Fado is a national musical treasure, which started in the north of the country. There are two types of them: the Coimbra’s type and the Lisbon’s type. In Lisbon the song is always solo and in Coimbra it is presented by a group, mostly men. The song is always played by two musical instruments. A 12string Portuguese guitar is playing the rhythm and a 6string viola that gives the rhythm.
The sad songs talk about love, pain and loss although in Coimbra they include humour and references to the politics. It emerged in the bohemian and the workers’ area of the Alfama in the 18th century .It became popular by the singer Maria Severa, who died at the age of 26. Her life became the first talkie in Portugal in 1931. Even in our days the female singers wear a black shawl as a value in memory her and her life. The one that made fado really famous was Amalia Rodrigues, who made this music popular over the world. She died in 1999 and was buried as a national heroine in the National Pantheon in Lisbon. The CD “The Art of Amalia” is the most representative sound of fado songs. The new queen of fado is Mariza, who already has an international career.
When visiting Lisbon, it is impossible not to want to listen to fado. There are special restaurants that play fado music called Fado Houses in the upper town, as in Alfama which are the most original. An extra charge of 15-20 euros for fado is added to the bill, which typically reaches about 50 euros per person.
Here are some of the best Fado Houses (note: they are open at night)
Senhor Vinho,m Rua do Meio a Lapa, 18, Lapa.
It is the most famous, authentic and sophisticated of all homes of the city that have fado. It is owned by one of the top singers of Fado country, Mariada Fe. A lot of famous fado singers have performed there including the very famous Mariza.
Clube de Fado, Rua de Sao Joao da Praca, 92-94, Alfama.
Atmospheric restaurant with good food and good fado singers. It is very close to the Cathedral.
Parreirinha de Alfama, Beco do Espirito Santo, 1, Alfama.
Authentic atmosphere, although it attracts many tourists. It is near the fado museum.
Casa de Linhares, Beco dos Armazens do Linho, 2, Alfama.
Unfortunately, it’s been found out by the hordes of tourists. But the food is still good and as well as the music.
Baiuca, Rua de Sao Miguel, 20, Alfama.
It only has 6 tables. It is the most authentic fado house of the city. The locals gather here to sing fado. You will be surprised by the atmosphere, so make sure you book a table.
Cafe Luso, Travessa da Queimada, 10, Bairro Alto.
Amalia Rodrigues used to sing here. Due to being an attraction, it has become expensive and has lost its authenticity as it has become more of a “tourist-attraction”.
By Nikos K
Travel photo: Tary Allen