Carla Pires: Cartografado

February 9, 2021

All Over the Map

Listening Post 290. Travel far and discover yourself: The idea has inspired literary figures and works from Camus to Kerouac to Cloud Atlas. The twist Carla Pires offers on her fourth studio album is assimilating the distant horizon not only into herself but also her art—taking fado away from its origins in Lisbon and showing how it becomes more world-wise and simultaneously more deeply fado. She comes naturally to Cartografado (Fado’s Cartography), having performed some 500 concerts in 23 countries in the course of her career. The album charts not just earthly topography but also emotional, imaginary and temporal pathways. Pires has an enveloping sound and she travels light, just her elegant, softly penetrating voice and a perfectly matched set of strings; her main partner here is singer-songwriter (and album artistic director) Amélia Muge, plus a superb cast of lyricists and composers adding French, Brazilian, Argentinian and Greek flavors to a Portuguese base. The title track is a lyrical odyssey, from the Himalayas of fado to its tropics and oceans, from images of kimonos to sounds of chorinho and morna, and back (video 1). In Tudo o Que Não Há (Everything Non-Existent, video 2) Pires presents a landscape of bitter love and departure without return. There’s an echo of Homer’s reddish sea in Os Vinhos dos Portos (Port Wines), comparing the grape to songs that take us on epic journeys (video 3). Words themselves become trails through silent dimensions in Alma Aprendiz (Soul’s Apprentice, video 4). Crossing the borders of Portuguese, Pires also takes fado to French chanson with a poem by Paul Éluard and floats comfortably into Spanish with Alfonsina Storni’s Date a Volar (Fly Away, video 5). In a stressful time when travel is more of a mental than physical exercise, Cartografado is a tantalizing reminder that music offers a way to find the world in ourselves. (Ocarina)

Carla Pires: Cartografado*
Carla Pires: Lead vocals
Bernardo Couto: Portuguese guitar
André M. Santos: Classical guitar
João Novais: Double bass
António Barbosa: Violin
Otto Pereira: Violin
João Barata: Viola
Raquel Merrelho: Cello
Elsa Matos Gomes: Mezzo soprano
Marta Ribeiro: Alto
João Pedro Afonso: Tenor
Rui Bôrras: Bass
Marta Chasqueira: Handclaps
Kyriakos Gouventas: Violin

*”Cartografado” is Portuguese for “mapped” or “charted.” Carla Pires gives the word a second meaning linking fado with the root verb “cartografar”— hence, the map of fado, or fado’s cartography.


Cartografado / Fado’s Cartography
Lyrics & music: Amélia Muge

(From the Portuguese lyrics)
There are Himalayas of fado/
In the trembling of my voice
And the peaks of Everest/Are in the strumming of a guitar
There are tropical forests/Whenever an “ay” escapes your lips
There is an equator of fado/Pouring out sweat
What longing can be found/In the oceans of love

A terraced fado/All broken into pieces
Yet always whole in the gesture/Length without width
A kimono, a nod/A bow of the head
In a tight slipper/Here you can also hear fado
On a faded silk/In a pastiche with nothing else

Go all the way out, come all they way back/Step aside, turn around
Circumnavigate entirely/In the map of your soul (fado’s cartography)

There’s a tropical flavor/When fado becomes chorinho
What more than pain is affection/It’s dance and so much more
And even a morna-fado/Comes round from time to time
And morna knows how to swing/In the dry land of hunger
Where I find the green of your eyes/Shining

With spice and white rice/My love, I want you so much
Come around and see how it is/This fado that rises and falls
Like a seesaw/In a steppe, a desert
Or an enchanted savannah/In the closed light of a forest
Deep, fresh, green/It brings the day to dark night

Go all the way out, come all the way back/Step aside, turn around
Circumnavigate entirely/In the map of you soul (fado’s cartography)

From the middle come all the way back/All the way up, step aside
In the map of your soul, fado’s cartography


Tudo o Que Não Há / Everything Non-Existent
Lyrics & music: Amélia Muge

If you want to leave, go now/Take everything there isn’t
Because nothing is left/Take your hands from mine
The hours when you didn’t come/The kiss that never brushed my lips

Our moonless nights/The brightness of your eyes
The rose of dawn/What I was and am no longer
The glass that shattered/The dinner finished before it began

Take it all, don’t forget/And above all don’t ask me
To remember you/Take the empty memories
Of you, of the nights, of the days/I lived with you

I’ll be here singing/I’ll stay even when
The exhaustion doesn’t let me/I’ll sing even without a voice
Because I won’t let you take/This song of ours


Os Vinhos dos Portos / Port Wines
Lyrics: Amélia Muge/Music: Ivan Lins

Wines/When we inhabit our glasses
Are like fados, destinations/Water-dreams, madness
They navigate/And we with them, lovers
We are floating islands/Looking for new ports

This wine illuminates/The pathways of luck
Puts vices of the sea/Before those who reach it
It is a snake that entangles/Our steps on the floor

In the shadows of the night/If this sun sets
In a blazing red glow/Ignites a love
And says they are yours/The fruits of goodbye

Wines/Bring confidence to laughter
Seat mermaids at the table/And arouse envy in honey
In the wines/Fear tames itself
Time rests/You forget to be cruel

They navigate/When they inhabit our glasses
And we with them, lovers/Are floating islands
Looking for new ports


Alma Aprendiz / Soul’s Apprentice
Lyrics: Tiago Torres da Silva/Music: Samuel Quedas

I have the illusion of being happy/In the ancestral turns of your voice
And all the poems it recites/Allow me the freedom to be an apprentice

From the plots that love has woven for us/Let me sing a song
As if I didn’t have to learn it/With your name in every chorus

And thus discover that my pleasure/May be in the vanity of uttering
Words that give me reason to live/Because I hear them in my own heart

To repeat your name softly/To shelter your name in my heart
The poem is us
It asks for everything but a voice/If I put my soul to the task

I know a prayer that no one recites/And prayers with endings I invented
I love gods that I myself have discarded/I am a humble apprentice

Of the things I never believed/Let me embrace loneliness
As if I didn’t have to learn it/And invoke your name in every prayer

And thus discover that my pleasure/May be in the courage to learn
Words I will never understand/Because I hear them in my own heart


Date a Volar / Fly Away

Lyrics: Alfonsina Storni/Music: Armando Machado (Fado súplica)

(From the Spanish lyrics)
(…) Go, spread your wings, be a dove/Walk through the forest and peck the grain
Eat crumbs from diverse hands/The pulp nibbles on fragrant fruit

(…) Come, take flight, like a bee/Poppies bloom in the garden
And fine nectar fills the petals/Tomorrow your soul will be old

(…) Come fly, be a swallow/Seek the beach of golden suns
Enjoy spring and its bounty/Spring unique and divine

(…) Walk, then run, this is little/There are still things your hand yearns for
Walk, run, turn, climb and fly/Enjoy everything because everything is beautiful



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