The quintet Madredeus has evolved from a little-known, Lisbon-based group to Portugal’s most famous group of magicians – and one of Europe’s most acclaimed bands. With the album O Esp?rito da Paz (Capitol Records), which means the spirit of peace, the group attempts to gain a foothold on the opposite shore of the Atlantic.
The album is comprised of traditional Portuguese ballads with a modern flavor. Madredeus’ music and lyrics are inspired by fado, the traditional Portuguese style of emotional singing that is mingling of folk, blues and opera. The album is wonderfully relaxing, but to the point of sinking the listener into unconsciousness.
Madredeus succeeds in the two areas essential for good bands – music that continues as an uninterrupted flow throughout the album, and meaningful lyrics. The only drawback is the lyrics lose some of their power when translated from the Portuguese into English.
The group’s vocalist, Teresa Salgueiro, gives the music its soul with her calm, soothing arias. She masterfully uses the traditional Portuguese sentiment saudade, a yearning, to infuse her music with melancholy hunger.
Her bandmates, Pedro Ayres Magalhaes and Jos? Peixoto on guitars, Carlos Trindade on keyboards and Fernando Judice on bass viola, create music that complements the lyrics.
In “O Mar,” the ballad sings of the wonders of trying to describe the center of much of Portuguese life – the sea.
Non-Portuguese influences also can be heard in Madredeus’ music. In “Pregao,” the song clearly is inspired by the Maghreb musical culture of North Africa.
The album ends with songs that deal with the sun, the sea, loneliness and hope.
Those without any knowledge of Iberian culture might not understand the album’s fascination with the sea. For those who do, and especially those who understand Portuguese, this is an incredible album with an angelic voice and soft music to accompany it. Madredeus should make a good first impression on American audiences.