Performance Saturday, February 8, 2014 | 8:30 PM

António Zambujo

Zankel Hall
Portugal’s António Zambujo has been a leading voice in the resurrection of male fado singers in a female-dominated genre. Dedicated to expanding the boundaries of the art form, this rising star merges traditional fado with cante alentejano—a North African–influenced male chant from southern Portugal—and Brazilian popular music.


  • António Zambujo

Event Duration

The program will last approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.


  • António Zambujo

    António Zambujo has been a major voice in the resurrection of male fado singers in a genre dominated by females. Winner of the Amália Rodrigues Foundation prize for Best Male Fado Singer, Zambujo merges traditional fado with cante alentejano (male chant from southern Portugal with North African influences), bossa nova, Brazilian popular music, and jazz.

    He was born in 1975 in Beja, located in the Alentejo region of southern Portugal, where he grew up listening to cante alentejano, which has become a strong influence in his music. He began studying the clarinet at the age of eight at the Conservatório Regional do Baixo Alentejo, but from a very young age became entranced with fado. He won a regional fado contest at the age of 16, and then began his professional career when Mário Pacheco, the renowned Portuguese guitarist and composer, invited him to sing in his Clube de Fado in Alfama, Lisbon. Soon afterwards, Zambujo was chosen to take the role of Francisco da Cruz, Amália Rodrigues's first husband, in the musical Amália directed by Filipe La Féria, one of Portugal's foremost stage directors.  Zambujo performed in the musical for four years in Lisbon and then toured with it throughout Portugal, achieving enormous success.

    After recording his first album in 2002, O mesmo fado, Zambujo won the prestigious Radio Nova FM prize for Best New Fado Voice-an award previously received by Mariza, Camané, and Mafalda Arnauth. Since then, he has recorded four more albums, available in the US on the World Village label: Por meu cante, Outro Sentido, and Guia (which were named "Top of the World" albums by Songlines); and Quinto, which recently went platinum in Portugal. Zambujo has toured Europe regularly since 2004, and in 2009 toured Brazil twice. He first performed in the US in 2011 and returned in 2012. This concert marks his third appearance in New York City.

    In recent years, Zambujo collaborated with the Bulgarian women's choir Angelite, Brazilian musician and composer João Gil (on whose album he performed in 2008), and top Portuguese pop and jazz singers, expanding the horizons of traditional fado while remaining committed to its roots.

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António Zambujo
World Village

About the Music

The word fado derives from the Latinfatum ("fate"), the inexorable destiny that nothing can change. Fado is only one of the many forms of Portuguese folk and popular music, but it is certainly the genre most commonly associated with Portugal. Performed mostly in the port cities of Lisbon and Porto and in the ancient university city of Coimbra, fado has been called the deepest expression of the Portuguese soul. It was popularized throughout the world by the late Amália Rodrigues in the latter half of the 20th century, and in recent years has seen a renaissance with popular singers, such as Dulce Ponce and many younger artists.

All fado is dominated by the sentiment known as saudade. While there is no precise English definition for this word, it may be translated roughly as "yearning" and has its emotional parallel in the Spanish duende. It essentially describes the soul of the music and is the measure of understanding that passes between performer and audience. As with flamenco, the audience is crucial to a live performance of fado and a positive, often rowdy, response at the end of a song is a measure of the fadista's (m. fadisto) success in expressing saudade.

Like Spanish flamenco and Greek rebetiko,fado is the result of cultural symbiosis. Portugal has, since ancient times, been a cultural crossroads. Invaded and settled by Celts, Romans, Visigoths, Vandals, and Moors, it later became home to immigrants from its former colonies in Africa and South America. While it is difficult to be precise about the origins of fado, the melancholic nature of the genre is reminiscent of Moorish and Sephardic song. Arabs and Jews were expelled by decree at various junctures from the 15th to 17th centuries, yet maintained a presence in the vicinity of Lisbon as Moriscos (Christian converts) who gradually became assimilated.

There is little doubt, however, that the greatest influence in the formative years of fado was from Africans and people of mixed race who settled in the Alfama district of Lisbon, particularly after Brazil's independence in 1822. Lisbon's position on the Atlantic Coast of the Iberian Peninsula had long established it as a link between the cultures of the Mediterranean and those of Africa and the Americas. These new immigrants from Portugal's former colonies brought with them both their painful remembrance of slavery, and their dances, notably the fofa and lundum. This latter dance was an erotic, often lewd, song and dance exchange for couples, and was very popular in the bars and cafes of the Alfama district, a neighborhood that to this day is famous for its fado bars.

Two other influences were important in the creation of fado: the modhina and the quatrain (rhyming couplets). The latter is found in rural communities throughout Portugal in the celebration of local festivals, the telling of children's stories, and the passing on of folk wisdom. The modhina is a ballad tradition in which songs of undying love are sung, usually by men. This tradition is particularly linked to the fado of Coimbra.

The two symbols most commonly associated with fado are the black shawl worn by women as they sing their songs of suffering, yearning, and despair; and the guittara or Portuguese guitar, a variant of the cittern that was introduced in the 18th century through the English community in Porto, and was originally known as the "English guitar." The black shawl worn by female fadistas had its origin with Maria Severa, a singer identified with the early years of fado (1830s). Born and raised in the Alfama district, Maria and her mother ran a small tavern where she sang draped dramatically in a black shawl. It was here in 1836 that the Count of Vimioso heard her sing, which led to a tempestuous love affair that scandalized Lisbon society and led to the popularization of fado through the printing of sheet music.

While the fado of Lisbon and Porto is dominated by female singers, the fado of Coimbra tends to be sung mostly by men and often includes a chorus and more guitar accompanists than the conventional Portuguese guitar, Spanish guitar, and bass guitar preferred in Lisbon. The fado of Coimbra originated among students from Lisbon and Porto who brought their guitars to this old university town and, draped in black capes (the uniform of the university), serenaded their loved ones. It was in Coimbra that fado became the music associated with parting—when students left the university or at the end of a semester when they returned home.

Today's fado is often infused with contemporary Brazilian rhythms and elements drawn from jazz, rock, and popular music. While the basic accompanying instruments are still the guitar and Portuguese guitar, one now often finds other string instruments (such as the cello), and even wind instruments (like the clarinet) or keyboards (such as the piano or accordion).

—Robert H. Browning

Presented by Carnegie Hall in partnership with Robert Browning Associates LLC.
This performance is part of World Views.