FADO..It isn't Folk. It isn't Blues. It isn't Soul. And, I'd never heard of Fado prior to planning this trip. But this music is believed to have its roots in Brazilian slave rhythms, Portuguese traditional song, and a dash of Arabic influence. Although subject matter could be anything (and how could I tell since it was Portuguese?) typically the lyrics speak of life of the poor and life with the sea. For certain, the tunes are mournful and the listener quickly understands why the name of the music comes from the Portuguese word for destiny or fate.

Upon arrival at my hotel, I found slick advertisements for an evening performance of Fado at a Lisbon theater. I opted out of that and hoped to find something a little more traditional in Alfama. The café that I visited had an arching brickwork ceiling supported by columns. It looked like it could have been a cellar, but it was ground level. The music had started, a Portuguese guitar with a classical guitar. And, soon the singers joined in. During the performance, four different vocalists took turns. Some of the songs must have been local favorites because at times about half of the audience participated. Then, there was the other half, about 25 of us, who had no clue what the words were, couldn't sing, but certainly applauded.


Copyright 2009 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.