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Mariza: A Diva Worthy of the Name

Mariza, born in Mozambique, living in Portugal, is a truly amazing singer she is a singer of Fado, a folk form that is Portugal’s country blues and torch song/cabaret rolled into one. Her presentation Sunday night at the nearly sold-out show at Chicago’s classy but unpretentious Hot House one of THE BEST places in this windiest of cities to experience jazz and world music(s) was minimal, to say the least: two guitarists and a bassist sitting in a half-circle. But the audience’s focus was on the lady Mariza slender, wearing elegant, flowing gowns that were shimmering Dune/The Cell-meet-trad/old country style, and her voice had so much range and nuance it was both beautiful and scary. But whereas many "gifted" singers (ab)use their ability you know, looka-how-many-notes-I-can-hit during the first 30 seconds of any song Mariza’s tremendous technique serves the storytelling aspect of the song, like an actor that inhabits a role so thoroughly that she disappears into it. Her voice wailed and soared, recalling Cathy Berberian, Flora Purim and Tim Buckley, yet sounds like no other. Another noteworthy aspect of Mariza is her avoidance of treating Fado as a museum piece her enactments avoid terminal Over-Seriousness, and there was a theatrical twinkle in her eye that let us know that she LOVES singing no matter how heartbreaking the song’s subject matter. Musically, there were elements of flamenco, Andalusian, North African and Gypsy/Rom folk the bassist provided a round, fluid, hearty bottom while the two guitarists made with some lean, sinuous, immaculate picking that put you on a veranda overlooking a beach on a sultry Mediterranean night. If one listened closely, you could hear the lonely sound of a heart breaking during some emotional zeniths during her songs. The only downside of the nearly two-hours show was near the conclusion, Mariza engaged in engaging the crowd in an episode of Audience Participation where she endeavored to "teach" a refrain/response in Portuguese. Maybe it’s just me, but I get a bit annoyed when a performer instructs and critiques A.P. I mean, didn’t I come to see a show or something? Aside from that, as good as her albums are and they are VERY fine to be sure Mariza is a singer to be experienced live.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Mariza
  • Concert Date: 5/18/2003
  • Subtitle: Chicago turns out for a unique vocalist from Portugal
  • Venue: Hot House
  • City State Country: Chicago, IL
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