You will forgive my presumption, but to kick off the discussion, here’s the theory: Fado is the art of expressing silence well.
Actually, if I had the space, I would argue that all great art tends to be about what is unsaid, simply because there is no way to say it. A painting, a poem, a voice – all these, at their best, express what we are not able to say. And that is what Fado does when, powerfully and inescapably, it transmits to us the feeling that we frequently – invariably? – mistake for that mysterious thing we call soul.
That magic has been conveyed since time out of mind by generations of its practitioners: in Fado houses, in back rooms, in neighbourhoods, men and women are initiated into this mysterious art of transcending the words and going straight to the heart of those listening. Filipa Cardoso is one of those chosen initiates.
She grew up in the neighbourhood of Alto do Pina in Lisbon, among devotees of Fado. Her childhood memories are of the chords of the Portuguese guitar and of voices like that of Fernando Maurício. Aged 10 at a family wedding, she was asked to sing a Fado. When she finished, she had the offer of a job and the salary to go with it. Five years later, she captivated her listeners again by chance at a birthday party, which earned her a contract to perform in two Fado houses.
There was just one problem – the cheerful adolescent was unable to empathise with the repertoire that they wanted her to sing – which is the biggest, and regrettably all too common a sin in Fado.
She then took a courageous and sensible decision: she stopped. She returned nine years later, after an intense period in which she grew up and filled her soul with the good and bad emotions which life is made of. It is not surprising that when the Fado returned, it rang true. The most visible result was her victory at the 2004 “Grande Noite do Fado” (Fado Gala).
She joined the bill at “Sr. Vinho”, famous Fado House in Lisbon where she continued her apprenticeship. Until one day fate – an unavoidable character in this story – led her to meet Jorge Fernando who, in addition to being a brilliant musician, author, composer and singer, is one of those people with the rare gift of recognising unpolished diamonds: that was how it was with Mariza, how it was with Ana Moura, and how it is with Filipa Cardoso. For all of them, Jorge Fernando produced their first record. In Filipa’s case, he also wrote most of the poems and some original Fados.
Those who listen closely to ‘Cumprir Seu Fado’ will understand that, more than just a Fado disc, it is Filipa Cardoso’s inevitable destiny. The voice and the soul were ready to be shared some time ago. And they are, in the most appealing way: whether she is singing about jealousy, disillusion, impossible love and maternal love, raw, poetic and obvious desire, or longing, Filipa Cardoso’s voice has the authentic ring. Argentina Santos, with whom she collaborates on “Fado da Herança”, has recognised that. What Filipa brings is not new, because that is not what is needed. It is the inheritance of change, a voice that harks back to all the fadistas and poets of the past to flow out in a soul that is uniquely hers. And listening to the first Fado, I assure you: it is also our soul.
Nuno Miguel Guedes