In fall 2017, bassist Lucy Clifford got the chance to record and tour with Portuguese fado sensation, Mariza. In this travel journal, Clifford reflects on the experience.
By Lucy Clifford ’16
To say Mariza has had a fruitful career would be somewhat of an understatement. She has undeniably surpassed what many of us consider to be a successful career in the music industry, and continues to do so on a daily basis all whilst carrying a certain grace, humility, dedication to her artistry and a downright brilliant sense of humor. I was fortunate enough to accompany Mariza on her latest tour of the U.S., and in doing so, learned about the world of fado, a music in which Mariza can easily be described as the world’s reigning fado artist of today. I quickly gathered that no one has embraced fado with greater charisma than Mariza, and was amazed at how her and the brilliant players that accompany her have been reinventing its traditions. It was an opportunity that I am forever grateful for, and can sincerely say that not one concert went by on this tour where I didn’t learn something new about fine musicianship, Fado, and its charming home – Lisbon, Portugal.
With such a global audience, Mariza can usually be found on stages catering to around 2000 sets of eyes, all of which are usually completely mesmerized. Among these venues include the likes of the globally recognized Carnegie Hall, London’s Royal Albert Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, Theatre de la Ville in Paris and the Sydney Opera House to same a few. However this latest US tour consisted of more intimate venues, allowing her audience to experience an up close and personal show, an opportunity that has never been offered in the past. The tour name, Raizes meaning ‘roots’ depicts the music presented throughout the concerts. As Mariza described it, the purpose was really to play music “that we know and love, that is apart of us.” Not a traditional fado concert, the set lists comprised of a real mix of traditional fados, songs from Mariza’s past albums, along with hints of her Mozambican heritage as well as her jazz, soul, and Brazilian influences.
Mariza’s upcoming album for 2018 also takes on this real fusion of genres, of which I had the beautiful opportunity to record bass on. And who better to treat this new album than long time friend and producer of Mariza, and Berklee’s very own Grammy-winning producer, flamenco guitarist and artistic director of the Mediterranean Music Institute, Javier Limon. With such an extensive resume and passion for discovering new music, Limon really has been making waves in the industry and paving the way for new artists he passionately believes in. Javier Limon has been a constant source of support and guidance for me as a bass player, and I owe a lot to him for pushing me in new directions and presenting me with opportunities that I wouldn’t otherwise take due to my own inner fears. It was Limon that introduced me to Mariza, and for that I am forever grateful.
With the first show of the tour at Stanford University’s Bing Concert Hall studio, I was directed to meet Mariza and her team in San Francisco to rehearse the day before. To say I wasn’t nervous would be totally and completely a lie. I was about to venture into a territory of music that I wasn’t entirely versed in. That, along with being told by Limon that Mariza has never shared the stage with another woman sent all kinds of vibrations throughout my body, both good and bad! However those shaky thoughts and feelings were quickly put to rest when meeting Mariza’s amazing team of musicians and crew, all of which were genuinely welcoming, kind, professional and good-humored. The band was comprised of Portugal’s finest players and Mariza’s closest friends including Pedro Joia, her long time musical director and guitarist, Portuguese guitarist Luis Guerreiro, and accordion player Joao Frade. All are exceptional players who carry their own solo careers.
After work-shopping the music separately at the rehearsal space in San Francisco, then again later with Mariza whilst she gave specific directions, we had finalized a set. And although the set changed from night to night depending on what Mariza was feeling, (and usually involved the guys teaching me new tunes an hour before the concert) it was so inspiring to see her consistently deliver each set with as much charisma, passion and engagement from the listeners as the one before.
The concerts on this tour were particularly special for me, not only because I got to stand beside these musicians, but also because I got to listen to Mariza’s many stories. She spoke of her heritage, being born in Mozambique, and her parents – her father from Portugal, and her mother’s African heritage running fiercely through her veins. She referenced her influences, artists like Nina Simone, Brazil’s Elis Regina and the Queen of Morna – Cape Verdean Cesaria Evora, as well as discussing being a dedicated mother. And while the traditions of fado stem from an aching palette of themes such as heartbreak, loss and melancholic nostalgia (known in Portuguese as ‘saudade’), I was constantly fascinated with how she was able to convey this music’s past along with dashes of other influences. She undeniably knows fado’s roots, and that can be so easily heard throughout her performances. When Mariza told me that fado is “music from the streets” and that was essentially how she learned it, I knew that this had so much to do with why her voice is so captivating – that passion is more about feeling and experiencing than about being mechanically taught. It was these stories and tales that gave me some insight into the essence of fado’s history and as to where its unique sound derives from.
With around 17 shows at various locations around the US, this series of concerts was such a source of knowledge in learning about fado, bettering myself as an accompanist and was truly inspiring to be working with such remarkably versatile musicians. I deeply appreciate working with women who are continually evolving their craft, and Mariza is an example of exactly that: a strong female force in music that continues to inspire many, from all corners of the globe.
Big thanks also to Nuno Cruz, Mario Capucho, Paula Carmo and Yusuf Gandhi for being such an incredible team.
Lucy Clifford is a bassist, composer, and educator from Wollongong, Australia. Since receiving her B.A. from Sydney Conservatorium of Music in Jazz Performance in 2012 and her diploma in Contemporary Writing and Production from Berklee in 2016, Lucy’s multi-genre bass playing has contributed to her extensive body of work, having performed across the globe with countless artists. She now resides in New York City.