Antonio Zambujo Credit: Isabel Pinto

Purists of Portuguese fado might think António Zambujo is something of a philistine for his penchant for teasing out commonalities between the lyric, sorrow-laden genre and sounds from around the globe—especially breezier forms from Brazil. Not only has he collaborated with Brazilian songwriters such as Rodrigo Maranhão, on his 2015 album Rua da Emenda (World Village) he covered a lovely tune by Uruguayan singer Jorge Drexler and gave Serge Gainsbourg’s “La Chanson de Prévert” a spry fado treatment. On his 2016 album Até Pensei Que Fosse Minha (Som Livre) he took his fusions even further, devoting the entire recording to the music of Chico Buarque, one of Brazilian music’s greatest and most poetic singer-songwriters. But no matter where Zambujo finds musical inspiration, the lilt of his phrasing, clarity of his voice, and emotional heft of his measured delivery retain clear connections to fado. His singing has never been better than on Até Pensei, where he essays Buarque’s gorgeous, harmonically sophisticated melodies with a tender vibrato that reminds me of Caetano Veloso’s sweet warble. Zambujo deftly modulates his delivery away from fado’s darkness, bringing a lightness to the songs, and finding a beguiling balance between the music of his homeland and its one-time colonial outpost. On tracks such as “Folhetim,” Zambujo applies fado instrumentation to Buarque’s songs, and more often than not he stays true to the tenor of Brazilian music, embroidering layers of acoustic guitars with weightless clarinet or trumpet. He’s been so successful at it that his record earned a Latin Grammy nomination as best MPB album [Musica Popular Brasileira], which is quite a distinction for a Portuguese singer.   v