Ask anyone who’s caught Portugal’s fado star Mariza live, and they’ll probably tell you that the most spine-tingling moment of the event was when the young singer climbed down from the stage, threw down her mike and just belted out the songs for all they were worth. Sure, these moments are scripted dramas, but they do much to highlight Mariza’s incredible talents as much as demonstrate the street-smart earthiness of a good fado.
For anyone interested in the past, present and future of this uniquely Portuguese melancholy, the Mariza Box is a handsome object. Containing Mariza’s three solo albums – Fado em Mim, Fado Curvo (reviewed NI 362) and Transpariente – and two DVDs, 2006’s Concerto em Lisboa and, alluringly, The Story of Fado, the 2007 BBC documentary made by Simon Broughton – the release is an important one that contextualizes Mariza (‘I am not the new Amália Rodrigues,’ she declares, ‘or the new Edith Piaf. To each time its own’) as well as providing the sheer pleasure of the music. The BBC film, the only item not available separately, is an atmospheric one – there is some stunning footage of Mariza singing in tiny clubs local to her Lisbon home – but let down at points by the lack of Portuguese to English subtitles. Maybe this is something that EMI Portugal will address in later editions, but the frustration is a small price to pay.