Reflections after listening to the CD “A Voz do Mar”, from the fado singer Mariana Oliveira

Marcelo Campos Tiago *

At the entrance of Lisbon Oceanarium, before its main aquarium, the visitor is confronted with a beautiful and short poem by Sophia Breyner, which is to some degree evocative of the whole monument: “When I die / I will return to seek / the moments I did not live by the sea” . While I was listening for the first time the CD "A Voz do Mar", by Mariana Oliveira, these sentences by Sophia kept coming to my mind.

And the metaphor of the sea could not be more representative to talk about this CD. The performer - who revealed a truly youthful heart and spirit - has chosen a quite varied repertoire which was undoubtedly marked by great finesse: she revisits the deepness of fado's seas (with compositions of none other than Amália, Ary dos Santos and Alain Oulman), while simultaneously dialoguing with compositions of her own, as well as of authors unknown to the general public.

The result is a work marked by the sensitivity in establishing several dialogues between the traditions of the past (as if it were the great waves of a wild sea that the fado singer faces with a proficiency and sensitivity of her own) and her own present, represented in her own compositions that - given due proportions - do not stand behind those of the best fado poets.

It goes without saying that, if the choice of the repertoire is one of the hallmarks of this work, the other lies precisely on Mariana's voice quality. Her performance is outstanding and, just as a ship that faces the waves of a wild sea, she knew exactly how to adapt to the particularities of each fado, showing that her voice is consistent and able to defy the best guitar players in a beautiful partnership between the sound of the guitar and the one produced by the body and soul of the fado singer.

It's impossible to listen to this work and not to be impressed by the artistic power of this young girl that knew how to juggle a vocal competency of her own with different performing traditions that include the sonority of traditional fado singers, such as Argentina Santos (with her famous fado intonations), Fernando Maurício (with his own charming way of narrating the stories he sang) and also through Mariana's particular creativity that reveals an aesthetic maturity that will certainly become more and more consistent and complete over the years.

I consider her not only as a promising fado singer, as some might say, but already as a reality of fado, with the certainty that she represents that this genre will not disappear, but instead come alive and rebuild itself constantly through the talent of fado singers such as Mariana, who has the courage of not bowing resignedly before the traditions, but dialoguing and establishing new paths for the future.

Just like a child – that brings a shell close to the ears to listen to the sound of the sea – that is precisely the feeling I had when enjoying the delicate and simultaneously fragile and firm voice of the fado singer, while she performed the different themes of her first CD.

And, with all the poetic license only allowed by the art, if I could rewrite Sophia's poem - which I quoted at the beginning - I would finish my text this way:

“When we want to live / we must always listen / to the fado singers who make us / live by the sea”.

From the sea of emotions aroused by this beautiful CD.

Congratulations, Mariana!

* Ph.D. in Education, Art and History of Portuguese Culture by Universidade de São Paulo