Gifted with an expressive and powerful soprano, multi-platinum-selling fado singer Mariza is inarguably the genre's best-known global representative for the 21st century. Though her work remains within the Portuguese tradition's boundaries, she has distinguished herself by gradually incorporating elements from other folk and popular traditions into her music. These include sounds from her native Mozambique and the southern reaches of Portugal, Brazilian samba and MPB, Cape Verdean mornas, R&B, and soul music. With the release of her six-times-platinum debut album, Fado em Mim in 2001, her reputation reached beyond Portugal and spread internationally. She has performed on sold-out festival stages from Québec and New York’s Central Park to the Hollywood Bowl and to England's Royal Festival Hall. 2005's Transparente was the first fado album in history to top the Portuguese charts. She has repeated that feat numerous times since -- five of her nine releases, including 2008's Terra, 2015's Mundo, and 2020's Mariza Canta Amália, have reached number one. She has received dozens of awards including her most cherished: Best Artist from the Amália Rodrigues Foundation. Mariza is a humanitarian who also serves as a UNICEF Good Will Ambassador.
Mariza was born Marisa dos Reis Nunes in 1973, in Lourenço Marques, Portuguese Mozambique, to a Portuguese father and a Mozambican mother. At three, her family emigrated to Portugal, and she was raised in Lisbon's historic quarters of Mouraria and Alfama. She began singing as a child, interpreting a wide variety of musical styles that included African-American gospel, Motown soul, and jazz standards. Her father strongly encouraged her to adopt fado as a style. He thought that participating in the traditional music would grant her -- and by extension her entire family -- greater acceptance in their adopted Portuguese homeland. He was right. Throughout her teens, Mariza studied the work of fado's greatest and most innovative singers including Amalia Rodriguez, Maria Teresa de Noronha, Carlos do Carmo, and the innovations of Mísia, as well as the mornas of Cape Verde's Cesaria Evora. She developed a reputation as one of Lisbon's better young singers.
When Rodriguez passed in 1999, Portugal's collective grief and remembrance restored to fado much of the popularity it enjoyed when the iconic singer was a radio and concert staple. Mariza, by then well-known in Lisbon, was asked to sing a live tribute on national radio. That very day, her deeply moving, often-bootlegged performance endeared her to Portugal's populace.
She was signed by the Dutch World Connection label within months of that performance, and her gigs became sellout events. Though already well-versed in Brazilian pop, jazz, blues, and soul, she was convinced by her label and her father to record an album of traditional fado songs. Produced by Jorge Fernando, Fado em Mim was issued at home in 2001 and internationally early the next year. It peaked at number four, sold more than 100,000 copies in Portugal, and more than 150,000 internationally -- an astounding feat for a fado record, when 5,000 units were considered wildly successful. In addition to the set's multi-platinum certification, Mariza earned the German Critics Award. The following year, the European Border Breakers Awards (EBBA) recognized Mariza as one of ten emerging artists to reach audiences outside their own countries with their first internationally released album.
Her second album, Fado Curvo (2003), garnered wider acclaim and, true to its title, found Mariza incorporating fresh and expansive musical elements to her presentation of fado. It reached number two and sold more than 120,000 copies; it was certified six-times platinum by the Associação Fonográfica Portuguesa (AFP). She proceeded to tour Western Europe and South America.
Recorded in Brazil, Transparente was released in 2005 and followed by performances at Live 8, Cornwall's Eden Project, and a global tour that took her from Australia and Finland to the United States and Argentina. The album reached number one in Portugal, and placed well inside the Top Ten in the Netherlands, Finland, and Spain. It was certified multi-platinum at home and attained a gold certification in the Netherlands.
The chart-topping live Concerto em Lisboa was issued internationally in November 2006. It was certified five-times platinum in Portugal and reached number ten on the U.S. World Music Albums chart. It was the first fado album ever to be nominated for a Latin Grammy. The following year, Mariza released Terra. Produced by flamenco guitarist Javier Limón, it also included vocal appearances from Spain's Concha Buika and Cape Verdean singer Tito Paris. Argentine guitarist Dominic Miller also contributed. Its participants helped Mariza give Terra a jazzy feel replete with African and Latin influences. It was the first fado recording not to be sung exclusively in Portuguese. Nonetheless, Terra reached the top spot on the national charts, and placed at five on the U.S. World Music charts. The first modern fado recording (she included a reading of Charlie Chaplin's "Smile" as a single), it received a Latin Grammy nomination and was certified multi-platinum. Mariza toured globally in support for the rest of the year.
In 2010, she issued Fado Tradicional. Produced by Diogo Clemente, who also played fado viola (an instrument similar to the classical guitar), the players included Angelo Freire on Portuguese Guitar, and José Marino de Freitas on bass viola. It peaked at number two and was certified platinum at home during its first week -- the set sold more than 20,000 copies on its first day of release. Mariza was also a featured artist in the pilot episode of the PBS music series Sound Tracks: Music Without Borders.
In mid-2011, she and husband António Ferreira celebrated the birth of their first child, Martim. The singer took five years off to be a mother, rarely appearing in concert or on television.
Mariza surfaced again late in 2015 with Mundo. It entered the Portuguese charts at number one and was certified double-platinum. The album's popularity didn't end there, however. It was issued in Europe and in the U.S. the following year, reaching number 13 on the World Albums charts. It appeared on vinyl in 2017. After an international tour that culminated in 17 sold-out shows across the United States, Mariza re-entered the studio with producer Limón. She emerged in June 2018 with her self-titled seventh album; it topped the charts during its first week of release and was certified platinum in August. The same year, Mariza and sister fado icon Ana Moura opened the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest with a rendition of the standard "Barco Negro." She returned to her roots in 2020, with the Rodriguez tribute offering Mariza Canta Amália. It entered the chart at number one during its initial week of release, and was released in the United States in January by Nonesuch.
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