Various Artists

Beginner's Guide to Fado

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The United Kingdom’s Nascente imprint is well known for issuing wonderfully themed compilations either on genres or individual artists. Their Beginner’s Guide series is no exception, including this volume on the Portuguese music known as fado. Fado is a complex urban (i.e. “street”) folk music that deals with themes of destiny, betrayal in love, death, and despair, and is often regarded as the oldest tradition of its kind in the world. Indeed, by the early 20th century, fado, which had begun among the poor and visiting sailors in antiquity, had become a permanent fixture in Lisbon’s culture and has only grown in stature since that time all over the world. This three-CD set, in typical Nascente fashion, educates the listeners chronologically. Disc one is devoted to the traditional side of the music by some of its most renowned practitioners: Amália Rodrigues, Herminia Silva, Fernando Farinha, Carlos Do Carmo, and more. Disc two is entitled Fado Fusion. It documents the way the music’s roots melded with many modern elements, from dance music and electronic pop to rock & roll. The artists featured here include Lura, Liana, Ciganos d’Ouro (whose fusion includes Sephardic, tango, flamenco, and even Arab musics), the Lisbon City Rockers, Dany Silva, V Imperio, and Citania. But it’s the last disc that is most fascinating. Entitled Fado Now, it features current artists on the scene who have taken the music back in a sense, by incorporating far more of its original acoustic roots in its sound. The artists included on this disc include the wondrously talented “voice” of modern fado, Ana Moura, Deolinda, the Cinema Ensemble/Rodrigo Leão, and Jorge Fernando, to name a few. While disc two is admittedly tough going for those who love the traditional music, it is necessary for inclusion in order to provide an accurate recorded portrait of fado and its evolution. Compiled expertly by Alex Robinson, this is ultimately a complex, labyrinthine, and engaging aural treat.

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