As the music most associated with Portuguese culture, Fado is dark, passionate and as the name indicates, it is concerned with fate. The form has regained its popularity in Portugal and the rest of the world due in great part to a new crop of divas who, while acknowledging the influence of the great Amalia Rodriguez, have personalized the genre, each in their own way. While a discussion of Fado is important to understand where they are coming from, the Lisbon-based Deolinda is not a Fado band. The influence of the music is very much there, but the tone is utterly different. It is whimsical and playful and even when it gets serious, it never gets quite as brooding as Fado. Ana Bacalhau's vocals resonate with its phrasing and emotion, but never descend to it's stoicism about life and death. Instead, the repertoire deals with social interactions and human frailties using a poetic wit.
For example the sprightly "Não Tenho Mais Razões" is a comment on people who need to complain, even when there's nothing particularly bad happening. Instead of going to the doctor because she is ill, the subject of the song goes to the doctor hoping he will find something wrong for her to moan about; she cannot feel normal otherwise.
I have covered Deolinda before, when they performed at WOMEX 2009. I was impressed with how much the band did with the instrumentation of two guitars and a bass. The approach is so flexible that at times it feels if if one is listening to a piano! And of course I was also impressed with the nuanced vocal timbre of Ms. Bacalhau.
Joe's Pub in NYC was an excellent intimate venue for the band, and the mostly Portuguese audience was in heaven. But I think this music has a broad appeal, and I suspect that this is not the last of Deolinda's visits.