Fado is the musical expression of Lisbon’s soul. The word fado comes from the Latin "fatum," which means "destiny."
The frustration and fatalism that comes out of the poor, humble neighbourhoods in the city’s tavern and port areas, is reflected in the melancholic and nostalgic music.
Fado was born in the first half of the 18th Century, as a force from the poor suburbs, which took over the centre of the city. It sounds as though we’re describing tango, but the similarities are inevitable. It has the same passion and virility with the woman as object, but in fado it is tinged with the absence of the expressive force given by the tango dance, becoming introverted, secluded, intimate in essence, in “saudade” as the Portuguese say.
Fado is sung with sadness for what is gone, the lost empire, the country that could have been, the man who lost his glory. This is nothing more than the history of Lisbon, its scarred soul, sung so well by the great poets Camoens and Pessoa.
Following years of association with the dictatorship, and converted into a tourist attraction, today fado, which has won over the salons of higher classes, with its lyrics written by the best poets, is experiencing a rebirth.
Fado is largely attributed to the collective memory given by Amália Rodrígues (1920-1999), considered to be the best singer that Portugal has seen.
You can listen to fados in the fado clubs (casas de fado) and you’ll find purer versions of them in the Lisbon neighbourhoods of Alfama, Mouraria and Bairro Alto.