Blog David MOnteiro

The Fado Music

9:43 AM David Monteiro 0 Comments Category : , , , ,

When we speak of Portuguese music we can’t ignore the Fado. This association is so strong and so globally promoted that many tourists when travelling to Portugal amazing not to hear Fado more often on the streets, public spaces and commercial areas.

Naturally, is quite important to promote the Fado but there is also a less positive side, relegating to the background other musical genres that, with great mastery, are sung in this beautiful country.

The word Fado derives from Latin fatum meaning fate. In Portuguese the word fado is used both to refer the musical genre and also to mention someone’s fate or luck.

The Fado, while a musical genre, is fairly recent in the history of Portugal.

There is no general consensus as to the origin of Fado but there is some degree of consistency in referring Severa (Maria Severa Onofriana) as a Fado singer, which is an historical milestone. Severa lived between 1820 and 1846, died of tuberculosis and lived a life full of love affairs among which stood out the relationship with count of Vimioso a love story that inspired songs sung by herself and by other singers.

Some authors state that the Fado comes from "modinhas", perhaps mixed with the Brazilian Lundu adapted to maritime Lisbon reality ... who knows. What is certain is that, much as a Portuguese way of being, the Fado has a great mix of influences to which was given a soul that we now know to be the true Portuguese soul, something we can hardly explain.

Maria Severa was born in the neighborhood of Madragoa and died where she lived a good deal of her life, the Mouraria and is also to this neighborhood that is associated the birthplace of Fado.

In the second half of the 19th century, while most popular Fado was developed by the voices of singers and guitar chords in taverns and alleyways of the poorer districts in Lisbon, in the wealthiest homes the guitar was traded by the piano a much more elegant musical instrument but this way of playing the Fado had a very short life.

At the beginning of the 20th century the popularity of Fado was growing fast but it was during the Salazar regime that Fado had its peak. Salazar used to exult the national icons and, combining this with the popularization of the theatrical revue, the emergence of radio broadcast and sound movie, the singers who in the meantime get their trade recognized, began to gain stardom status.

It is said that Fado was a song so popular at the time that the New State (Estado Novo – the fascist regime of Salazar) had no other choice but to adopt it and of course apply the censorship to which all works were subject at the time. Thus, the themes were simple and focused on the allowed day to day matters and nothing of political intervention.

Are recurring themes in the Fado we can find the bullfighting life and many more other melancholic themes such as love, destiny, longing but also the subjects of parody as the effects of the wine, or even parochial life.

Perhaps by the success that Fado had during the Salazar regime we can also find some degree of explanation to its fell from grace after the April 25, 1974.

During the revolutionary period, after the “Carnations Revolution”, the Fado was considered as part of the fascist propaganda because of its great relationship with the former regime so it was almost banished from the daily scene after 1974.

More recently, I would say in the last 15 years, Fado has experienced a new increase in popularity with the emergence of new artists and the freshest styles.

Traditionally, one have to be silent when the Fado will be sing ... we usually say "silence the Fado will be sung".

There are male and female Fado singers. However, it seems to me that the female voice has more representatives despite the fact of a wide existence of excellent male Fado voices.

A woman with black shawl on her shoulders, accompanied by a classical guitar and Portuguese guitar is a traditional scenario of Fado.

Nowadays to hear Fado one can go to one of the many restaurants of Fado (former called Fado House) where at a certain moment the artists will begin to sing. When the artists starts to sing, it is assumed that customers will stop eating, stop mess on cutlery or talk ("silence will sing the Fado") and resume their activities when the artist finished singing.

With much, but very much difficulty I got into the arduous task of choosing nine music’s representing of three different moments of Fado and here I leave some suggestions for listening:

Fado classic-beginning of the 20TH century
Alfredo Marceneiro -
Ercília e Armandinho -
Maria Teresa de Noronha -

Modern Fado - second half of the 20TH century
Amália Rodrigues -
Carlos do Carmos -
Teresa Tarouca -

Contemporary-contemporary Fado (late 20TH and early 21ST century)
Mariza -
Ana Moura -
Camané -

By the end of 2011 the Fado was elevated to the category of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, which was an extra step towards the global recognition of the tremendous value of this musical genre. Please check at:

There is a lot more to say about the Fado and many good singers were not considered here. Anyway, I hope that this text will help you take the first steps into the Fado world, a world I truly love.

David Monteiro