Fado is a music genre which can be traced as early as the 1820s in Portugal, but probably with much earlier origins.
There are many theories about the origin of Fado. Some trace its origins or influence to "cantigas de amigo" (friends’ songs). Fado typically employs the Dorian mode (natural minor scale), Ionian mode (natural major), sometimes switching between the two during a melody or verse change. A particular stylistic trait of fado is the use of rubato, where the music pauses at the end of a phrase and the singer holds the note for dramatic effect.
Although the origins are difficult to trace, today fado is commonly regarded as a form of song which can be about anything, but must follow a certain traditional structure. Fado is a form of music characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor, and full of a sentiment of resignation, melancholia and fatefulness. There is a Portuguese word, saudade, which has no direct translation in English - the nearest description is a ‘melancholic yearning’. It is this saudade which lies at the heart of fado..
Famous singers of fado (fadistas) include Maria Severa, Amália Rodrigues (called ‘The Queen of Fado’), Carlos do Carmo, Dulce Pontes, Mariza, António Zambujo, Ana Moura, Camané, Ricardo Ribeiro, Carminho and many more.
On 27 November 2011, Fado was included in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists.
The Portuguese guitar - in Portuguese guitarra portuguesa, is a string instrument with twelve steel strings, strung in six courses comprising two strings each.
There are two distinct Portuguese guitar models - the Lisboa model and the Coimbra model.
The differences between the two models are the scale length, the body measurements, and other finer construction details. Overall, the Coimbra model is of simpler construction than the Lisboa model. The Lisboa model is different from the Coimbra model in its larger soundboard and the scroll ornament that usually adorns the tuning machine, in place of Coimbra's teardrop-shaped motif.
Fado made in CoimbraThis type of fado is closely linked to the academic traditions of the University of Coimbra and is sung by men only. Both the singers and musicians wear the academic outfit: dark robes, capes and leggings.
Fado is sung at night, almost in the dark, in city squares or streets. The traditional venues are the stairs of the Santa Cruz Monastery and the Old Cathedral of Coimbra. It is also the custom to have serenades where songs are performed before the window of the beloved woman.
In the 1950s, the singers of Coimbra adopted the ballad and folklore. They also adapted classical and modern poets’ work as a kind of resistance to the Salazar dictatorship. Zeca Alfonso and Adriano Correia de Oliveira played a significant role in popular music during the revolution of 1974.
Fado made in LisbonFado appeared during the early 19th century in Lisbon, and originates from poor districts like Alfama, Mouraria and Bairro Alto.
Fado performers then were mainly from urban working class and sailors, who sang and danced the fado.
Fado performing happened indoors or outdoors, in gardens, streets and alleys and taverns . It is more frivoulous, festive and vibrant and was often looked down by the intellectuals as a marginal street music genre.