Ana Moura was bom in Santarem, the bustling capital of the Ribatejo province in the center of Portugal’s heartland on the Tejo River northeast of Lisbon. The city of half a million souls is also one of Portugal’s most historic cities - an ideal place to develop an appreciation for fado. “I’ve been singing fado since I was little, because I grew up listening to it at home,” she recalls of her early home life. “My parents sang well, and at family gatherings we all would sing.”
Like young people everywhere, she soon developed an appreciation for other styles of music. The lure of singing fado, however, never waned. In her late teens, while singing pop and rock music with a local band, Ana always included at least one fado in each performance. Then, one night on a whim, about the year 2000, she and some friends went to one of Lisbon’s storied fado houses - small perf ormance venues where singers, guitarists and aficionados gather to worship the affecting style that’s become Portugal’s most important music export. At the urging of her companions, she sang. “People liked me,” she recalls of her first foray into a venerated bastion of the fado cult Later that year, at a Christmas party that was attended by a lot of fadistas (fado singers) and guitarists, she sang again and, as fate would have it, noted fado vocalist Maria de Fe was in the audience and was duly impressed. “She asked me to sing at her fado house,” Ana recalls of the fortuitous moment that launched her career. “My life changed when I began going to the fado houses,” Ana states today. “There’s no microphone-it’s very intimate. New singers learn through a kind of apprenticeship, learning the intricacies of the style from the older, more established singers.”
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