Fado is more alive than ever. A new generation of artists joins to the mythic voices of its early times. Fado music is the heart of the Portuguese soul. The essential element of fado music is “saudade,” a Portuguese word that means longing. It is a sad music that sings to the destiny, to the death, to the betrayal love, to the despair and to the melancholy.
The origin of this popular music goes back to the 19th century and arises among the low classes and marginal neighborhoods. Fado was the earthy music of taverns and brothels and street corners in Alfama and Mouraria, the old poor sections of Lisbon. Later, these songs proceeding from the suburbs, became fashionable among the aristocratic class, which introduced its verses in their lives as an eccentricity of ordinary people. Like other forms of folk music such as Argentine tango, American blues or Spanish flamenco, fado cannot be explained; it must be felt and experienced. Fado can be performed by men or women. A `fadista´ or fado singer communicates through gesture and facial expressions. The hands move, the body is stationary.
This music reached its golden times in the first half of the 20th century, when the Portuguese dictatorship of Salazar forced the fado performers to become professional and confined them to sing in the fado houses. Nowadays, it is protected by official institutions and cultivated as tourist spectacle.
The unrivaled queen of the fado was Amalia Rodrigues, worshiped at home and celebrated abroad as the most famous representative of Portuguese culture. Other great names of fado music were among others these were Carlos Ramos, Alfredo Marceneiro, Berta Cardoso, Maria Teresa de Noronha, Hermínia Silva, Fernando Farinha, Fernando Maurício, Lucília do Carmo or Manuel de Almeida.
Nowadays, Cristina Branco and Mariza walk the fine line between carrying on the tradition and trying to bring in a new audience.