April 24, 2024

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Not to get too dramatic but fado is a song of the sea and by extension the Portuguese soul. The word comes from the Latin fatum, which means fate or destiny. For a style of music that’s all about embracing what destiny brings it couldn’t be more appropriately named. Disappointments in love, the longing for someone who has gone away, all are fodder for Fado; so, too, are the everyday joys and pleasures of life. The ingredients for good fado are simple:  a shawl, a guitar, and a voice ripe with emotion.  What I found so fascinating about this music on my last night in Portugal is that it’s ancient but not antiquated; sad, but not unhappy; dark, but not grey.  And if you think it’s camp, think again: fado is pure feeling, set to music.  When an audience feels it, they swoon, unable to resist mouthing the words or singing along. As the video below shows, even the cook – who spent the evening in the open kitchen singing along with three successive fadistas – couldn’t resist the urge to step in front of the restaurant and share her feelings after the headliners were finished. That’s fado.  And that, too, dear readers, is Portugal.

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