PHABRIK Magazine

Deolinda Bernardo

By Danielle S. Fuechtmann

September 2013

At the age of fourteen, Deolinda Bernardo decided she wanted to dedicate her career to keeping the Portuguese tradition of fado music alive. Deolinda began singing at a very early age, cultivating a love and passion for music. Although she spent the first years of her musical career singing contemporary styles such as pop and rock, her difficult childhood made the emotion and power of fado an appealing creative outlet.

Fado’s origins trace back to before the nineteenth century, spreading out from Lisbon to other regions in Portugal, gradually developing distinct regional styles. A bit like North American blues music, fado requires precise and delicate technique to tell very passionate and emotional stories. The music requires active listening, leading it to be compared to opera; fado songs often require some knowledge of the tradition and subject matter carries emotional significance.

In Lisbon, fado music has developed a modern flavour, with influences from Africa and Brazil, the style in this region has developed a unique urban feel. The northern areas of Portugal take on a Celtic sound, while the middle regions of Portugal absorb inspiration from their southern neighbor, Spain. In the southern-central countryside of Alentejo, the music has North African influences. These influences reflect Portugal’s interesting pattern of trade and political relationships with the countries surrounding it. The most distinct of the regional styles comes from Coimbra, and is occasionally referred to as student fado. This style is recognizable for it’s exclusively male voices, and was made popular by the large student population in the city.

Deolinda developed a love for music and singing at a very early in her life, and it was a constant in her difficult childhood. At 3 years old, separated from her mother, she began listening to the radio at her grandmother’s home where she was living. As she grew older she began singing, primarily in rock, jazz, and pop styles while working in a factory. Around this time she began to delve into the fado tradition, finding herself able to connect to the emotional stories the songs shared. When she was about fourteen, she recognized that her passion was something she truly wanted to share, and despite the difficult path pursing music would entail, she decided to follow it.

As a young single mother, the life of a musician was not easy. She spent much of her twenties singing in hotel piano bars. These nights were difficult and often thankless, but she learned many things about performing and developed as an artist.

Fado is a very technical music form with significant regional variances, and Deolinda took care to learn about all of them, becoming proficient in many of the styles and learning an extensive repertoire of classic songs. She performs with great enthusiasm and joy, educating her listeners about the traditions and songs as she is singing. Luckily, youth are beginning to develop an interest in fado again, with artists like Mariza, who performs a pop-fado fusion, performing to large audiences and generating new interest into the traditional style. As a result this traditional music is experiencing a resurgence.

Currently, she performs weekly in Obidos, a castle in central Portugal. The castle is unique, as it is one of few that people still live in. The perfect location for Deolinda to share her traditional music, Obidos has a vibrant culture, hosting markets and medieval fairs requiring period dress. She performs at Troca-Tontas each Monday night, a small intimate venue serving traditional food. Despite singing with no microphone, her voice fills the room with ease. Deolinda loves performing and watching the eyes of her audience and soaking in their energy, and this shows through her endearing nature and charisma. She will also be performing and leading a seminar on the first Monday of each month at PHABRIK in Serra del Rei, which will be open to all ages.

For the last 15 years, Deolinda has travelled and performed with her partner and best friend, Jose Piras, a fellow musician. Sharing a core musical philosophy has made it natural for them to work together. An excellent musician in his own right, he frequently accompanies her singing, covers male parts, and writes his own music. Together, they share an intense performing schedule, frequently performing more than once a day, as well as travelling, within Portugal and internationally.


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