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

Cuca Roseta: Luz

Rather than linger over beautiful sunsets, our ancestors ran home at dusk, so fraught with danger and superstition was the night. Advanced societies tend to take light for granted. On her fourth album, Cuca Roseta shows a preindustrial appreciation for light’s physical and spiritual dimensions—illumination and inspiration—and treats fado, Portugal’s signature music form, as a natural source of joy and introspection. Roseta is a singer and songwriter … More Cuca Roseta: Luz

Carminho Canta Tom Jobim

Wise is the traveler who dives into another culture without losing her own identity, who enables both visitor and host to see themselves in a new light. So it is that Carminho, a pre-eminent star of the fado renaissance, brings her made-in-Portugal voice to songs by the late Brazilian composer Antônio Carlos Jobim, the patriarch of bossa nova. An invitation from Jobim’s family prompted Carminho Sings Tom Jobim, the offer including accompaniment by the master’s band—guitarist Paulo Jobim … More Carminho Canta Tom Jobim

Cristina Branco: Menina

Cristina Branco is a fado virtuoso but her interpretation isn’t confined to a single genre, nor is her inspiration limited to the world of music. Menina (Girl), her fourteenth album, began with a dream about Diego Velázquez’s iconic painting Las Meninas, in which the figures came to life. The vision prompted her to write a self-portrait that she shared with several musicians, asking them to deliberate on her text and come up with songs. The resulting album reflects feminine sensibilities, habits and passions … More Cristina Branco: Menina

Ana Moura: Moura

Fado is about soul and spirit, and Ana Moura is extraordinary at both. On her landmark sixth album, two of the more passionate and traditional songs (Moura and Moura Encantada) play off her name: in Portuguese folklore, mouras encantadas are enchanted, seductive beings, capable of transformation, who promise treasures to whoever frees them from the spell under which they live. But Moura, the leading fadista of her generation—who doesn’t so much cross into other genres as … More Ana Moura: Moura

Carminho: Canto

Fado means destiny. And for Carminho, destiny is fado, by nature and nurture. Her mother is a fado singer and her parents ran a popular Libson fado club; her sumptuous and nuanced voice soars without roaring and softens without descending to a whisper. Her third album, a collection of traditional and innovative songs, solidifies her status as one of the leading artists of the fado renaissance. Canto has elements of drama and saudade … More Carminho: Canto