Duarte: Só a Cantar

Taking Pains

Listening Post 183. Duarte is a fado purist, making no concession to other genres, just Portuguese and acoustic guitars, bass and his sensitive, expressive voice. Literally and figuratively, he takes pains to be authentic as he explores the nuances of loss and makes Só a Cantar (Singing Alone), his fourth album, more hopeful than some of his earlier work. He laments warmed-over fado for tourists: “We’ve lost the dark side,” he said in an interview with Public Radio International—referring to fado’s nineteenth-century origins, when sailors, bohemians and prostitutes sang in alleys, taverns and brothels about who slept with whom and who stabbed whom. Duarte doesn’t have a sailor’s experience to draw on (in his day job he’s a psychologist), and he can only go so far back in time, but he more than compensates with first-hand melancholy, performing his own songs with classical precision, with poetry and style suspended—like Lisbon’s narrow lanes—between past and present. In Covers, he observes, “Those who try to live/What others have lived/End up getting lost…They are fado no longer” (video 1). He takes us on the carousel of life—the destiny at the heart of fado—in the bittersweet Vai de Roda (Go Round), advising us to hang on until the end (video 2). The lightness of Doméstica Solidão (Home Alone), flows from somber lyrics paired with a sprightly arrangement, suggesting sadness as transition (video 3). Less is more in the artist’s terse and rich scenes and monologues: The silent observation of Rapariga da Estação (Girl in the Station, video 4); the retort to demeaning gossip in Dizem (They Say); and the love-from-afar story Maria da Rocha, the album’s only traditional track, from Duarte’s native Alentejo region. Everything works superbly on Só a Cantar, and it’s because of how adroitly the fado master takes pains. (AVM Music Editions)

Só a Cantar/Singing Alone
Duarte: vocals
Paulo Parreira, Pedro Amendoeira: Portuguese guitars
Rogério Ferreira: guitar
Daniel Pinto: acoustic bass


(from the Portuguese lyrics)
All nostalgia is feigned/Sadness disguised
Seemingly without life/Of Fado there is nothing.

They are Fado no longer, just covers/Soulless imitations
Reproductions of fate/So often chanted

Those who try to live/What others have lived
End up getting lost/In how much they didn’t do.

Postmodern vampires/From the Lisbon of tourists
They talk about the old taverns/But want to be futurists.


Vai de Roda/Go Round
Go round, go round/Go round without stop
Those who never go round/Those who never go round
Can’t beat the wheel.

Go round, go round/Go round, the ride is so brief
I have some friends on the wheel/I have some friends on the wheel
They make the ride lighter

Go round, go round/Some loves ride the wheel
The more loves aboard/The more loves aboard
The more pain pursues you.

Go round, go round/Stay on until the end
I’ve tried to get off the wheel/I’ve tried to get off the wheel
But it keeps turning on me


Doméstica Solidão/Home Alone
Home alone/Condition of those unloved
The children, where are they?/I don’t see them anywhere

A sea of voice that gets lost/A silent river of torment
I’m from a love that’s dead/I am a door almost closed

Fragile and cold disbelief/Perhaps well-destined
I am something empty/Something with nothing

Home alone/Condition of those unloved
Straight into the heart
As for mine, it has escaped sideways


Rapariga da Estação/Girl in the Station
I don’t know if she was arriving/Or maybe departing
But she had a seat/And I noticed what she was reading.

Loose black hair/Long, straight, depressed
Hiding the daring, low neckline/Of her gray dress.

I couldn’t say anything/I preferred it like that
Better alone than accompanied/Even by me.

An enduring condition/Abandonment, loneliness
So inspiring and sad/Young girl in the station.


3 thoughts on “Duarte: Só a Cantar

  1. Incomparable. Filled with beauty of authenticity, sensitivity, intelligence… A major voice.

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