So, in 2002, Mariza debuted her first record, Fado em mim, and immediately became a star. Because fado, for her, is not a genre or style, but a condition of the soul, just as it was for Amália Rodrigues. She does not perform fado, she lives it, she lets it flow through her veins, lets it breathe through her skin, puts it in tune with the beat of her heart. She is faithful to her Portuguese musical roots, but at the same time, she is able to open herself to the world, to renew themes and atmospheres, making sure that what she sings is always wonderfully contemporary, not nostalgic, or tied to the past. Over the years, Mariza has been both an ambassador of Portuguese music to the world but also extremely receptive to the influences the world has on Portuguese music, opening the door to ever-changing feelings, sensations and sounds Her fame grew very quickly beyond Portuguese borders and led her to perform all over the world, on five continents, in the most famous theatres, from Olympia to Carnegie Hall, from London’s Barbican to Sydney’s Opera House, winning awards and recognition in so many countries and becoming an ambassador of Portuguese culture around the world. She is particularly attached to Lisbon, where she still lives: “It is a city from which I can’t detach myself,” she says, “to compose my music, I must breathe its air, see its light. When I return home, I feel like I belong to the place, I feel in tune with everything. I love to travel, I love the places where I have been, I am always greeted with great affection in every part of the world, but Lisbon is where my heart beats, where my feelings take shape and turn into songs.” It is said, mistakenly, that fado music is sad. “But that is not correct,” says Mariza “It is music filled with melancholy but not sadness. Fado is a way of life, and life is made up of many different feelings that this music expresses. Since this music was born among the poor, among the marginalized, it is heavy with a sense of melancholy that is impossible to erase, as is also true of the blues, but it is a music of life, love, passion.” Mariza is connected to the history of fado and the traditions of Portuguese music, but she does not see tradition as something static and immovable, but rather as the brick upon which to build a building that can always be renovated. “Although I do like to respect the tradition of fado. I prefer contaminations with jazz and blues, which have many elements in common with Portuguese music, to electronica or contemporary rhythms.” She was also new in her approach to the stage, with her short, platinum blond hair and her colourful, tight-fitting dresses, a far cry from the black dresses and shawls hung on the shoulders of female fado performers. The bright, significant example of Amália Rodrigues was always clear in her mind, but Mariza was never a follower. Instead, she always tried to find her way, paying tribute to Rodrigues’ greatness but constantly seeking her originality.
There’s nothing static about her. On the contrary, hers is a “curved fado,” as she calls it in one of her album titles: “something not unique,” she says, “that can be looked at from different points of view, remain the same but always appear different.” And this diversity also exists in the poetic languages that Mariza often uses, from that of the people to that of great Portuguese literature, from José Luis Gordo to Ferdinand Pessoa, “because music is a very broad vehicle, that holds different, seemingly distant elements that are linked by a common passion,” she says. “My musical research walks hand in hand with the search for words, and I love the Portuguese language very much because it gives me emotions that are different from any other language. I could also sing in English, I could take fado to pop territories, but I don’t care, I don’t seek fame at all costs, I like to bring the culture and music of Portugal to the world.”
Mariza offers the best of her art and soul when performing live. She manages to be passionate and entertaining, engage the audience, make each song exciting. And her stage presence is very strong. She moves on stage with joy and confidence, conveying her feelings with her beautiful voice but also with an extraordinary physicality. “When they think of a fado concert, everyone expects something sad, but I believe that you can also go to see a show of mine and have fun.”