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Various Artist Various Artist
Album: Queens of Fado - The Next Generation
Label: ARC
Tracks: 16

Along with, I suspect, many other music lovers I first became aware of Portuguese fado music through the spine-tingling singing of Mariza - who was, in fact, featured on the previous release in this series of CDs from 'World Music' specialists ARC Music.

For anyone who has not had the pleasure of hearing fado yet, it is an often mournful singing style thought to have appeared during the port area of early 19th century in Lisbon. Its influences have been variously attributed to Medieval "cantigas de amigo" and Moorish songs but debate continues as to its origins.

Typically the 'fadista' is accompanied by various types of Portuguese guitars, as is the case on most of the tracks on this CD - complemented in many cases by other acoustic instruments - and the subjects of the song are frequently as mournful as the melodies.

Having said that, not all Fado music is plaintive and, indeed, the first song on the CD, 'Lianor' sung by Yolanda Solares, is positively upbeat. Gisela Joao, who follows, gives us the first taste of the more solemn aspect of the music and what an introduction - a stunningly emotive voice and a beautiful guitarra accompaniment.

Next up is a voice familiar to me from her appearance at Musicport a few years ago, Bristol based Claudia Aurora, who ups the tempo again before Carminho sings another beautiful song of yearning for a love feared lost 'As Pedrasda Minha Rua' (The stones of my street)

So the album proceeds, with an array of gorgeous voices and intricate instrumental arrangements which are a testament to the fact that this style of music is in very safe hands. Each of the singers (the others I haven't mentioned are Cuca Roseta, Carla Pires, Joana Rios and Raquel Tavares) has an allocation of two songs apiece and I would have happily listened to many more from any of them. I have to say though that Gisela Joao and Carminho seem to me to be the stars here - the only two to fully raise the goosebumps I associate with fado and who match Mariza in their impact.

This CD serves as a very good introduction to the genre or, for those, like me, who are already smitten, a reassurance that, whilst the music is often dark, the future of fado is very bright indeed.

Joe Grint