What is fado

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.

Luis Guerreiro (guitarra portuguesa), João Filipe (viola de fado) e Rodrigo Costa Félix (voz)
Luis Guerreiro (Portuguese guitar), João Filipe (traditional guitar) e Rodrigo Costa Félix (voice)


Fado is a word of Latin origin “fatum” which means 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 “solitatem” (solidão) loneliness.

Alfredo Marceneiro (1891-1982)
Alfredo Marceneiro (1891-1982)

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 fado performers as well. Over time fado 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?), Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935) or David Mourão-Ferreira (1927-1996). 

Fernando Pessoa - A Brasileira do Chiado
Fernando Pessoa – A Brasileira in Chiado


Fado crossed borders a long time ago with our Great fado performer Amália Rodrigues (1920-1999) , who sang it all over the world.

Fado – Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity – UNESCO

Do you want to have a first approach to fado but don’t know where to start? So why not start by seeing and listening to my selection?

Fado – 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

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.

Alfredo Marceneiro

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

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

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.