Introduction to Fado music
My roots are Portuguese, but I’ve only recently discovered and fallen in love with fado music. Fado music has a long history in Portuguese culture but the the exact origins of the musical genre are unclear. There is a brief history and some theories at Fado.com and on Wikipedia but there is only one word that truly encapsulates the music: “saudade“.
It’s an almost impossible word to define as it can only really be experienced but Wikipedia comes close:
Saudade has been described as a “vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist…”
It’s about loss and desire, but all mixed up into one feeling. It’s actually quite dark but it’s a beautiful darkness. I like to compare it to goth culture… but without the bad make-up (and bad music! ;)). The music encourages you to cry and feel pain and longing, to weep for whatever deep sadness you might have in your heart. In our modern culture, we’re almost forced to pursue happiness relentlessly. We often forget that sadness is also a normal part of our lives and that we should be allowed the space to explore those feelings. Let this music guide you into that deep part of your heart and soul. You don’t need to know the language to understand it. I hope this music will speak to you in the same way it speaks to me.
The “Queen of Fado” was Amália Rodrigues. She is the original and the best fadista (female fado singer), setting a high standard for future generations. You may want to check out the movie that was recently made about her life. Her career spanned 40 years so there is a huge volume of beautiful music, but I’ve chosen this song called Fado Lisboeta, which is the Lisbon style of fado.
Another style of fado is the Coimbra fado. According to Fado.com “the Lisbon style is the most popular, while Coimbra’s is the more refined style.” The main difference is that men sing this form of fado. Here is an example I like:
A more modern and popular fadista is Mariza. I love that she was born in Mozambique, which technically makes her African. She is often compared to Amália but she has brought a definite modern feel to the fado. I love all of her songs, but here is her song “Meu fado meu” (My fado, mine.)
And, finally, I’d like to introduce you to Dulce Pontes. She has a more modern translation of fado music, but the deep emotions behind the music are still tangible. Her voice is so rich and beautiful. Enjoy this sad, sad, sad song called “Lagrimas”.
So that’s my quick introduction to fado music. I hope you will explore the subject further as there is a lot more to learn.