Fado is the artistic expression of the Portuguese, having established itself in its current form in the 19th century in the neighborhood of Mouraria, from where it radiated to other neighborhoods and to the world.
Fado found its ideal companion in the Portuguese guitar.
The most common themes are homesickness, the feeling of loss, fate or unrequited love. Some fados may have more elaborate lyrics such as the relativity of time, free will or existentialism.
“Fado ao Carmo” is usually my answer when asked to recommend where to listen to fado.
The Fado Houses are, par excellence, the ideal place to listen to fado singing while having dinner or just having a drink in the late hours. It’s no ordinary restaurant. During the fado singer’s performance, the lights are dimmed, as in a concert hall and there must be silence so that a story can be heard in musical format. It is an intimate atmosphere where fado is sung in spaces allowing you to enjoy dinner while listening to the music and the story being sung.
In Lisbon there are many Fado Houses, some more traditional, located in the so-called typical neighborhoods of Alfama, Mouraria, Bairro Alto, others more adapted to modernity, while maintaining the essence of fado.
In many cases, live music in a restaurant is just a matter of business, but when two of the greatest Portuguese artists of today, the fado singer Rodrigo Costa Félix and the guitarist Luís Guerreiro, get together, then the result is “Fado ao Carmo“, a Fado House where the atmosphere is younger and you can hear the great voices of today.
At “Fado ao Carmo” dinner starts at around 8 pm and the artistic part at around 9 pm. Reservations are absolutely necessary for dinner.
booking: (+351) 912 115 677
R. da Condessa, 52 / 1200-122 Lisboa (near Largo do Carmo)
Do you know what is Fado? Fado is a traditional musical expression of Portugal, identified immediately by the very first notes of the Portuguese guitar.
Fado is a word of Latin origin meaning destiny. Its origin is distant but it became better known from mid XIX century. Sailors used to sing it when they were away from home, leaving behind love affairs, passions, lack of affection … It was a way to alleviate the effect of saudade (longing).
In the thirties and early forties, the movies, the theatre and the radio brought the fado to a large audience and that’s when the so-called “Casa de Fado” comes up and the professional performers as well. Over time the song gained a greater melodic richness and the popular poems about saudade, jealousy, passion, nostalgia … gave place to pretty poems written by great poets like Luís de Camões (1524?-1579?) or Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935).
Fado crossed borders a long time ago with our Great performerAmália Rodrigues (1920-1999) , who sang it all over the world.
Do you want to have a first approach to this music style but don’t know where to start? So why not start by seeing and listening to my selection?
In this section “Fado – my selection” I tried to give references from current and past artists, female and male voices, “naive” themes and poetically elaborated themes. In a universe of hundreds of artists and thousands of songs, any selection is always debatable, but the objective is to give a first approach. In this artistic expression, the clarity in the expression of the word is as important as the melody or the interpretation.
Fado artists don’t just sing to entertain the audience. Fado artists are storytellers, sharing with the audience their personal experiences or those of others. Listening to fado in silence is a sign of respect for those who sing. That’s why fado starts with:
“Silêncio, que se vai cantar o fado!!!” (“Silence, let’s sing fado!!!”)
Amália (1920-1999) is the greatest figure of this artistic expression ever. For many it represents the Portuguese soul. Her death left a void that was never filled. She is buried in the National Pantheon, next to the greats of Portugal.
Lyrics: Amália Music: Alfredo Marceneiro
In this song, the mind (reason) goes to the heart (emotion) and asks it “independent heart, heart that I don’t command, why do you live lost among people, eternally bleeding?” And Amália dramatically begs him “Stop, stop beating! If you don’t know where you’re going, why do you insist on running? I won’t accompany you anymore!” Much has been discussed about the autobiographical character of the lyrics, but that we will never know.
In a world dominated almost exclusively by female voices, Alfredo Marceneiro (1891-1982) managed to be the exception. Alfredo Marceneiro represents for male fado what Amália represents for females, but without international projection.
Lyrics: Alfredo Marceneiro Music: Gabriel de Oliveira/Raúl Ferrão
This song is a love poem dedicated to someone who lives next to the chapel of Senhora do Monte. The author addresses the person to whom the song dedicates attributes such as “the relief of poverty” or “the confidant of sinners”. Although it is never clear, neither the name of the person to whom the song is dedicated, nor the kinship relationship, it is not difficult to guess that the muse of this fado is no less than the mother of the author of the lyrics.
Ana Moura (1979) was the first figure to appear in the post-Amalia period. Her characteristics are her dramatic intensity and the way she communicates with the audience.
Lyrics: Maria do Rosário Pedreira Music: Carlos da Maia
In this song, Ana Moura describes the way she put an end to the relationship when she thought she saw “a gleam in his eyes” when he passed by “her”. In fado lyrics there is often a third person, as jealousy is one of the recurring themes. In addition to the already mentioned topic of jealousy, we still have guilt and regret.
Carminho (1984) comes from a family with a fado tradition. Contrary to the performers of other times who sang exclusively fado, Carminho and also Ana Moura ventured into other musical styles such as pop and jazz, resulting in fado enriched by these influences.
Music: Raúl Ferrão Lyrics: Jorge Morais Rosa
This song contains the most elaborate lyrical part of the four presented, with a strong metaphorical content. In it the interpreter tells the subject of her forbidden love that she wrote his name in the wind with the hope that the wind, by blowing it away, would help her forget him. But the result was the opposite of what was expected, taking her to the edge of despair because the wind is not only everywhere, but it is blowing stronger and stronger.
I hope that this “Fado – my selection” section has piqued your interest in listening to a live performance in Bairro Alto or Alfama.