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Folders  |  Fado in Lisbon
Fado in Lisbon
Juliette Dejardin
Fado in Lisbon


The word Fado comes from the Latin  "fatum" which means destiny. It is a form of musical expression that is typically Portuguese. The origins of fado aren’t clearly defined. It appeared in Portugal in the early 19th century, apparently a spin-off of songs brought to the country by Portuguese sailors who took inspiration from various African and Brazilian musical styles, namely the lundum (laments sung by slaves)  for its slow rhythms and/or the modinha (Brazilian name given to a popular Portuguese song). For some people, it takes its origins in the songs of minstrels or takes its roots in Arab and Jewish traditional songs. 

Whatever the origin, this is a unique musical style that comes from the Portuguese soul and is far more than just a song: it’s a form of expression, a lament that questions fate and destiny and that often expresses sadness, suffering, and loss in love.

Some say that fado is “a form of beauty that is tormented by fate".

Originally from the poorer neighbourhoods in Lisbon, fado quickly filtered into the salons held by the nobility when in 1868 the Count of Vimioso met Severa, one of the most famous singers of the time, and introduced her in various palaces. In the 1950s, the singers from Coimbra started to sing more traditional songs, including works by classical and contemporary major poets.

Fado thus became the official song of Portugal under the watchful rule of Salazar.

The musical instruments that accompany the fado singers, or fadistas as they are known are the viola and guitarra. The viola, a sort of six-stringed guitar is mainly used to give the beat for the music whereas the Portuguese guitar, or guitarra, is a twelve-stringed instrument and descendent of the lute, which provides the melodies to accompany the singer. The Lisbon guitarra has a snail-shaped scroll, whereas its Coimbra equivalent is tear-shaped.

Lisbon fado also differs from its Coimbra counterpart, a university town. The latter uses a different tone range, and is predominantly masculine, played both in the streets and in society. The fado singer from Coimbra wears a traditional academic costume in black, the singing can be accompanied by either the Portuguese or Spanish guitar, in a group or "tuna". The most common themes are student love, with ironic references to the university hierarchy or political regime.
Conversely, in Lisbon, fado is often more upbeat and happy and is usually sung by women wearing a black shawl.
The most common themes in Lisbon fado are saudade, melancholy, lost loves and stories from everyday life: the only themes allowed under the Salazar regime.

Modern fado has been developed thanks to Amália Rodrigues who, with her exceptional voice made the style popular, by interpreting texts by famous poets and authors, such as Luiz Vaz de Camões, José Régio, Pedro Homem de Mello, Alexandre O’Neill, Carlos do Carmo, Beatriz da Conceição, Maria da Fé and many more.

With a career spanning 45 years, Carlos do Carmo is the current most popular fado singer on the international circuit. Carlos do carom and another big name from the world of fado João Braga have helped modernise the art by setting their own poems to music, along with others by authors including Fernando Pessoa, Sophia de Mello Breyner, Affonso Lopes Vieira, Miguel Torga and Manuel Alegre.

More recently, a generation of young artists have given new life to fado: Carlos do Carmo, Mísia, Camané, Mafalda Arnauth, Raquel Tavares and Cristina Branco, to name but a few.

So-called "typical" fado is now mainly played for tourists in the "casas de Fado". A night of fado is a special outing in a place with dimmed lighting where you eat traditional food such as "bacalhau", "caldo verde or flambéed "chouriço".
The fado singer appears, the lights are turned down low, a strong voice filled with emotion breaks the silence. It’s time to sing fado!
Before you go and try, get in some practice by singing "uma casa portuguesa" by Amalia: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTFujFbRTRA

To know more about Fado:


The building that hosts the FADO MUSEUM since 1998, also offers a Documentation Centre, a School (for those who want to devote their voices to Fado or to learn to play the Portuguese Guitar or Fado Guitar), a shop, an auditorium and a restaurant area. It is a whole area dedicated to the urban song of Lisbon that has a collection of the possessions of personalities (authors, composers, performers, musicians, instrument makers) that contributed to this so genuinely Portuguese patrimony, the Fado.

Museu do Fado
Largo do Chafariz de Dentro, N.º 1
1100-139 Lisboa
tel  +351 218 823 470
fax +351 218 823 478
Site: www.museudofado.egeac.pt


The Lisbon house where Amália Rodrigues lived for almost half a century and also where she died holds memories of the long evenings in Rua de São Bento and objects that the Fado singer cherished. More than 30 thousand pieces are exhibited, among which some are rare and precious (a XIX century guitar, a piano, clothes, shoes and jewellery) that tell the public and private story of Amália. The place where she entertained friends and admirers is kept exactly as the owner left it, and still receives flowers as a tribute to her. In this Portuguese home, of course, one can feel the soul of this person who will always dwell in the national and international collective imagination.

Casa Museu Amália Rodrigues
Rua de São Bento, 193
1250-219 LISBOA
Tel: 213 971 896

To listen Fado:

Rua do Meio à Lapa, 18
Tel: 21 397 26 81
Site: www.restsrvinho.com

Beco dos Armazéns do Linho
Nº 2, Alfama
Tel: 21 88 650 88
Site: www.casadelinhares.com

Rua Guilherme Braga 8
Tel: 21 886 77 37

R. S. João da Praça, 94
Junto à Sé
Tel: 21 886 77 37
Site: www.clube-de-fado.com


R. Barroca, 54/56
1200-050 Lisboa
Tel: 21 342 67 42
Site: www.ofaia.com

Parreirinha de Alfama
Beco Espírito St 1, Lisboa
1100-222 LISBOA
Tel: 218 868 209
Adega Machado
(A Casa de Fado mais antiga de Lisboa, fundada em 1937)
R Norte-Camões 91, Lisboa
1200-284 LISBOA
Tel:213 224 640
Site: www.adegamachado.web.pt

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