Illustration by: Marta Macedo

Interview by: João Miguel Fernandes (originally published in 2014)

Occupation: Musician

Click here to read the interview in Portuguese

1 – If you to mention a person who influenced you a lot outside the professional area, who would it be and why?

My father. It has to do with a certain honesty in what he does. Trying, above all, to be as honest as possible.

2 – Tell me about a moment in your childhood that was relevant to you.

It was a happy and fun childhood, with family, friends, school. As a child the last thing I wanted was to sing fado. I wanted to play and listen to other songs, everything except singing fado. I wanted to be a car driver. My great-grandfather was a fado singer, my grandfather was also one, my father was playing fados at home, something that annoyed me immensely, I thought it was the strangest way to sing.

When I was young I didn’t have music for children. I had three discs that were not fado, one of Aznavour, another of The Beatles and another one of Sinatra, with a song on each side. I’ve heard it so many times that I got sick at home and had to stop hearing that. I listened to radio, but it made me very irritated to hear the commercials interrupting the songs, something that doesn’t irritate me anymore. I began to listen to Amalia’s records, Carlos do Carmo, everyone. At first it sounded weird, but then I got it and I realized that the performers were so good, that there was so much quality in it that no other musical style had it. They would say the text in a unique way, with an incredible capacity for interpretation.

I listened to jazz and Brazilian music. I also listened to my friends’ groups, the things they were listing to like The beatles and The doors. What people were listining was the music that came out at the time and I didn’t want to just stop there, so I explored other musical genres. I thought that as fado was not easy for me to start listening to, my friends wouldn’t understand and would enjoy it. Fado was somehow limited by the connection the revolution that took place in April the 25th of 1975, there was a completely wrong idea about it.

3 – In 1979 you participated, for the second time, in the Great Night of Fado, winning. How did you feel about this victory, since you were so young?

I had already won in 1977. At the time I didn’t think much about it, it wasn’t that important. They were friends of my father, the coliseum had double the capacity of people that takes has now. I was terrified, but the important thing was to realize that I could sing, even though I didn’t think so much about it at the time. I didn’t know if I was going to sing when I was an adult. A child singing fado is not the same thing, fado is music for adults. People who play piano or violin start at the age of 6, like a football player, because starting at the age of 20 will be very, very complicated. Fado is not a music to sing with ten years old, but with about twenty five, although we have to learn it before.

When I was nine I went to a fado house to have dinner with my parents. And I ended up singing a fado. And there was a line that was “quando qualquer fado soe” and I said it another way. Then there was a guy who grabbed me by the neck and while I didn’t say the line properly he didn’t let go of my neck. Until I realized what he wanted, because he was a stutterer. And that was great because I adopted this to everything I did in life, I never changed the meaning of the word. Of course it was something that I learned better, but at that point it was more important to learn that. When I started creating my “fado” I already knew how to build the structure.

4 – If you could rule in Portugal, what would it do to face the crisis we are experiencing?

I don’t know, I think there are essential things, like fighting poverty, the lack of resources that exists in health. Education is also essential for the country to grow. The possibility of having more children is also essential. It seems that we are stuck in some ways and what makes a country move forward are the young people and there are fewer and fewer people having the opportunity to change these things. The investment on culture is also very important for a country to truly grow and not just some people. This is something that takes a long time, it may not be already tomorrow. Television is getting worse, the afternoon programs are shameful, everything that has been done culturally, basically.

“I got along with a lot of people from the previous generation, I was about twenty years old and the rest was fifty and so, I was the new kid. There was time and people would work in Fado houses until four in the morning.”

5 – How do you see the current cultural landscape in Portugal?

I think that in spite of everything there are very good people making culture in Portugal. There are people with lots of honesty and creativity. Despite everything, there is still the theater and cinema,  with less money, but with great quality in it. It only needs more support, mainly the cinema and the theater, also the music.

6 – You aplayed abroad. How do people understand Fado out there?

When I was a kid I already heard music sung in English, French, Italian, later I heard other styles as well. My first language was French, and then I took English classes in high school. I often didn’t notice, but I was always emotionally touched by music sung in other languages. They are completely different cultures and have never stopped me from liking it. I loved Gainsbourg and Jacques Brel. At the time I remember being a kid and not realizing what was they were singing, something that was never bad for me. I thought if I could feel something then it would make sense. A little apart, I have a group of fans in Poland who learned to speak Portuguese to play my music.

Other fans don’t need to learn the language, they identify with the sonority. I’ve been listening to a singer in China for a while, where the artist sang a lot of songs in Mandarin and Cantonese, which were the ones I liked the most, and I didn’t understand anything, I even got goosebumps. And that’s what I think about my music. The language barrier is surpassable.


