Upbeat and soulful sounds played with a Portuguese guitar and an acoustic one …. Sailors’ fate and longing for the shores of Portugal ….. Crystal clear and passionate voices …. All this is expressed in one word only – Fado, the soul of Portugal.
Fado music is the traditional and folk music of Portugal that originated in Lisbon – the heart of the country, some 200-300 years ago. Actually, it’s not been firmly proven when exactly this genre of music was born but it is well known to be the music of the poor as all Fado songs are always about the harsh realities of everyday life, poverty, sadness and loneliness. But above all, this is the music of the sea and waves, and of all dedicated to them – seafarers and sailors, explorers and discoverers, all of them being far away from their homeland, families, wives and children. All these Fado Marinheiro sang Fado songs longing for their Portugal and her shores. That’s why their songs are often defined with one word only – saudade (longing), and their fado (fatum in Latin, fate in English) is well expressed both through lyrics and melody.
Fado music is played using guitarra portuguesa (Portuguese guitar) and guitarra clássica (acoustic guitar). Its birth place is Lisbon at whose ports returning ships from distant and unknown worlds and lands anchored and brave seafarers sang songs about their homesickness and nostalgia, their love for Portugal, the dangers of their voyages, the new lands found and explored. Thus Fado de Lisboa (Fado of Lisbon) was created and then other forms of Fado like Fado de Coimbra (Coimbra Fado) and Fado de Porto (Oporto Fado) appeared and were spread out throughout the country.
Nowadays Fado music is highly appreciated and admired not only in Portugal but beyond it owing to New Age Fadistas (Fado singers) such as the legendary Rainha do Fado (Queen of Fado) – Amália Rodrigues as well as Mariza, David Couto, Nathalie Pires, Carminho and many others. Authentic Fado music is played in the so called Casa de Fado (Fado bars) in Lisbon and all over Portugal. During the performance of cheerful Fados Corridos (Fast Fados) or sad Fados Menors (slow-paced Fados) the guests of these Fado Houses are asked kindly to cease to eat for while since Fadistas’ live performance is without microphones and much concentration is needed on their side and any noise from spoons and knives and other cutlery would get them distracted.
And finally, Fado music is perpetuated in Museu do Fado (Fado Museum) in Lisbon where permanent exhibitions and displays of works of art including the famous painting “O Fado”, by José Malhoa (it depicts a prostitute singing a Fado song and a man near her who plays the Portuguese guitar) tell the story of the urban song from its birth in Lisbon up to now.