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André Maia - the name of Fado in Athens

11 March 2014 / 16:03:42  GRReporter
10500 reads

Fátima Taboada López


Fado is more than a traditional music genre in Portugal. It is the expression of the soul and feelings and not every singer can do this. For André Maia, a perfect result is the only thing that matters. Three and a half years ago, he formed the André Maia Band in Athens, mixing Portuguese music and Greek instruments. The result was a great success among the Greek audience and that makes him feel very comfortable here. As a Portuguese, he feels the need to promote his country and culture. He is pleased to talk to GRReporter and share with us his views on life and music as well as on the political and economic situation in southern Europe.

Why did you come to Athens?

The first time I came to Greece was in 1987, when I finished my Acting Course in Lisbon. It was an exchange award for students and we came to Athens for 28 days. However, it was August and the museums and music schools were closed. I thought that this award was a waste of money on the part of the European Union because we did not really take advantage of it since everything was closed and we were not able to visit anything. Despite that, I had the opportunity to meet many Greek artists. In Portugal, it is very difficult to talk with artists and put your ideas to them, as there are always barriers.

The following year I came here again with my brothers. We travelled around and I met my love at that time. Nineteen years later, I decided to come to Athens because I no longer had a job in Portugal. I came through the Instituto Cervantes because I had some friends there and I met some Latin American people who offered me work at Athens International Radio, which was created for the Olympic Games. Since then I have hosted a programme in Portuguese every evening from 6 pm to 7 pm in order to make popular Lusophone poetry and music. I love radio, I worked as an actor in radio dramas in Portugal and in Greece, and many people still listen to them regularly.

Has it been easy for you to find a place for your music in Greece? Why did you decide to sing Fado?

People in Greece are very receptive. If you bring new things, they will love it. I sing tango, Fado and French music. I had never sung Fado before coming here, my style was opera. My family is leftist and during the dictatorship, Fado was used by the Government to manipulate citizens; so after the Carnation Revolution leftist people did not listen to Fado. But today, 30 years later, there is a new generation of young Fado singers.

When I came to live here, I realized that Greeks do not know anything about Portugal. They think that we speak Spanish and they do not know that Portuguese is the fifth most spoken language in the world. They do not know that it is also spoken in Brazil, Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Goa (India), etc. In my opinion, the Embassy of Portugal here in Athens is supposed to promote and popularize Portuguese culture. For instance, there is no Instituto Camões in Greece.

That is why I decided to do something related to my country and I created a band of Fado with Greek musicians and traditional Greek instruments three and a half years ago. That was something totally new and different here. I am not just a singer, I am an actor-singer so I always try to warm up the environment. I try to sing at an emotional level rather than at a logical level and people like that.

How did you form your band?

I was working in a tango band at that time and I met two musicians from another band. I asked them if they would like to form a Fado group with me and they agreed. They brought two other musicians and the five of us started the project three and a half years ago. Our first concert was in the garden of MELMOKE Museum, which had room for 150 seats but 270 people came to see our performance, and it was amazing. It was a new project and people liked that.

Then I created a tango band (Oblivión) and my new project is French music with my band “Paris qui chante”. There are different musicians in each band and it is difficult to work together because they were taught to play instruments just mechanically, not with their hearts. I want to make the songs dramatic, I want them to take part in the show, and when I say this, they get mad. They think Fado is like traditional Greek music but it is not. Fado is an Urban Song, it comes from the soul, it is similar to Jazz Music. They attended music schools but they had not worked with singers, so it is very difficult for them to understand what I want. I want them to feel the music and not to be as rational as they are.

What do you want to give people through you music?

Communication is totally different when you talk, when you sing, when you act. The most important thing is to find what you want to communicate and then adapt it to the musical language, which is totally different from the language of radio, television. What I want to give is love and hope. Christ had a message of love and after 2000 years, people still talk about that. I am an actor and my point of view is more emotional and theatrical than that of a traditional Fado singer. I want to send positive energy. I want to show them that things are not always good or bad, that things simply change. Even people might change in five years. Sometimes there are negative emotions that people keep in their minds for a long time and they can traumatize a person. I cannot accept that, there are no victims. If you are depressed, it is because you have let others get you down. Each person chooses his destiny.

