António Zambujo Brings His Fado To Miami
The siren call of fado is usually associated with a woman’s voice. But that old, melancholic form of Portuguese song that expresses an irrepressible longing, orsaudade, is an equal opportunity employer.
In fact, men have been part of this musical tradition for a long time. And no one better than António Zambujo to let audiences know that. The 38-year-old Zambujo, currently on a tour of North America that will conclude at Carnegie Hall in New York City this Saturday, will be having his Florida debut the night before at the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center in a concert sponsored by The Rhythm Foundation.
“There is a huge tradition of men singing fado, too,” says Zambujo from California, where he had shows in Los Angeles and San Francisco. “What happens is that [legendary fado songstress] Amália Rodrigues traveled around the world singing fado, and more recently Mariza, Ana Moura, and many others, but the men don’t travel too much. There are some exceptions, like Carlos do Carmo, but in the fado history, there is not a big tradition of international male fado singers.”
Zambujo, though, has ventured far, like the Portuguese sailors of old. He has been taking this music abroad since the mid 2000s. He is quick to point out that something else distinguishes what he does: he adds other sounds and rhythms to fado. “It’s not exactly the traditional fado,” he explains. “We have some other influences, like jazz, popular Brazilian music, African music from Cape Verde. It’s like a mix of all of those influences. You know, for me it’s a little bit hard to talk about the music that we do, because it’s better to listen than to explain how we do it.”
Especially when it comes to cante alentejano, a type of folk music that he says has always been a part of his fado, and which hails from his hometown, Beja, in the Alentejo region of southern Portugal. “In my region, there’s a huge Mediterranean influence, a tradition of polyphonic choirs, male choirs, which was my first musical memory,” he says. “Because of those men singing, I wanted to learn the music and sing with them. They are very calm, very relaxed people. We do everything with an unusual, peaceful mind. All of those things appealed to me.”
And so folk music from the myriad regions in Portugal come together in the nation’s capital, nurturing fado with many different elements. Something similar happened to Zambujo while he was growing up. He studied the clarinet at the Baixo Alentejo Regional Conservatory, and later on Portuguese guitar as well, but from an early age he fell in love with fado. At 16, he won a local fado contest, and after finishing his clarinet studies, went to Lisbon, where he joined the cast of the Clube do Fado.
He became well known while playing the part of Amália Rodrigues’ first husband in a musical based on her life. The show lasted a couple of years and was seen throughout the country. In 2002, Zambujo produced and launched his first album, O mesmo fado.
With this century’s first decade winding down, Zambujo began to perform in Brazil alongside some iconic music artists: Caetano Veloso, Ivan Lins, and Milton Nascimento, among others. His fifth album, 2012’s Quinto, brought him international acclaim. And even if one doesn’t understand the language of fado, the emotions conveyed through the music can be embraced by all.
“When you play, for example, in the United States, or when you play in France, or in Russia, the music makes that connection with the audience,” says Zambujo. “You can’t do it with your own language, because they may not understand, but they understand the meaning, they understand the feeling, the interpretation of the singer and of the musicians. That’s the magic of the music.”
António Zambujo comes in concert, Friday, Feb. 7, at 8:00 p.m., Aventura Arts & Cultural Center, 3385 NE 188 Street, Aventura. Tickets range from $35 & $45;www.aventuracenter.org; / www.rhythmfoundation.com.
Photo: Marcos Hermes