For her work-in-progress, Ramana Vieira, a Vacaville resident and a staunch practitioner of fado, a type of melancholy Portuguese folk music, said the recording’s theme centers on her recent trips to Hawaii, Portugal and Madeira.
More specifically, she added during a phone interview, the 12-voice album, due for release in early 2023, explores the beauty of the jacaranda, a tree native to Brazil that produces clusters of fragrant purple flowers that she hangs on the chain of the Pacific Ocean has seen from islands.
“The beauty of it just haunted me,” said Vieira, who also booked a show titled “A Journey Into the World of Portuguese Fado and Beyond,” taking place at 7 p.m. on November 5 at Journey Downtown in Vacaville . Her backing ensemble is Jeff Furtado, guitar; David Parker, bass; and Earl Jackson, drums.
But like any musical artist working in any genre, Vieira explores the contours, past and present, memories and more contemporary things of her life in the new recording, with songs in Portuguese and English, covers of fado classics and original compositions.
She “immersed myself in my Catholic upbringing in ‘Mother Mary’ and singing,” said Vieira, who takes a look at ‘the divine woman.’
“It’s just a tribute to all the mothers of the world,” she said of the song, adding, “We have to salute the mothers of the world,” noting that her mother’s name is Mary.
Vieira said the album’s songs will be performed during the November 5 show and that the new recording will also include a tribute to a contemporary fado artist, Misia, who wrote “Paixones Diagonais” (Diagonal Passions and pronounced “Pie- shones Deog-go-nigh-ish”).
On a recent trip to Portugal, Vieira visited the house-turned-museum that once belonged to Amalia Rodrigues, perhaps the most famous fado artist in the world.
“I saw her wardrobe, her awards, her living room – she definitely entertained people – a beautiful guitarra (guitar),” she recalled. “She collected Japanese antiques. And her parrot is still alive. It’s in the kitchen, in a cage in the kitchen.”
She also saw Rodrigues’ memoirs, her books, her performance costumes.
“Everything was so extravagant,” Vieira said, adding, “She wasn’t very tall.”
In her live shows, like one earlier this year at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts in Sebastopol, she sang a Rodrigues tune, so visiting her idol’s home was part of a personal journey and tribute to an idol.
“It was like going to Elvis’ Graceland,” she said. “It was such a profound experience being in the house,” describing it as “a three-story Victorian San Francisco.”
During the last trip to Portugal, Vieira accompanied her 87-year-old father, Abel, to his native Madeira, a Portuguese island in the eastern Atlantic and off the coast of Morocco.
“It was a beautiful reunion,” she said. “We were able to go to the village where he was born (Boa Ventura) and the house where he grew up.”
One night on the island she had dinner at a restaurant where fado is on the menu alongside food.”
“The chef came out and sang,” said Vieira, who has performed in Macau, New York City and Hawaii in recent years. “The waiters, one waiter, burst into song. I was invited to sing,” and she sang a song by Rodrigues.
“I was scared,” she recalls. “I was hooked, with a tinge of ‘Oh crap!’ I received a compliment from the restaurant owner. I was asked to play with the authentic people. They hope they authentically match the intensity and caliber of the musicians they were born into.”
Vieira, whose voice is filled with weight and power, believed she “made it.” I remember feeling relieved after I finished. It was my vision of fado. There was great, thunderous applause.”
In a previous interview with The Reporter, Vieira Fado, whose name roughly translates to destiny or destiny, called “a window into the soul” of the Portuguese, their roots music, comparing it to American blues or what tango is to Argentina, Flamenco to Spain.
The appeal of fado — pronounced “FAH-doh” — with mysterious origins dating back to early 19th-century Portugal and enjoying a growing fan base in the United States (even Madonna sang fado to more during her “Madame X” tour than two years) She is the hummable part of every song in her melodies, she said.
The music is seductive, passionate and plaintive, but also poetic and dramatic. They’re love songs of tragedy and longing more than anything else, or “saudade” in Portuguese, said Vieira, a San Leandro native and graduate of San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater program.
Evidence of fado in Portugal appeared as early as the 1820s, the music sung by women mourning their lost husbands at sea, or a harsh country or city life, but its roots may also have Moorish influences.
While the genre has its traditions, Vieira said in the previous interview that she considers her fado style to be “contemporary fado” where the old world meets the new, very similar to the approach of other well-known active fado singers. These include Ana Moura and Mariza, all of whom owe a debt of gratitude to Rodrigues, sometimes called the ‘Queen of Fado’, who died in Lisbon in 1999 at the age of 79. While some men also sing fado, it is best known today for its female performers.
Vieira, who also plays the piano in her live performances, has released four albums: Sem Ti (Without You), Despi A Alma (roughly translated as Bare Soul), Lagrimas De Rainha (Queen’s Tears) and Fado Da Vida” (Destiny of Life). They are proof that Vieira not only pays homage to Rodrigues, but also signals that she can compose original fado music. Remarkably, their original composition “Unido Para Amar” was played at the opening ceremony of the 2006 Olympic Games.
Pop, rock and jazz seep into her sound, some of it on YouTube, and she credits her influences with U2, the Irish rock superstars, and Kate Bush, an English singer-songwriter. Ultimately, admittedly, Vieira’s sound is something of a cross between U2, Bush and Rodrigues.
That fado is “theatrical and very expressive” is an emotional and technical connection to her beginnings “as a theatrical person,” she said in the previous interview.
Vieira has performed in musicals at California State University Hayward and Ohlone Community College in Fremont. She is also a trained dancer.
After performing in the Bay Area a few years ago, she was approached by a record producer who had worked with reggae star Bob Marley. She eventually received an offer from a record label in San Francisco.
Like blues, fado is a feeling, a mood, and more than a series of notes. Its power comes from the human spirit, Vieira said.
WHEN YOU GORamana Vieira and EnsembleA Journey Into the World of Portuguese Fado and BeyondWhen: 7pm Nov 5 (doors open at 6)Where: Journey Downtown, 308 Main St., VacavilleTickets: $23 Seniors, military, students; $28 generalevents.journeydowntownvenue.com