Fado (1J)

Love, jealousy

ashes and fire

pain and sin

All this exists

All this is sad

All this is fado


With the verses of her song “All this is fado”, the Portuguese singer and all time great, Amália Rodrigues, defines the true nature of the Portuguese fado.

Fado, from the Latin “fatum”, means ´fate` and best describes the music and genre as a whole. Sad and languid, it forms a part of Lisbon’s soul and can be heard in the streets of its neighbourhoods. If you are lucky enough while searching for that bit of authenticity in some of the city’s bars, you will have the chance to experience “saudade” first-hand. 

So what is saudade?  It is a feeling somewhere between melancholy and pessimism. Similar to the atmosphere of blues, the saudade expresses nostalgia for former happiness, for joy that has become absent, and powerlessness in the face of the past. However, it also invokes hope for the future, for the possibility of regaining what you have lost. It is soulful music that expresses bitterness for an ill-fated future, for unrequited love…, all which seems impossible to convey in a book or even a single heart but can be felt in the voices of the “fadistas” (fado singers) and musicians. The singers play on a stage dressed all in black, accompanied by a viola, similar to the Spanish guitar and evoking a note of optimism, as well as the Portuguese guitar. The latter holds only twelve metallic strings and accompanies the melody as if it were a cry of grief. 

Finding places where fado is played is easy if you are happy to settle for the specialised tourist performances which come with a typical meal of wine and “Bacalhau à Brás” (grilled cod), but if you want something more authentic you will have to search for the tucked away bars of the Barrio Alto and the Alfama districts. In a few tiny places, rather inhospitable on first impressions, real fado lovers come to sing after eleven o’clock in the evening. 

Here, with a strong drink in your hand, let yourself be carried away with the “fadista`s” lament, your head straight and gaze fixed with hope and nostalgia on the horizon. “All this is sad. All this is fado.”

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website