- Ana Moura performs Sunday, March 3, 8 p.m. at the North Shore Credit Union Centre for the Performing Arts as part of the Global Roots series. Tickets are $35/$32 available at tickets.capilanou.ca
SHE was raised in a household that valued traditional Portuguese music, developed her singing voice in the bars and nightclubs of Lisbon, and has drawn on contemporary inspiration to breathe new life into an old-world genre.
Today, 33-year-old Ana Moura is one of the preeminent fado singers in Portugal. Literally translating to "fate" in Portuguese, fado is a traditional musical style that Moura describes as "soul music."
"It's a specific style where we sing with our soul, where we express our feelings," she says.
The lyrics are typically melancholy, infused with feelings of suffering, loss and nostalgic longing or "saudade."
Moura, known for her sultry low-pitched voice, has recorded seven albums and attained multi-platinum status in her home country.
This week the fadista kicked off the North American leg of her international tour, which will include a stop at the North Shore Credit Union Centre for the Performing Arts on Sunday, March 3. She will be performing songs from her most recent album Desfado, which, unlike her previous records, features a number of contemporary musicians from different musical backgrounds.
"I wanted to invite them because I really follow their work and lately we have been doing a lot of collaborations and I wanted to record it and to share it with the audience," Moura says.
Her departure from tradition is reflected in the instrumentation.
"Traditionally in fado we only use the Portuguese guitar and the classic guitar, but I will bring bass, I will bring drums and keyboards."
Desfado was produced by Larry Klein, the ex-husband and frequent collaborator of Canadian music icon Joni Mitchell. The album includes a fado-style cover of Mitchell's "A Case of You." Moura says it was never her intention to record in English, but "A Case of You" is one of her favourite songs and the lyrics, which deal with lost love, are reminiscent of fado.
"This was really a big challenge for me to record this song and to do this cover, but I didn't want to think too much about that, I just wanted to sing with my soul," she says.
Moura was born in the city of Santarem on the Tejo River north of Lisbon. Her music-loving parents instilled in their daughter a passion for traditional song.
"When I was very young they used to sing fado," Moura says, "and my weekends were spent with them jamming with their friends and singing fado and the other styles."
As a teenager Moura dabbled in pop and rock, but always maintained a strong emotional connection to fado. She eventually found her way back to the genre thanks to a "happy coincidence," she says.
At age 20, she went to a bar in the coastal village of Carcavelos where her friends encouraged her to take the stage and sing alongside a classical guitarist.
Her voice impressed the guitar player and fado aficionados, who introduced her to some well-established fado houses.
"One of the owners of the most popular fado house here in Lisbon, she heard me sing and she invited me to sing in her traditional fado house," Moura says. "Singing in that fado house, I completely fell in love with the genre."
Moura is not the only fado singer of her generation. She says in recent years there has been a resurgence in the popularity of traditional music and the charts are now dominated by fadistas and classical Portuguese musicians.
Moura believes this new musical landscape is related to political change. Portugal was a dictatorship for much of the 20th century until the 1974 Carnation Revolution brought about democracy.
"Fado was very related to the regime," Moura explains, "and we needed a few years to clean that up."
Forty years after the revolution, Moura says Portugal's youth are trying to connect with their history, not just through music, but through food, art and even clothing design.
"The youngest generations, we are all trying to discover our roots and to give value to those things," she says.
Moura's music has attracted the attention of some big names in the music business, including Prince and The Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger, both of whom have invited Moura to sing duets with them live on stage.
She recently wrapped up a successful tour of northern Europe.
"The venues were all full of people and it was amazing," she says. "The reaction, it's very good. Even if people don't understand the lyrics, they can feel it and this is the most important thing."