Register for the 2013 RI Convention and experience fado
F ado, the melancholy music of Portugal, is so much a part of the culture that its origins have been lost to history.
Some say it developed from the songs of the Moors, who occupied parts of the region between the 8th and 13th centuries. Another theory is that it evolved from the music of Brazilian slaves. A third explanation is that fado is the music of Portuguese seafarers who longed for home. The word fado comes from the Latin for “fate” or “destiny,” and the soulful songs express the type of nostalgia the Portuguese call saudade.
The music took root in Lisbon among the working classes. The godmother of fado, Maria Severa Onofriana, sang in her mother’s tavern in the Alfama district in the 1830s. The most famous fadista was Amália Rodrigues, who made the music popular during her 50-year career. When she died in 1999, the Portuguese government declared three days of mourning.
Fado has two distinct styles, one associated with Lisbon and another with the university town of Coimbra. In Lisbon, the lyrics have a working-class appeal, and women usually sing. In Coimbra, fado reflects a high-society perspective, and men are generally the singers. Both forms use the Portuguese guitar, a 12-string, pear-shaped instrument.
Rotarians attending the 2013 RI Convention, 23-26 June, can hear fado performed live at bars and taverns in the Bairro Alto or Alfama districts of Lisbon.