Friday, October 21, 2016
To me, nothing reflects a place and its essence more than the music that originates there. If it's hard to understand or explain a destination, you only need to listen to it's native rhythms for answers. Cuba has son. Jamaica has reggae. Spain has flamenco and Portugal has fado. What is fado? It's the passionate, dramatic music of longing that exemplifies the Portuguese spirit. Some call it Portuguese blues music.
Fado singers or fadistas are usually accompanied by Portuguese guitar (12 strings), viola and eight string bass. The tradition dates back to the 1820s and is usually performed in bars and cafes. The queen of fado or Rainha do Fado, is the legendary Amalia Rodrigues, , whose brilliant voice helped popularize fado internationally. I have been lucky to see contemporary fado singers Martiza and Ana Moura perform but I wanted to hear the music in it's home. So I walked through Lisbon's hilly cobblestone streets to Adega Machado, a popular fado house that's been open since the '30s. In a darkened, intimate room, I listened to five fadistas pour their hearts out. Fado is all about feeling so it's hard to put the sound into words. All I know is that I heard the soul of Portugal in that room.