Monday, November 21, 2005


The fado is normally sung by women and accompanied by one Portuguese guitar and one classic guitar, which in Portugal is called viola. This music reached its golden era in the first half of the 20th century, when the Portuguese dictatorship of Salazar (1926-1968) forced the fado performers to become professional and confined them to sing in the fado houses and the so called "revistas", a popular genre of "vaudeville".

Fado music is the heart of the Portuguese soul. It is arguably the oldest urban folk music in the world. Some say it came as a dance from Africa in the 19th century and was adopted by the poor on the streets of Lisbon. Or perhaps it started at sea as the sad, melodic songs coaxed from the rolling waves by homesick sailors and fishermen.

From the 1940’s until her death in 1999, the towering figure of Portuguese fado was Amalia Rodrigues. She was the diva of fado, worshipped at home and celebrated abroad as the most famous representative of Portuguese culture. When she died the country’s prime minister called for three-days of national mourning. Such is the hold of fado over the people of Portugal.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comAmalia Rodrigues

The essential element of fado music is “saudade,” a Portuguese word that translates roughly as longing, or nostalgia for unrealized dreams. Fado flowers from this fatalistic world-view. It speaks of an undefined yearning that can’t be satisfied. For Portuguese emigrants fado is an expression of homesickness for the place they left behind.

Born in Montijo, in the vicinity of Lisbon, on the other side of the Tejo river, in 1969, the young Dulce Pontes was introduced to the fado tradition by her uncle Carlos Pontes, fado singer and a lover of bullfights. When she was seven years old she started with her courses at the National Conservatory of Music in Lisbon, where she chose to study piano. It was here that her curiosity concerning music was aroused: here she acquired the habit to research and study music, here she took her first steps that would eventually lead her towards a solid career as a singer and a composer.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comDulce Pontes

Mariza is the newest to the Fado scene and was born in Mozambique, but moved to Portugal as a baby. There she spent a lot of time in Fado Houses and began to learn how to sing in the Fado style. Today she is known the world over and is consider by many to be the new Amalia. Her style is a little less traditional. She has infused a lot of jazz into her style but her voice stays true to Fado and it is even a little difficult to distinguish her from Amalia at times.
Image hosted by Photobucket.comMariza

If you think you couldnt possibley like this stuff because you don't understand the words or whatever, think again. It really is beautiful stuff. Being that you are, mostly, American i would suggest starting with Amalia. Download a song called Estranha Forma de Vida or Barco Negro. Those songs are seriously a couple of the most Portuguese and beautiful freaking songs I have ever heard. The saddness in her voice on Estranha Forma de Vida is so damn clear it will break your heart even though you dont understand. Also, you might find her role in Portuguese history interesting so if you get a chance do a search for her or something.

This is the sound of "my people". Give it a listen. Broaden your horizons. At least you will be able to say you know what fado is...not many Americans can say that.

*note: i thought the name of the song was vontade de deus. i was wrong. it is estranha forma de vida.


Blogger AngelBoop said...

I am happy for knowing that you are interested for the Portuguese
music and its culture. signal that you do not forget the bows that you have with Portugal(Azores).
kisses angel boop

2:32 PM  
Blogger crespi effect said...

Very nice article. Just returned from Lisboa. Fado alive and well.
I posted an on location recording, check it out .
All the best,

3:38 PM  

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