I was not familiar with Fado music outside of what I read in a travel guide, until I arrived in Lisbon. Fado is a beautiful and emotional musical art form based in Portugal. Usually there are guitar players and a lady wearing a black shaw singing. Although I do not speak Portuguese, I was able to understand the emotion in the music. While in Lisbon find a restaurant that features Fado music. It will be a fascinating evening of dining for you. We bought several music CD's of Fado music as souvineers.
Fado is the traditional music of Portugal, melancholic songs which are usually about love lost, woes and pains, or an expression of sadness and longing for things lost or never accomplished. It has become big business in Lisbon, with most tourists seeking out a casa de Fado (bar or restaurant in which fado is performed). Many of these, especially in the Bairro Alto, cater only to tourists, so the experience may lack some authenticity, and you will almost certainly be over-charged for the accompanying meal, but even here it can be worthwhile as a taster of the genre. Those in the know though apparently head to the Alfama, where more genuine Fado houses are to be found, and best of all of course is to get a recommendation from a local. And if you don’t know a local to consult, this website lists some authentic places to try. We didn’t know all this when in Lisbon a few years ago, but were reasonably satisfied with our Bairro Alto choice nevertheless. Next time however …
I have copied this brief history of Fado from the same website:
” Even musical experts cannot agree on the true origin of Fado. Although the word comes from the Latin fatum, meaning fate, some believe its drawn-out laments are a legacy of the Moorish occupation. Others say it developed from an African dance in Brazil, and according to another theory, the melancholy character of the music evolved from Portuguese seafarers who sang of home during their long absences at sea.
It emerged as a bohemian art form in Lisbon's working-class districts of Alfama and Mouraria in the late 18th century, and gradually moved up-market. It became popular with the singer Maria Severa, who died at the age of 26 and later became the subject of Portugal's first sound movie in 1931. To this day, female performers wear a black shawl in her memory and her life story has been the influence of several Fado songs, poems, novels, and plays.”
By the way, the last time I heard Fado sung was not in Lisbon or anywhere in Portugal, but last year in a Portuguese restaurant in New York, Luzia on Amsterdam Avenue, so you may not even have to travel to Lisbon to hear it.
I met a local musician who recommended to go and watch fadista Raquel Tavares perform. As I met him the last day I was in Lsibon, I didn't have the time to see her live. But I bought her cd and I was not disappointed at all!
Fado, which means "fate" or "destiny" is the name given to the anecdotal, satirical, sentimental, or occasionally happy songs performed by the singers
Fado is the folk music of Lisbon, compared to the blues for its plaintive qualities, expressing that very particular Portuguese feeling of saudade, a sense of loss and longing.
To less tutored ears, however, fado can sound suspiciously like the moans of someone suffering with a particularly bad toothache.
There are many restaurants and clubs that feature Fada music. Ask at your hotel where you can find a traditional Fada club rather than one that really just caters to tourists.
Fado, the song of Lisboa
Saudade from our soul
Fado is, par excellence, the song of Lisboa. Born of unique sentiment, of a soul that can't be explained but only felt, fado today is the most noble and genuine product of Portuguese popular culture. And because it is so singular, it is always a surprise for the tourists who visit Lisboa.
Fado is fado and there are no ways to divide it. It's music that comes from inside the Portuguese soul. Even so, there are those who try to see divisions between professional fado and amateur fado.
The former is sung by people who make their voice their way of life, people of talent and hard work, who give their best, elevating the prestige of Portuguese song in the outside world.
The second, amateur fado, or fado vadio as it is known, has other characteristics, though the saudosista nature is the same. In the vadio fado houses, which now breathe again in the Alfama and other popular bairros like the Bairro Alto, the fadista is never invited … he invites himself.
Here there is no established program. You eat a grilled chouriço, drink a few glasses of wine, turn out the lights and the magic of these spaces comes to life. Whoever wants to can sing, giving wing to their sentiments.
The spirit of a fado vadio house is necessarily different from the atmosphere of a professional fado house: here, there is ritual and ceremony, over there is a party of desire and sensation.
I'm sure you all have heard about Madredeus before, and their wonderful singer Teresa Salgueiro. Please take a look at my Madredeus travelogue for more information.
Fado is a world wide known symbol of Portugal. This is the spirit of Fado, the expression of a collective soul, made of each one's soul.