Carminho: Maria

November 6, 2019

Fado in Black, White and Color

Listening Post 226. The song Sete Saias (Seven Skirts) describes the women of Nazaré, Portugal, who traditionally wore multiple layers on the cold beach where they waited for their husbands’ fishing boats. The only piece of small-town folklore on Maria, the song may at first glance seem like an outlier. But the skirts serve as a perfect metaphor for Carminho’s elaborately layered fifth album. Is the titular Maria the singer—full name Maria do Carmo Carvalho Rebelo de Andrade—or is it everywoman? Past and present, Maria is one of Portugal’s most popular feminine names; Carminho wrote seven of the album’s 12 songs and says much of her experience is distilled in them. Like the name, past and present also define fado, less a music genre than an emotional language for all seasons. Does experimentation with non-traditional instruments mark an artist as transgressor or innovator? Can the club atmosphere (Carminho grew up in her singer-mother’s fado restaurant) be replicated in the studio? Such questions, and their answers, are embedded in her song choices, lyrics, instruments and recording decisions. And in her extraordinary voice, from full-bodied melancholy to equally dramatic gaiety. Loss of innocence marks the nuanced sadness of O Menino e a Cidade (The Boy and the City, video 1); reverence floats with delicate electric guitar accompaniment in Estrela (Star, video 2); and the lyricist is nimbly at work in Poeta (video 3). Carminho contracts and expands her fado: In A Tecedeira (The Weaver), she gives heart-wrenching a cappella articulation to spinning as a stand-in for singing. Representing the opposite extreme, Pop Fado (video 4) is a bouncy, funny take on the purity test—and half the joke is that the song, written in 1966, shows how long the question has simmered. No one knows fado’s essence more deeply than Carminho—or delivers it in as many colors. (Warner Music Portugal)

Carminho: Maria
Carminho: Vocals, electric guitar
Bernardo Couto, José Manuel Neto, Luis Guerreiro: Portuguse guitar
Flávio César Cardoso: Classical guitar
José Marino de Freitas: Acoustic bass guitar
João Paulo Esteves da Silva: Piano
Filipe Cunha Monteiro: Pedal steel guitar, electric guitar

Related Posts. Carminho Canta Tom Jobim, Listening Post, 119, October 9, 2017

Carminho Canta Tom Jobim

Carminho: Canto, Listening Post 40, March 27, 2016

Carminho: Canto


O Menino e a Cidade/The Boy and the City
Lyrics & Music: Joana Espadinha

(from the Portuguese lyrics)
One by one the city lights are saying goodbye/And the boy, daydreaming, awaits his destiny
How many hours does the day take from you?/Whose hands will you slowly kiss one day?

He knows life won’t ignite if the dream is small/And that sometimes it can burn you with its poison
At night the mother cries softly/Alone, so she won’t disturb the city
That sleeps today without moonlight…

Don’t be afraid if time flies for no reason/The fear will only increase your loneliness
A man does not cry alone/You can’t stop dreaming

Night breaking, dawn cries loose in the wind/And the boy has gone, having grown inside
Don’t wait to unravel the days, you’ve already discovered a woman/Pretend you already know what she wants.


Lyrics & Music: Carminho

You are the star/That guides my heart
You are the star/That lights my way
You are the sign/That leads me to my destiny
You are the guiding star/And I am the pilgrim

Until now, it was so dark/From those who conspire to make us wise in the world
I’ve lived disillusioned, belittled/In an instant I gave away my childhood

You don’t even know what you did/For me, and perhaps for yourself, when you arrived
I just know that when I saw you, you awakened/Everything in me that was gray and worn down

Love up close, but also at a distance/A distance that made us believe
That gave it real importance/Gave the freedom and power of knowing how to love

Much happier now, certainly/I can go on like this for life
I won’t be alone anymore and I’ll let myself believe/May your own guiding light follow me now


Lyrics & Music: Carminho

Who writes your songs/Describing what you feel
Making hearts grow/Turning emotions into seeds

Seeds with such power/They inspire the birds
To build their nests/On the brink of a gale
And with equal confidence/From among your devotions
The poet in prayer/Writes the poems and fados
Inspiring the exhausted/Who write your songs

Give us knowledge and courage/Moved by the good fortune
Of such an elemental art/That only talent births
Write poems though/In the insane attempt
To show everyone/Emotions you don’t possess
Keep lying as you write/Saying what you feel

For it is this wisdom/That makes you immortal
Giving you courage equal/To the hero of the allegory
Living in a fantasy/The poet of the songs
Takes all the emotions/Offering images to drink
Enlightening, teaching/Making hearts grow.

Now I understand the song/I’ve heard for a lifetime:
“With your sowing/My heart has grown”
And in the evenings/I’ve heard so many people sing
In this moving way/To understand that love
Grows just like the flower/Turning emotions into seeds


Pop Fado
Lyrics: César de Oliveira/Music: Fernando de Carvalho

Fado has become democratic/Putting on a brand new style
Caught up with abstract art/And all that goes with that
Gave up its vagabond shoes/Gone all intellectual
I wanted to learn the language/And the message of Pop Fado

Oh man – Now pop for fado is palpable*
Shovel in the pop syrup/Pick up the pace with pop
Oh man – There are popular posts and jocular toasts
There are more popists than papists/Popularized, popesticated
Popstarred, populisted/Pop fadista, without King or Pop.

Check out the new models/To turn eye and ear
Elbow patches/Hair like the Rolling Stones
Existential in its diversity/Rhymes of noble sentiment
Scattered trills/Among the cheeky verses

*The second verse is full of wordplay and invention. Where a literal rendering of the Portuguese seems futile, the loose translation here makes an effort to preserve the rhythm and, well, pop—AT



1 Comment

  1. Marek

    If there’s beauty in the world, it’s you


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