7 – You collaborated several times with José Mário Branco. What can you say about the man and the artist? Any curious stories that you have lived together?


It was Carlos do Carmo who introduced me to José Mário Branco. I was coming out of “Faia” and met them both. I must have been in my twenties. I never saw José Mário again for several years, but one day I was invited to “Teatro da Comuna”, for a few nights of fado and people began to understand Fado in another way. At that time a lot of people would come to see me at the fado houses, people out of fado, writers, other musicians, who would come and listen to me.

One day, at “Teatro da Comuna”, José Mário went to watch me sing. I wanted to find someone to create an identity, because at the time they sang everything in the same way. And José Mario helped me in this, in search of something that would define me, in terms of interpretation, emotional register. Of course they were things I already had, but José Mario helped me to improve, guided me, showed me a way and I thought it was the best for me. And this has helped me grow a lot as an artist.

8 – In 2011 you collaborated with “Dead Combo”. How do you see the current music in Portugal?


I have always followed their career. Pedro Gonçalves had already played for me for many years, on a tour where Carlos Bica couldn’t participate. I had even met him before, when he was about 17 years old. And I was in the army with Tó Trips, he took care of me there. When I made “Humanos”, the cover designs, the graphic part and everything was made by Tó Trips,  he was always very integrated. They have incredible talent, I’ve always really enjoyed their wave. Listen to that collaboration in which we sang “O Vendaval”.

Whenever they do anything special they invite me, I also usually do the same. I already had a participation in which I read a poem of Sérgio Godinho. They created a great environment, a mixture between Lisbon’s popular music and a great influence of Fado and American blues music. They have a great originality, a fantastic image. They are a reference.

9 – What is the main difference between singing pop and fado?


I never cared much about it in “Humanos”. There was a very Portuguese side, popular, especially in language, although it also had the pop side. At the time I even thought about not participating, because it was going to be very trendy and I didn’t want people to think I was going to go in that direction. I didn’t want people to associate it with me. My records sold about 18,000, 20,000 copies. Later, when “Humanos” were done, I went on a tour and saw that I got a younger audience, who knew my work outside of Fado and it was great to have young people in my concerts.

“Singing fado is not singing songs of Amália, it isn’t singing other versions of the same song. Fado is to try to go the hard way, which is to grab people with creativity. That’s where you find your own style, not by repeating the things others did.”

10 – I read in a previous interview of yours that in your youth you felt that there was a disdain towards Fado. Today Fado is really famous and is becoming more and more popular among young audiences. What is the reason for this change? Was it only the revolution in 1975?


I started to sing for fado houses with 17, 18 years. For thirty-one years they have been singing fado. I remember that at the time it was very complicated, I would arrive at the fado houses with a suit, and after the evening I would change clothes. Finishing in one in the morning, or two in the morning and going to Bairro Alto all night long. Bairro Alto from thirty years ago had nothing to do with what it is today. Fado was something that existed there in those fado houses, which were practically all in Bairro Alto, with some exceptions, such as Silvino in Lapa,  Pereirinha in Alfama, Riela in the street of taipas, among others.

At that time I had the good fortune to start singing in a restaurant that had fados at the weekend, with old guitarists who were artistically very advanced for the time. And I was lucky to learn from them. I got along with a lot of people from the previous generation, I was about twenty years old and the rest was fifty and so, I was the new kid. There was time and people would work in Fado houses until four in the morning. Nowadays the most commercial fado houses were houses in which we kept playing until morning. There was always a table that we wouldn’t clean, so that we could sing and talk until five, six in the morning. I remember singing three songs in a row and the tourists not clapping, because they were there to see the folklore and there were artists for that, but when there was someone singing genuinely fado they didn’t notice or care. Sometimes they told me that I had to sing a more joyful Fado because of the tourists. I remember when I was singing and four Japanese tourists were sleeping with their mouths open. It was also common for people to make noise with the cutlery. My job was to educate people. One day a friend of mine was singing and some things fell to the ground, things got broke and she stood there, just like I always did, it can be hard, but it has to be like that, and she grabbed the audience  in that adverse condition. The big difference was that she was singing with a microphone and I didn’t.

11 – How did you get to know Amália Rodrigues?


