Portuguese Music: Portugal Beyond Fado - Part 1: Dulce Pontes
With a long, rich history that seems disproportionate to its small size and its timid location at the extreme west of the Iberian Peninsula in Europe, Portugal has long been a country with plenty to offer to those curious enough to explore it. While it no longer enjoys a powerful position in the international sphere as it once did, the country continues to captivate natives and foreigners alike with its beautiful and diverse landscapes, its pleasantly warm weather and its cultural heritage, where the music is definitely an important element.
Fado: The Essence of Portuguese Music
It is impossible to talk about Portuguese music without mentioning fado, Portugal's trademark musical genre and the one from which Portugal's most famous artists have emerged. Of these, Amália Rodrigues (1920-1999) is the greatest exponent and the one responsible for carrying the beauty and emotional intensity of fado beyond borders, towards longstanding international awareness and acclaim. Amália's torch continues to be carried nowadays by artists such as Carlos do Carmo (b. 1939) — awarded in 2014 with the Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award —, the Latin Grammy-nominated Mariza (b. 1973), the best-known singer of modern fado, as well as Mísia, Ana Moura, Carminho, Camané, Mafalda Arnauth and many more, who collectively continue to export fado on a global scale and to catch the interest of artists as diverse as Prince, The Rolling Stones or Björk.
On the other hand, it is also notably difficult to find any descriptions of Portuguese music that extend beyond the very Portuguese fado and encompass other musical genres and other types of artists who are also making their mark in Portugal's contemporary music scene.
Dulce Pontes - A Unique Face for Portuguese Music
No description of the aforementioned kind should ever begin without mentioning the internationally renowned singer and songwriter Dulce Pontes (b. 1969), whose first major events in her career were a participation in the 1991 Eurovision Song Contest, where she finished in 8th place with the song "Lusitana Paixão" — Portugal's best result ever at the time —, and the release of her debut studio album, Lusitana, in 1992.
However, it was only after the release of Pontes' second studio album, Lágrimas (1993), that the singer's unique musical identity truly began to form. This was the album that brought Dulce Pontes' greatest hit and one of the most internationally famous Portuguese songs of all time, "Canção do Mar", an adaptation of a song also sung by Amália Rodrigues, then titled "Solidão". The song was notably included in the soundtrack of the 1996 film Primal Fear, starring Richard Gere and Edward Norton; it was covered, among others, by Sarah Brightman in her 2003 studio album Harem and it was the theme song of the American TV series Southland (2009-2013). Heavily influenced by traditional fado, while also managing to completely redefine it through the combination of diverse world music influences, Dulce Pontes quickly became Portuguese music's leading artist and revived interest in fado, helping to pave the way for the new generation of fado singers that followed after her.
Dulce Pontes - Canção do Mar
Dulce Pontes' inventive artistry and status were further cemented with subsequent studio albums — Caminhos (1996) and O Primeiro Canto (1999) —, with the singer distancing herself even further from the traditional fado to become fully immersed in her unique brand of music, where influences from fado, folk and world music coexist and coordinate seamlessly. In parallel, her international presence continued to grow, as confirmed, for example, by a musical collaboration with Andrea Bocelli in 1999, for Bocelli's studio album Sogno, where the two sang the duet "O Mare e Tu", and a long-term musical collaboration with the acclaimed composer Ennio Morricone, starting in 1995 with the recording of "A Brisa do Coração". Pontes and Morricone's friendship and musical partnership strengthened over the years and reached a climax in 2003, with the release of their joint studio album Focus, where Pontes lent her voice to some of Morricone's famous themes, as well as to new songs composed especially for her.
Another notable collaboration, with José Carreras in 2007, allowed the singer to explore her classical music background in a song that she composed specifically to serve as the anthem of the project New 7 Wonders of the World: "One World". The two performed the song in a grand live ceremony in July 7, 2007, which took place in Lisbon, Portugal, and was broadcasted worldwide.
Several years later, with many other meaningful collaborations and two other album releases — the double album O Coração Tem Três Portas (2006) and the compilation album Momentos (2009) —, Dulce Pontes remains an active and respected artist, although her activity is mostly international, rather than in her home country, Portugal, where the determination to remain a free and independent artist has kept some of the country's musical doors halfway shut, after her career's initial years of considerable public exposure. Questions unrelated to the still very receptive Portuguese audience, who was graced with three sold-out concerts in early 2015 in the country's two largest cities, Lisbon and Porto.
The upcoming months of 2015 will see Dulce Pontes return to the stage in multiple countries, both in solo concerts and as a guest in a series of concerts by longtime friend and collaborator Ennio Morricone. The release of a new studio album by the singer, who has been quietly preparing new music as of late, is also highly anticipated.
Portugal Beyond Fado: To be continued...!