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Nov 24, 200902:11 PMBest Of Editor Picks

Diablo Review: Mariza

Nov 24, 2009 - 02:11 PM
Diablo Review: Mariza

Photo by Isabel Pinto

Portuguese songstress and 2009 Latin Grammy Award winner Mariza performed songs from her new album Terra at UC Berkeley last Thursday, presented by Cal Performances. 

Born in Mozambique to a Portuguese father and an African mother, Mariza was first introduced to the Portuguese musical style of fado (meaning “destiny” or “fate”) at the age of five.  In true fado style, she learned how to sing in the streets without a microphone—perhaps explaining her ability to deliver powerful, vibrating vocals that carry across a room. 

Accompanied by a 5-piece band who strummed vibrant melodies on instruments like the Portuguese guitarra, piano, and trumpet, Mariza gave emotional and uplifting performances of her songs, including “Primavera,” “Rosa Branca,” and the stand-out “Minh'Alma.”  The translated lyrics of the latter include: “Lisbon make love to me that’s where I’m bound/Running through the streets of the past/My fado is the future but I vow/My love/That I will make love to my past/Without saying where I’m bound.” 

Endlessly tall and wearing what some would call a costume-couture dress—a long, dark blue gown, with strong shoulders and bold zippers—Mariza appeared larger-than-life on Zellerbach Hall’s compact stage.  After a one-and-a-half hour set, Mariza spent the next 30 minutes interacting with the audience, often posing questions followed by audience members shouting out their answers.  At one point, Mariza, who speaks several languages beyond her native tongue, including Spanish and Italian, asked which countries were being represented in the audience.  “Portugal! Brazil! Italy! France! Russia! Mexico!” were shouted back, and—as her aptly-titled album Terra (meaning “land”) would reveal—Mariza followed each shout with an anecdote of a personal experience in that country (most notably in Russia, where she was warmly welcomed with shots of vodka while seated and discovered how drunk she was only upon standing up). 

Mariza made her fans laugh and cry and even surprised them with an impromptu cover of James Brown’s “I Feel Good” and a test-run of John Lennon’s “Imagine”.  As for fado, Mariza explained that, “The Portuguese don’t say, 'my destiny'—they say, 'my fate.'  The Portuguese are melancholy!”  Semantics aside, longtime fans and new listeners alike can agree that Mariza’s stunning vocal talent alongside her unique beauty and international appeal make her destined—or fated—for greatness.

Check out the rest of Cal Performances' 2009–2010 season at calperformances.org. Next up in the World Stage series is Masters of Persian Music on February 13, 2010.

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