‘Gisela’s fado is the song, the soul so full, so intense that it makes you tremble to the bone.’ VICE
‘Nua is a true step forward regarding the first album (…) we are on the verge of watching one of the most brilliant and long careers in fado’ O Fado & Outras Músicas do Mundo
‘When I go outside Portugal people don’t understand a word,’ says Gisela João. ‘I want you to imagine you are in the living room of my house, we are friends and I am singing stories about life and love. It’s like the poems choose me. I have a very personal connection between myself and the poems.’
Fado singer Gisela João feels her music very deeply. It speaks to people because it’s personal to her. That’s why we were keen to have her in Songlines Encounters as part of Kings Place’s Venus Unwrapped series featuring top female artists. It is with this in mind that she’s chosen her repertoire.
Gisela grew up in Barcelos in the north of Portugal, not the fado heartland. The eldest of seven children, she looked after her brothers and sisters when her mother left for work at six every morning. She heard Amália Rodrigues on the radio when she was seven or eight years old and got obsessed by the poetry. ‘While my friends were singing Ace of Spades and Bananarama, I was singing fado,’ she laughs.
One of João’s self-imposed challenges is to bring fado to people who don’t normally listen to it. ‘I did a show in Lux, the big riverside disco in Lisbon. I hate this thing that there’s the star and there’s the audience. We are all the same, What I want is to show the art I love and sing with all my emotions.’
Gisela’s first album (2013) went to No 1 in the Portuguese charts. Her second, Nua, honours some of the great fado names – Amália Rodrigues, Beatriz da Conceição, Argentina Santos – but also takes off in some very new directions. Gisela Joao’s fado is very much of the 21st century.
You might also like ‘Film Screening: Mariza and the Story of Fado’ at 6pm in St Pancras Room today.
In the past few years, Gisela João performed numerous concerts in the main venues and festivals of Portugal and throughout the rest of Europe (most recentely in April 2018 at Union Chapel) as well as in the United States, Brazil or Angola; she was honored with the awards attributed to the album Gisela João by the majority of the Portuguese media (Expresso, BLITZ, Público, Time Out, GQ) and two prizes of enormous prestige (Amália Rodrigues and José Afonso). She also presented the musical show Caixinha de Música (covering songs by Nick Cave, Violeta Parra, Amy Winehouse and Leonard Cohen) and was a guest in concerts of musicians from different areas like Sérgio Godinho, Joss Stone, Linda Martini, Nicolas Jaar and Snarky Puppy.