Several years ago I made my first visit to Portugal and to the capital city of Lisbon. I fell in love with this wonderful city, its coffee culture (it was here I first became addicted to drinking espresso coffee), some stunning architecture but also its “shabby chic”
During my visit I found a wonderful music and book shop which, for me is the closest thing to heaven on earth as I am a compulsive buyer of CDs and books.
In the basement of this large shop I found a section focusing on “Fado” music which, I have to say I knew very little about.
Fado only appeared after 1830 in Lisbon and was introduced in the port districts like Alfama, Mouraria and Bairro Alto. There are many theories about the origin of Fado. Some trace its origins or influences to “cantigas de amigo” (friends songs) from the Middle Ages or Moorish songs.
Fado performers in the middle of the 19th century were mainly from urban working class and sailors, who not only sang, but also danced and beat the fado. During the second half of the 19th century, the African rhythms would become less important, and the performers became merely singers
Fado was thus generally sung by one person called a “fadista”, and normally accompanied by the portuguese guitar and the classical guitar.
Amalia Rodrigues, known as the “Rainha do Fado” (“Queen of Fado”) was most influential in popularizing fado worldwide. Fado performances today may be accompanied by a string quartet or a full orchestra (seen below).
There were numerous CDs by Amalia Rodrigues, but on the wall was a poster publicising the “new voice” of Fado, Mariza (top photograph). A stunningly beautiful woman and when I asked for a CD to be played for me in the shop matched by the most amazing voice.
I bought a couple of CDs and played them over and over again entranced by the pure beauty, expressiveness and emotion of Marizas voice.
Subsequently, I went back and bought CDs by Rodrigues and other less well know fado singers.
If you have never heard Fado then do yourself a favour and buy yourself a CD by Mariza and / or Rodrigues. Try this one for starters:-
And if you want to see how good she is watch her sing with Jools Holland on this Youtube video (apologies for the relatively poor sound). Just click and follow.
Try this track “Ha festa na mouraria” from this CD.