Fado magic recasts its spell

“My sister led me to the heart of fado,» were the first words uttered by Celeste Rodrigues, sister of Portugal’s late music legend Amalia Rodrigues, in an interview with Kathimerini. Following the course set by her older sister after being fortunate enough to absorb, from a young age, this melancholy song form’s craft next to a true master, Celeste Rodrigues has continued projecting Portuguese fados to listeners around the world. Local audiences had the opportunity to see her perform last summer at the open-air Lycabettus Theater in Athens, when Celeste Rodrigues was included on the bill for a tribute show to her sister. Now, just months later, Celeste Rodrigues is back in Greece for a series of performances at the capital’s Half Note Jazz Club. They commenced last Friday and run through Thursday. «Amalia is an unrivaled singer. Her expression of the feeling in fado – pain, love, melancholy – was unique,» commented Celeste Rodrigues on a song form that remains highly popular despite its forlorn nature. «It’s melancholy but not melodramatic, honest and real, which is why people love it even when they don’t understand the lyrics. Greeks, too, appreciate fado, because the style share common elements with rebetika. Both emerged amid poverty. They address the difficulties of daily life, misfortune, the special moments of joy, and daily struggle. They tell the truth about life,» she added. Fados are entwined with fate. The style takes its name from the Latin word fatum, meaning fate. Commenting on fate, Celeste Rodrigues said she was a deep believer in its power. «Life itself taught me to believe. Just think about the importance of one’s place of birth. If I weren’t born in Lisbon, I wouldn’t be who I am. Fate follows us throughout life,» noted Celeste Rodrigues. As for the fado song form, it need not fear its fate. New singers are elevating the seasoned style to new heights. «There are fadistas such as Dulce Pontes and Cristina Branco, Misia and others who really have brought in a new freshness,» remarked Celeste Rodrigues. «On the other hand, newer artists are trying to merge the [style’s] tradition with modern sounds, but aren’t managing. The fado form is potentially useful in terms of being enriched with new elements, as long as these don’t change its substance,» she added. For her current shows in Athens, Celeste Rodrigues is being accompanied by Helder Moutinho, one of the few male representatives in this popular Portuguese art form. Is fado, then, an issue that concerns mainly women? «Women probably serve it because – perhaps – they find it easier to express their feelings,» explained Celeste Rodrigues. «I believe that men, too, can sing fados well, as long as they don’t suppress their feelings. After all, fado has produced legendary male singers such as Alfredo Marceneiro, Edmundo Bettencourt and Jose Afonso. Of the younger singers, Helder Moutinho is a very worthy songwriter and singer, as is Camane.» Celeste Rodrigues and Helder Moutinho accompanied by their backing band are performing at the Half Note Jazz Club (17 Trivonianou, Mets, tel 210.921.3310) through Thursday. The repertoire features both old and new fados.