Carla Pires: Cartografado

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 … More Carla Pires: Cartografado

Maria Monda

Civilizations through the ages have paid homage to the Earth, but today planet reverence at best coexists with environmental abuse. And while the debut album by the Portuguese trio Maria Monda sounds like traditional wisdom and makes no mention of global warming, its very restraint makes a powerful, modern case for protecting Mother Nature. Sofia Adriana Portugal, Susana Quaresma and Tânia Cardoso met at Lisbon’s School of Theater … More Maria Monda

Cristina Branco: Eva

From David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust to Beyoncé’s Sasha Fierce, from Philip Roth’s Zuckerman to Marcel Duchamp’s Rrose Sélavy, the alter ego has an honored place in creative art. But the Portuguese singer Cristina Branco molded something different in the title character of her latest album: Eva was born not as an artistic device but as a stroke of self-actualization. In 2006, wandering through a museum outside Copenhagen, Branco visualized a confident bestie … More Cristina Branco: Eva

Maja Milinković: Fadolinka

Like many artists, Maja Milinković takes advantage of unexpected opportunity and inspiration. She learned guitar in an underground shelter during the Siege of Sarajevo; it helped her stay calm and prepared her for a music career. By age 15 she was playing in a rock band and by 30, with two solo pop-rock albums behind her, she was widely known in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Balkans. But along the way a friend showed her a video of Amália … More Maja Milinković: Fadolinka

Três Bairros: O Turno da Noite

Love is the magician that pulls a man out of his own hat, but how many get lucky when they try to force the alchemy? Consider the countless stories—tragic, hilarious, pathetic, triumphant—of guys who make the effort. To that list add the debut album of Três Bairros, artists of Portuguese tradition (mostly but not exclusively fado) who serve up passion in gardens, cafés, streets and windows, with success … More Três Bairros: O Turno da Noite

Carminho: Maria

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 … More Carminho: Maria

Cristina Branco: Branco

If social media represents the spotlight, what’s hidden in the shadow? Cristina Branco answers on her fifteenth album: Real life, a jumble of dream, sorrow, survival, despair, the passage and freezing of time, and every love story too ambiguous or messy to post about. A persistent question surrounding Branco’s career in recent years is whether she has left fado behind or simply created her own fado-piano genre of Portuguese chanson. But perhaps the … More Cristina Branco: Branco

Sopa de Pedra: Ao Longe Já Se Ouvia

In the folk tale, a hungry traveler stops in a village and asks for food. Rebuffed, he fills a pot with water from a stream, puts a stone in it and places it over a fire. Villagers intrigued by the idea of “Stone Soup”—delicious, the clever traveler insists—surround him and eventually offer ingredients (carrots, onions, seasoning) and share the meal. Like the story that inspired their name, the women of Sopa de … More Sopa de Pedra: Ao Longe Já Se Ouvia

Catarina dos Santos: Rádio Kriola

The subtitle of Catarina dos Santos’ second album is “Reflections on Portuguese Identity,” a subject as big as the ocean that touches Portugal, Africa and Brazil and as small as the working-class town where she grew up. Facing Lisbon across the Tagus, Barreiro is home to families from Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea, Mozambique and inland Portugal. From an early age, Dos Santos—whose father … More Catarina dos Santos: Rádio Kriola

Duarte: Só a Cantar

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 … More Duarte: Só a Cantar