The quintessential folk music of Portugal, fado typically features dark tones and lyrics that pine over loss, depict loneliness, and mourn the difficult experiences of the poor. It was historically adopted on the streets of Lisbon, though whether from the sailors or Africa, its true origins remain contested. Still, it has been definitively traced to the early 1800s and thus is considered to be one of the oldest forms of urban folk music.

But fado is still alive and well today, and nobody performs it quite like Mariza. The singer was born in Mozambique to a Portuguese father and an African mother, and she lived there until they moved to Portugal when she was three years old. Mariza showed talent as a singer from a young age, picking up one style after another until, at the urging of her father, she found fado.

She began to sing professionally in 1997, but it was the passing of living fado legend Amalia Rodrigues that catapulted Mariza to the forefront of the genre, when she was asked to perform a broadcast tribute to the late singer. The global success of her four studio albums, Fado em Mim (2001), Fado Curvo (2003), Transparente (2005), and Terra (2007), as well as a 2006 live release titled Concerto em Lisboa, have further cemented her place as the genre's leading vocalist. Still, Mariza's diverse musical tastes have kept her sound fresh and modern while still holding reverence for the age-old style.

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Christopher Lopez