Media try to manipulate us by changing love into sex in order to control people. However, love is the only thing that the systems cannot control. That is why I want to show people that they are independent and they own themselves.

How have your music and your groups developed over the years?

As I have said, everything changes. My musicians have matured over time because they have worked more. Nevertheless, I know that we have not yet reached the point that I would like. As I have said, I expect my musicians to play with their hearts and not with their heads because people do not enjoy that. If you touch the soul of the audience, they pay more attention to your show and that is what every singer or musician wants, or should want. I do not want people to listen to me, I want them to enjoy and feel me. Now I am going to start with a new band for Fado music. This week we will start the rehearsals and we will perform in the Festival of Latin American Literature (LEA) in Athens on 12th June. It will be awesome because I will bring in a belly dancer who will find the inner movement of Fado.

What is the situation of musicians in Greece at present?

Greece is a very musical country and some Greeks are very chauvinistic. They think that they have the best and the oldest music in the world. I would love to see a Greek and a Brazilian talking, because in Brazil they think the same way. Nevertheless, they are very open if you bring new proposals and I bring new styles: I sing Fado with Greek traditional instruments played by both women and men and they are very receptive to that. The original Fado can be sung by men and women but played only by men. Why is that? I do not understand some traditions, many of them are cruel and sexist, and people cannot see that. Some of these traditions could be removed and this would not harm anyone. We also have good traditions such as cuisine - from Portugal, Spain or Greece, which is being replaced by junk food. One thing I love here is that after a show, they will come and tell you if they liked you. They tell you whether they like your performance or not which does not happen in Portugal at all.

What changes have you seen in Greece since you have been here? What do you think about the political and social changes in southern Europe?

I arrived in Athens in 2009 and the crisis was just beginning. A lot of restaurants, old shops, old cafes and bars have closed and I feel very sad about that. People do not eat at restaurants as often as before and eat more souvlaki. In fact, now there are more souvlaki and pizza shops. They are opening cheaper cafes as well. I cannot understand why coffee is that expensive here.

The countries, called PIIGS were all empires, except Ireland. Portugal was an empire as well as Spain, Italy and Greece. The Germans do not like that and they are trying to economically destroy these countries, control them and sell their entire heritage. However, it is not only that, they also want to destroy the education and health system in order to make these countries weak. Their wish is to kill four big empires because they are countries, which made history. I think Merkel wants to use the Mediterranean countries and make them fight each other. She wants to destroy them in order to bring here all the companies they have in China and to gain control over the Chinese power.

What do you think about Greece and what made you stay?

I could say positive and negative things about Greece. For instance, go to Syntagma station at 7 pm and try to get out of the metro: they do not let you get off, they just try to come in, that does not happen in Portugal. Moreover, I cannot understand why such a beautiful city has dirty streets. Where is the beauty? You cannot live without beauty but they are used to it and they think it is normal. That is part of their bureaucracy, they are disorganized.

However, I love the sense of inner freedom that Greeks have, the problem is that sometimes they do not know how to control it and they become anarchists. They are very funny people, very educated and polite. In Portugal, people attach importance to the Church, they do this even more than 20 years ago, because they need to have faith in these times of crisis. Religion in Greece is much softer, they enjoy day-to-day living and you can see it on weekends when all bars and restaurants are full despite the crisis. I also love their pride to be Greeks, which Portugal lacks. In my country, people are proud only of Portuguese football, which I think is not a sports game anymore but a political and economic weapon.

I realize my role as Portuguese and I can do this anywhere, in Greece, France or Spain. My country is my language, it is not just a geographical area. I feel very comfortable here right now but I do not know what will happen.


Tags: FadoAndre MaiaBandMusic
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