An oral tradition that is passed on in the taverns and streets of Lisbon, Portugal, fado is the urban, bluesy musical form that gained international renown through the voice of the late Amália Rodrigues. The lyrics speak of love, longing, and the gritty life led on the streets of the Portuguese capital.
Fado is enjoying a revival in the country after having lost much of its core audience during the Sixties and Seventies. Younger fans, reacting to the glut of mass-produced music that came courtesy of globalization, eventually reconnected with the music as a source of national identity. By the mid-Eighties, a new generation of singers and songwriters began to retool the genre, giving it a modern edge.
One of the best-known singers of this new generation of fado singers is 38-year-old Dulce Pontes, whose stirring "Canção do Mar" ("Song of the Sea") was used in the soundtrack of the 1996 Richard Gere/Edward Norton vehicle Primal Fear. She is one of few vocalists who welcomes electronic sounds into fado, blending them with the Spanish and Portuguese guitars and other traditional elements.
Born in a suburb of Lisbon, Pontes was introduced to the genre by her uncle, an amateur fado musician. She spent time studying modern dance, and singing in a rock band, before devoting herself to fado full-time. Her latest disc, O Coração Tem Três Portas ("The Heart Has Three Doors"), recorded live, exemplifies her integrative sound, a passionate embrace of the tradition that manages to sound utterly modern.
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