Review by Brenda Repland
The Fado Festival NY is a celebration of the iconic Portuguese musical tradition that has ancient roots, but is ever moving forward. The festival delights from the traditional to contemporary, always in surprising ways.
Although the origins are difficult to trace, today fado is commonly regarded as simply a form of song which can be about anything, but must follow a certain traditional structure. In popular belief, fado is a form of music characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor, and infused with a sentiment of resignation, fatefulness and melancholia. This is loosely captured by the Portuguese word saudade, or 'longing', symbolizing a feeling of loss (a permanent, irreparable loss and its consequent lifelong damage).
Appearing this week in the Fado Festival at the Lincoln Center Atrium was António Zambujo and his musical group.
António Zambujo is a singer of brilliant subtlety and elegance. Considered an innovative pioneer as well as an heir to traditional fado, his popularity as a singer and guitarist in Portugal and abroad comes from a restless curiosity of musical influences from fado to bossa nova and jazz to French chanson. Born in the Alentejo region of Portugal, he grew up listening to the cante alentejano—choirs of men and women who sing of the land on which they work, local saints, and lost love.
While we may usually associate Fado with a deep melancholy, Mr. Sambujo’s performance was a lovely demonstration of a much wider variety of moods. He seems to have the perfect voice for Fado, including a hushed falcetto.
Beginning with a piece that was softly and gently happy, they followed this with a hauntingly sad piece, with particular resonance from the Portuguese guitar. The variety continued with songs of pathos and yearning in many forms and even some wonderful jazz numbers that showed off the talents of the musicians with delicious harmonies. We don’t often see a bass clarinet and this one was played to great effect, even evoking a tuba sound at times.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening and one that left us wishing for more.