Preview: Misia, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

Fado, tango and the urban blues
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The Independent Culture

"I'm not renovating fado," Misia says. "Fado is renovating itself, as it always has." And when she takes the stage in London, she will reinforce that point: her new style summons a piano and a violin to support the traditional Portuguese guitarra and Spanish guitar, but she will add two ingredients absent until now from the enclosed world of Portugal's urban blues - tango and bolero. She will also declaim lyrics unaccompanied in French, in her uniquely husky voice.

With its inflexible ground-rules - each ballad lasts three minutes; each set consists of three songs - fado has been "protected", as she puts it. "But that doesn't mean that you don't have to move it on. And the big challenge is how to do that, while still staying true to the Portuguese tradition." Her own way has been through new lyrics by living poets, and through delicate instrumental innovation.

How does she feel about Mariza, now that the Amalia Rodrigues crown is, by general consent, sitting on her peroxide locks? Misia's reply is diplomatic: "Mariza's voice I like very much - she is an authentic artist, very generous - and her success is good for Portuguese music. But she is respectful towards me! She always says Amalia opened the doors, but that it was me who kept them open."

As, indeed, she did. Misia spent her childhood listening to fado and her early adulthood finding her voice in Lisbon clubs. It wasn't, she says, a matter of technique: "There is no school of fado; it must be sung out of your own experience."

When she made her first disc, 15 years ago, Misia didn't even know whether there would be a market for it. "I had to do everything myself. I carried CDs everywhere in my suitcase, went to Japan to find a publisher - I was my own manager and promoter. And I had a job persuading Portuguese audiences to accept me - my image was too graphic, too minimalist." How nice that fashion has at last caught up with her.

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