Rarely are we able to witness the birth and development of a true superstar. The small-stage beginnings of the world’s best performers are naturally reserved for one small scene, or one lucky city, that is fortunate enough to facilitate their rise to greatness. To see a young singer, songwriter, performer — or an impressive amalgamation of the three — enthrall a crowd of dozens, knowing full well it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a crowd of thousands, is an invariably beautiful practice in premonition.
The Brazilian performance powerhouse known as Madu makes that miracle possible here in Lisbon, sharing that miracle on the Port to Port stage come Saint Patrick’s Day weekend.
Maria Eduarda Leite, professionally known as Madu, can trace her obsession with music and performance back to her earliest memories growing up in the Brazilian metropolis of Recife, and perhaps even before that.
“I always wrote, and sang, and danced,” Madu says. “My family says I was singing to go to the bathroom, singing to take a shower, always singing to do the basic things.”
Recognizing Madu’s propensity for showmanship, her grandmother enrolled her in a music school at the age of six, where she studied as a chorus singer, guitarist, and flutist. The strict structure of her musical academy, however, always felt suppressive to Madu, who found herself as a young adolescent wishing for a freer and more liberating form of expression.
Turning away from the conventionally proficient stars of the past and the present, Madu found inspiration in the rebellious and rambunctious musical personalities of the likes of Janis Joplin, Gal Costa, and Chico Science. In these artists, Madu found the possibility of making a life in music without conforming to the status quo of either Brazil or the spheres of Europe and North America, who all seemed to be playing a game of constant imitation and reproduction. This spirit of rebellion and cultural change has continued to inform Madu’s musical and performative philosophies throughout her evolution as an artist.
As a member of the diaspora here in Lisbon, celebrating Brazil’s music, history, and spirit is central to Madu’s creative expression. Madu’s songwriting frequently begins with the traditional rhythms of the Brazilian northeast that she grew up listening to, in a process she likens to osmosis. From maracatu to brega to forró, the beats of Pernambuco reverberate beneath Madu’s emotional and often celebratory songwriting. These familiar rhythms, Madu says, serve as a tool of cultural communication and empowerment: “[Those] sounds, the movement, the rhythm . . . [they] make me feel powerful, and it makes me feel warm. I want people to know how it feels to be from where I am.”
On stage, Madu seems to become 10 feet tall; a charming and infectious giant of energy and vocal virtuosity. Her passion for music and her joy for sharing experiences through performance seem inexhaustible. Whether singing in front of an intimate and sedentary crowd of a couple of dozen or in front of thousands of Carnaval revelers, Madu appears in her element trying to satiate her unending need for creative expression. Singing with an intensity that leaves crowds with no choice but to fully engage with awestruck enthusiasm in her joyous spectacle of expression, Madu leaps and dances across her stage and weaves through crowds, reminding her audience that performance is a group activity.
“I’m on stage, but I’m a person as well. I can look at you, and I can feel what you’re feeling. I want people to feel that they are visible,” she says.
Madu has been fully invested in building her universe of music since 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. From the humble beginnings of sporadic spots singing at Hennessey’s Irish Pub where she worked full-time, Madu has grown into a musical sensation that has since performed in front of audiences of 1,000-plus people. Crowds across Lisbon have been blessed with visions of an artist who is hurtling towards her destiny as a star; her innate, explosive talent is undeniable, and her passion for her craft is sure to propel her further and further. At only 22 years old, Madu’s story has just begun.
Madu and her band of friends, consisting of percussionist Meli Huart and multi-instrumentalist Gonzales Neto, will grace the stage of Port to Port at Arroz Estudios on Friday, March 17, performing original songs with Madu’s unique and infectious blend of traditional Brazilian influences and the best parts of modern music’s energy and innovation. Tickets for Port to Port are available here, and you can donate to Madu’s GoFundMe to help finance the production and release of her debut EP here.