Fado, The Soul Of Portugal

A friend sent me a link to a video of Amalia Rodrigues  who was probably the most famous Fado singer that ever lived, singing a song called Solidao  which was recorded in 1969, so whilst the video quality is pretty awful, the sound is sublime.

I have no words for the quality of fado….   And I have never worked out why a whole nation should identify itself with these extremely depressing songs from the working class sections of Lisbon.   However that may be, the heartfelt songs that Amalia sings never fail to move me deeply, even though I only understand about 6 words in Portuguese.

On another level, this Portuguese song (Grândola Vila Morena – sorry, no idea what it means) was broadcast as the signal for start of the 1975 revolution. The army staged a coup and introduced democracy. It still has tremendous potency in Portugal even now. Joan Baez opened her concert in Portugal with it and brought the house down.

However, Fado is and always will be a sort of urban folk music, rooted in the working class sections of Lisbon, where you can still find cafes where people simply get up if moved to, and improvise songs….  as in the following videos.

Or as here….

Of course as with every sort of music, there are loads of variants to Fado, such as the version sung by Cesária Évora from Cape Verde (see my earlier post about her – click here).

Also it has grown up, as it were, and been interpreted by contemporary young singers, producing singers such as Cristina Branco…   Essentially the same sort of sound, but with a twist..

Or in another direction, we have groups such as Madredeus, who bring a very different element to their version of Fado….

Here we have them in a haunting song called Ainda.

Or more famously (outside Portugal) they were featured both as musicians and as actors in the film by Wim Wenders called Lisbon Story.   Here we have the beautiful clear voice of Teresa Salgueiro both as an actress and a singer…..

So, a musical form with many variants.. all equally soul searching and beautiful in my view….

Share with us:

Do you have any thoughts on Fado?   Please share them here with us if you do.  It is always interesting to read other people’s ideas and thoughts on the various topics I discuss here.

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