Many in the Western Hemisphere, I suspect, have yet to hear Mundo, the extraordinary 2015 recording by Mariza. Born to parents from Mozambique and Lisbon, she is widely regarded as the reigning queen of the Portuguese music genre, fado. Cognate to “fate,” the form frequently immerses the listener in rhapsodic excursions of extreme melancholy.
That said, this cd is no bummer. While paying homage with great poignancy to her fado roots in three tracks, the cd explores a broad brush of emotions, including moments approaching unadulterated joy. And Mariza’s vibrato-less alto shimmers as an adaptable, nuanced instrument for navigating that full range of timbres and emotions. (An understated accompaniment of acoustic and Portuguese guitars, percussion, and backup voices on three tracks also serves the cause.)
Artistic freedom wins out
This cd, then, is a masterpiece in a broader genre where eclectic world music meets popular art songs. And it is Mariza’s first release in five years. That hiatus—she had previously spun out five recordings of new material over 9 years—has given her the time and space to curate a collection of extraordinarily well-crafted songs. (She reportedly triaged worthy also-rans).
By implication, that makes a strong case against the once rampant practice of pressuring artists to generate new recordings on a schedule better attuned to record companies than to the artists themselves. While many of us lament the decline of the recording industry, greater breathing space for Mariza and other artists is certainly a silver lining.
In any event, Mariza’s recording strategy works well for me. In my own consumption of recordings, I am typically delighted if 50% of a cd’s tracks prove outstanding. With Mundo, my personal track-o-meter is stuck on 90%.
Additional Reviews: Nigel Williamson in Songlines
Robin Denselow in The Guardian
Download from iTunes; purchase cd from Amazon here
Videos: Alma (You Tube): link
Paixao (You Tube): link