Once I went to a homage to “cancioneiro” and Amália was with Carlos Conde, a poet of that time who wrote very well. I went to sing and Amália listened, it was very funny, we gave a little kiss and that was it. Once I also sang to a homage party to her, where Nuno Gama created the party, the “fadistas” with Amália’s clothes. She really enjoyed listening to me sing and she went couple of times to see Filipe’s la Féria play to see me sing. One Christmas night she called David Ferreira to say that I should be hired by EMI and after two days someone from the label went to see me at “Teatro Comuna”, where I was dong the “sundays” in 1994. And from then on we met, we even had some funny episodes, I’ve always been very shy.

Once I went to dinner with Amália and Maluda, in honor of Amália. We were having dinner together and I was always very quiet, listening to everything. And she told me to go sing, where there were three chairs for the musicians and a chair for Amália on stage, and she sat during my songs. I was already scared and so I got even more. Every time I finished singing a song she would call me and give me her opinion. I sang the fado “Tem” that she sings the tiredness, a poem by Luis Macedo. Then there was a phrase that I attacked with a turn and she said to me “that turn is mine”. Later in the evening she said that there were people who were going to meet her and that they where going to her house, if I didn’t want to go too. And stupidly, I don’t know how I did it, I said “Amália, sorry, but I have my wife waiting, I can’t go.”

Once I had another funny mistake, I went to see the release of the album “The secret”, from Amália and I waited for a long time, because everyone was taking pictures with Amália. When I arrived I told her that I liked her immensely and she told me “everyone does”, but I started looking at her with a crazy face and she said “it’s not your case, it’s not your case”. I was so disturbed by what she told me that I made some crazy face and she was so scared that she said it was not my case. I don’t like to flatter anyone, obviously she had a great deal of importance in my career, otherwise I wouldn’t have recorded with that label. Carlos do Carmo and João Braga also had a great importance. Those who were very good always supported me.

12 – If you could make a film soundtrack which one would be?


“The Godfather” is one of the movies that I like the most, but it already has some amazing music. I would like to make music for one or two Woody Allen movies. I love Casablanca, “Some Came Running”. There are a number of films that I would love to play. There is a very funny movie of “Leitão de Barros”, “A Maria do Mar”, those facial expressions, those people who are not actors, with all the influence of the Soviet cinema. Portuguese cinema was at the top of European cinema. Recently I saw a movie about Fado, black and white and mute. I would love to play it.

13 – Despite the crisis we are experiencing, there was a boom of national artists. Do you think that this boom is due only to the technological evolution? Do you think quality has increased?


I don’t think it has anything to do with the quality having rise or not.  Things are quicker, everything is more immediate and instantaneous, you can reach your audience faster and everything happens faster. Music is something that grows with life and sometimes when things happen too fast people can’t grow and this can be harmful. Nowadays it’s easier to record a disc. I love vinyl, one of the records that I have was released on vinyl almost by my imposition. The question is the designing side. In the studio it’s easier, with the digital mechanisms, but the truth is that sometimes the dynamics are lost. Sometimes it’s the technical side that goes beyond some gaps and doesn’t give the artist the chance to realize what he’s doing wrong.

The artist has to risk something more organic. If I do a song and I don’t like it very much, the technician can suddenly do some magic, so that when I’ll listen again it seems okay, but in fact this sounds fine because the technological advance allows it, but itself as creation that music is not good . It’s on stage that the artist really grows, even though studio work is important. I like to go to the studio with the work already ready.

14 – How do you deal with fame? Especially because you are shy.


I’ve handled it better, when I didn’t have so much. When I go out on the street everyone wants photos, selfies, sometimes I need to go to a place that isn’t like that. Sometimes it’s cool, but sometimes a guy is not in the mood or not in the best days. I thought I would like it, but the truth is that over time things are changing. It’s easy to handle because it is a consequence of our work, it means that our work is recognized. Sometimes in “Bairro Alto” people shouted “Camané”, then turned their faces or ran away when I looked, this between 96 and 00. Now in the most recent years it’s just photographs and selfies. It’s cool, I know people like and recognize it, so it’s great, they tell me that I made them like fado. It was good to start hearing this from people.

15 – What advice would you give to those who are now beginning their careers in Fado?


They should have a desire to learn, humility, a willingness to listen to others. And above all don’t be in a hurry and build something of yours, don’t always look at what was done. Singing fado is not singing songs of Amália, it isn’t singing other versions of the same song. Fado is to try to go the hard way, which is to grab people with creativity. That’s where you find your own style, not by repeating the things others did.

16 – What are the main differences between Camané as a fado singer and Carlos Manuel when he’s not playing?


I think there is an artistic side that I was able to grow because I needed to grow my career, I learned to deal with insecurity, because on stage I was very scared. I’ve always been shy. Over time I tried to control insecurity and fears. I think things sooner or later end up finding a certain balance.


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