Mísia drawing tears in any language. *
Mísia is a pioneer, a free spirit.
Her life has been shaped by musical, poetic and geographic journeys – certainly a requirement for an artist who grew up filled with a wild exuberance under the influence of two cultures: her father’s quiet Portuguese bourgeois background and the artistic Spanish world of her grandmother and mother.
Her childhood was spent in Porto, her native city, where she first sang fado for the working-class audiences that flocked to the casas de fado. Then, as a young adult, she chose to move to Barcelona, beginning a career of paste gems, feathers and nudity in the legendary cabarets of the Paralelo (Catalonia’s Broadway), where the indiscretions of the destape (the period of rampant sexual liberation immediately following Franco’s death) were reflected with varying degrees of success in the shows’ kitsch costumes, extravagant make-up and stilted codes. In any case, one way or another, Mísia intended to acquire the tricks of the trade.
Later, she decided to move to post-movida Madrid, a city of nightlife. Now came the first true shows, the Eton crop, the geometrical fringe and personality… Every morning for several months, trooper Mísia learned five new songs from the vast repertoire of international pop and sang them on television.
After a great deal of experimentation (without ever deciding exactly how to express her artistic vocation), Mísia – who had not forgotten the revelatory fado of her teenage years or the ambience of the dark, smoky casas de fado packed with every kind of audience – decided to return home. She settled in Lisbon with a definite ambition: to perform HER fado. For the first time in her life, she had a very clear idea of what she wanted to do.
When she arrived, she began to discover the hostility directed towards fado since the fall of the Salazar dictatorship. Fado had been used by the authorities as a tool for propaganda, repression and mental manipulation. Aside from a few great poems, its songs conveyed the ethos of a humble, poor Portugal, lacking in ambition, but contented.
So Mísia was faced with a formidable task. She began to inventory the genre, listing traditional fado pieces and contacting poets to ask them to write new, literary lyrics. She reintroduced the violin and accordion of the street fado she had heard as a child and brought in the piano accompaniment of the aristocratic salons of the 19th century, giving fado a full aesthetic makeover in both substance and form.
In short, immediately on her return to Portugal, Mísia began to make enemies. The left-wing accused her of focusing on a conservative, reactionary genre, while traditionalists disapproved of her image and message, as well as her work with poets known for their political commitment and her rejection of the conventions surrounding fado. Despite all this, she persevered, determined to stand by her vision (indeed, unable to do anything else). She inadvertently opened up new options. Mísia was a pioneer, with all the risks that entailed – especially the danger of solitude among her peers.
Her first successes would be abroad: first in Spain and Japan, then in France and Germany. Subsequently, she began to achieve popularity worldwide, embarking on a truly international career. From 1993, she became the second artist after Amália Rodriguez to take fado to the world’s greatest stages, and even triumphed in new parts of the world.
From her very first records, the public responded enthusiastically. She was unfailingly creative. Her projects won widespread acclaim and sales followed. Mísia collected prize after prize. Her second record, Mísia Fado , was released in Japan, South Korea and Spain. Tanto menos tanto maís won the Académie Charles Cros prize. Garras dos Sentidos sold 250,000 copies. For the first time, accordion, violin and piano were heard together in fado arrangements. On Paixões Diagonais , the piano accompaniment was performed by Maria João Pires.
Ritual , a tribute to the artists of the casas de fado, was recorded 50s style in single takes on valve microphones. It covered a repertoire of popular lyrics. Following the album’s release, Mísia presented fado for the first time on the legendary stage of the Papal Palace at the Festival of Avignon. Subsequently, Canto marked a departure from fado, based on the instrumental work of Portuguese guitarist and writer Carlos Paredes. A string quintet completed the album’s musical ambience. It won the Record Critics’ prize in Germany. Next, Drama Box was a passionate record indeed, including tango, bolero and fado, and featuring Fanny Ardant, Miranda Richardson, Ute Lemper, Carmen Maura and Maria de Medeiros. A picture of Sophie Calle formed the backdrop for the show.
Her new album Ruas takes the form of a diptych on two CDs.
On the first CD, Lisboarium , Mísia dreams of Lisbon far away, her thoughts coloured by saudade after three years spent in Paris. Lisboarium is a subjective poetic inventory of the city, a choice of music and poems that reflects and narrates this urban world and delves into its secrets. The main genre is fado – although two other sounds from the city are also explored: the Marchas de Lisboa (neighbourhood parades held in June from 1932 on) and Mísia’s personal take on a song by Portugal’s Vitorino Salomé, Joana Rosa, a morna – one of those Cape-Verdean laments so similar to fado in their subject matter.
& Tourists , the second CD, reflects the journeys that have shaped Mísia’s musical sensibilities over twenty years.
& Tourists brings together the work of artists from a wide range of musical backgrounds, even the most unexpected: hypersensitive individuals cut to the quick by the world around them, whose tragic relationship with life and music she shares – each in their own culture, each on their own path. They are her clan.
Whether she turns to Nine Inch Nails ( Hurt ), Joy Division ( Love will tear us apart ), flamenco singer Camaron de la Isla ( Como el agua ), Barbara ( Attendez que ma joie revienne – Wait for my joy to return), Dalida ( Pour ne pas vivre seul – To not live alone), Cuco Sanchez ( Fallaste corazon ) or Peppe Servillo of „Avion Travel“ with a Neapolitan song, or fellow artists who feature in duets (Agnès Jaoui, ney player Kudsi Erguner or accordionist Daniel Mille) or simply provide her with songs from their repertoire, Mísia forges ahead on her chosen path, exploring these new landscapes shaped by the same feelings as fado and reminding us that although there are endless musical genres, ultimately, there is only one song: the song of the soul, universal song.
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* „Mísia drawing tears in any language.“ Johanna Keller, New York Times .