by Mike Telin

MouraWhy is it that Fado, the traditional soulful music of Portugal, has been embraced by audiences around the world? “I think more people are trying to discover new musical sounds that can make them feel different things and Fado has [a way of doing that],” says Fado superstar Ana Moura. On Friday, March 22nd beginning at 7:30 pm in Gartner Auditorium, Ana Moura will share the music from her latest album Desfado and other traditional Fado songs as part of the Cleveland Museum of Art’s VIVA! & Gala series.

We spoke to Ana Moura by telephone in California, and talked about her new album, growing up in a musical family, and her past musical projects with the Rolling Stones and Prince. We began by asking her how she describes the Fado sound?

Ana Moura: It’s very complicated to explain. I think it’s music that comes from the soul so it is very private. Actually there are many different styles of voices in Fado. There are many singers with higher voices with very clean notes, and then there are some with more of a dark voice. I think Fado is like soul music [in the States].

Mike Telin: Did you grow up in a musical family?

AM: Yes, my family sang Fado and other styles of traditional music. My father plays guitar and sings and my mother also sings. All of my mother’s family, her sisters and my grandmother all sing quite well, but they never did it professionally. When I was very little, my weekends were spent with my parents and their friends jamming, my father playing guitar and everyone singing together. My first contact with Fado came from there.

MT: You formed a band with some friends when you were a teenager.

AM: Yes, and I started to listen to other styles of music, because when I was young I always listened to my parents’ music. But I always had a special feeling about Fado. For me, Fado was not old people’s music. Yes I did start to discover other styles of music but with that band I also sang Fado.

MT: I know you must get tired of talking about high profile artists like The Rolling Stones and Prince, who discovered your music early in your career, but that was an amazing opportunity.

AM: Yes it was amazing for me to meet them and to share musical experiences with them. And also to know that musicians like them, who come from such different musical styles, like Fado and feel close to it.

MT: Did working with them influence how you approached Fado?

AM: Yes, Definitely. For example, Prince invited me to some jam sessions with his musicians, and the same thing happened with the Stones project. And this new album, Desfado is a result of [those experiences] and collaborations.

MT: I love the album. Many songs were written for you by young composers who are not Fado musicians. Why did you decide the time was right to do this?

AM: I just felt it. Now in the Portuguese musical environment there are many composers in the younger generation who are doing interesting things. Some are my friends and some I’ve just been following their work. I wanted to challenge them to write for me. It was a beautiful experience to see their points of view about [how I sang] their music.

MT: Did you collaborate with them?

AM: No. I wanted them to inspire themselves.

MT: Of all the Joni Mitchell songs, why did you decide on “A Case of You”?

AM: This was a challenge made by Larry Klein, the co-producer, who of course worked with Joni Mitchell for a long time. It was not my intention to record in English, but he asked me if I wanted to do this song. I was quite surprised. I met Larry Klein through Joni Mitchell. I love her work, and A Case of You is one of my favorite songs ever. I think if the lyrics were translated into Portuguese it would be traditional Fado.

MT: How did you get Herbie Hancock to assist on a song you wrote, “A Dream of Fire”?

AM: Yes I wrote the melody. It was a really happy coincidence to get Herbie. When we were in Los Angeles recording, Larry Klein spoke to Herbie because they were working on another project together. Larry told him he was producing this Portuguese singer, Ana Moura, and Herbie said, what a coincidence because at this moment I am listening to her CD in my house. So Larry asked him if he would like to come to the studio and join us, and Herbie said yes.

MT: That is a great story. Another song you sing in English is “Thank You.” I’m completely captivated by it.

AM: It’s by David Poe, a friend of Larry’s and when he told him what we were doing he offered me this song. He thought that lyrically it is a Fado song, just in English. And he was right.

MT: Tell me about “A Minha Estrela.” It’s less then three minutes long but so beautiful. It’s somewhat of a sad, lonely waltz.

AM: Oh! You’re right. It is a short beautiful song and the lyrics are about the feeling of being alone. I love the song. I feel related to it because we travel so much, and stay in hotels that are not our own homes. Many times I feel like the lyrics to this song.

MT: I always find it interesting how a song that lasts less than three minutes can have so much meaning.

AM: Yes that is true isn’t it?

MT: Finally, what can we expect to hear at the show on Friday?

AM: The show is mainly songs from the album. I’ve brought Portuguese guitar, acoustic guitar, bass, drums, and keyboards. So it is a bigger band [then usual]. It is such a different feeling to be with so many musicians, and discovering new things. But we are all happy to be playing together.

Published on March 19, 2013

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