Painting by Marina Mourão http://www.marinamourao.com/amalia-rodrigues-rainha-do-fado/
Throughout Europe there is rising ethnic-identity awareness, a cultural revolution that rejects the multi-cultural sub-culture not of Europe’s own. Renewed enthusiasm for national identity expressed through music perhaps lies behind the recent craze for Portugal’s Queen of Fado, Amalia Rodrigues (1920 ~ 1999). The blues singer‘s fame once eclipsed that of the iconic French soul-singing waif Edith Piaf and that of Nana Mouskouri of Greece.
Amalia the Film, a movie released ten years after the star’s tragic death in 1999, proved a box office success; it drew crowds wherever it was shown. Just as the Flamenco is primarily an Andalusia dance form, Portuguese Fado is a Mediterranean Europe worldwide singing sensation. Fado, the hauntingly melancholic expressive singing genre, is the Portuguese term for fate. In its plaintive melodies there is an acceptance of whatever fate has in store.
Amalia Rodrigues evokes the intensity of Portuguese soul as no other. Born in Mouraria, a poor district of Lisbon, her Billie Holiday style of delivery needed only the backing of the guitar or the Portuguese mandolin. Essentially, the voice of this mesmerising chanteuse evokes both passion and soul.
During her career Rodrigues was to become an icon for tens of millions of people throughout Europe; especially Portugal, Spain, and American continent. Such was her acclaim that when she passed away her Portuguese homeland declared three days of national mourning. The Iberian Peninsula nation did something else unique; her passing on caused the impending Portuguese national election to be postponed by three days.
Amalia, The Film has attracted controversy. It tells the story of the singer’s rise from extreme poverty to international stardom. Some, primarily members of her family, say the movie has been ’sexed up’ to boost audience figures. Director Carlos Coelho da Silva disagrees, emphasising that the film, using original recordings, was thoroughly researched and drew on the recollections of all who knew her well.
Undoubtedly Amalia was a bewitching woman of great beauty and passion. She will be remembered best not for her lovers but for her singing which plumbed the soul depths of all who listen to her.
For today’s generation, wherever the movie is drawing crowds, she is both revelation and inspiration. For those of us who have adored her since the 1950s she is part of our being.
Throughout her life Amalia was terrified of death and perhaps she prayed for evidence of immortality through transcendence. Is this the reason she whimsically said:
“Even if He doesn’t exist, I believe in Him.”
Una casa portuguesa – Amália Rodrigues
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