há uma música do povo she came downstage and sank into a crouch for the first verses, which were delivered in a hushed, intimate voice, before rising and going upstage and full-throat into the reprise. If her silences were electric her loudnesses were galvanic. Anyway, no more superlatives, you had to be there ... here's an English version of Há uma música do povo as translated by Morgana le Fay:

There is a music of the people,
I cannot say whether it is a Fado
But hearing it has added to myself
A new rhythm that stayed...

Hearing it I am who I would be
If I could be what I wish...
It is a simple melody
Like those that teach you to live...

And I hear it swaying and alone...
And this is even what I wanted...
I lost my faith and my way...
And have been far from happy.

But it is so soothing
This vague and sad song...
That my soul is no longer weeping
Nor do I have a heart...

I am a foreign emotion,
An error of a dream that is gone...
Somehow I sing
And end up with a feeling!


(NB: the version on Mariza's album Transparente, as well as the live version I heard, omit verse three of the poem.)

1 comment:

Okir said...

I think that Mariza is the Portuguese vocalist that I heard on NPR a few months ago. I listened and thought: I HAVE to get her CD! Then time passed, and I forgot her name, but not the music. I'm glad you reminded me.