Discover fascinating facts about Portugal’s best-known folk music

See original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine November 2015



  • Although Fado can be traced back to the 1820s, its origin isn’t clear. Some say it’s Arabic, some say it comes from Brazil, and others think Portuguese sailors started it. A popular Portuguese saying describes the music’s essence in the following way: ‘Fado can’t be seen or heard; it simply happens’. (‘O Fado não se vê nem se ouve; simplesmente acontece’).
  • Traditionally, Fado consists of singing accompanied by playing on a Portuguese guitar.

Lost love and misfortunes:

  • Fado isn’t happy music. It’s about sadness and melancholy, with mournful tunes and lyrics. Emotion is key: a good performance can bring the audience to tears. Songs are about love, the sea, longing for those who have left, and the misfortunes of life, especially of the poor people.
  • The Portuguese word for these sentiments is ‘saudade’, which can be translated as ‘longing’, ‘missing’ or ‘yearning’. However, the literal English translation of the word ‘fado’ is ‘destiny’ or ‘fate’.

Amália Rodrigues:

  • Amália Rodrigues will always be the Portuguese queen of Fado. She didn’t only transform the music into a respected art form, she also put Fado on the world map. Her international career as a leading fadista lasted for 50 years. When she died in 1999, Portugal mourned for three days.
  • The music fragment which can be heard when you click on button 5 is Triste sina by Amália Rodrigues. Other popular Fado singers are Dulce Pontes, Katia Guerreiro, Carlos Ramos and Mariza.

Different styles

  • There are two main styles of Fado in Portugal. In Lisbon, Fado is a product of the working classes and improvisation during performance isn’t uncommon. Songs are stories about surrendering when encountering hardship, and can be sung by men and women. In Coimbra, Fado is sung only by men, the songs inspire a bit more hope and performances are always rehearsed.
  • Also the way of applauding after a performance varies. In Lisbon you show your appraisal by clapping your hands, whereas in Coimbra you cheer the artists by coughing, as if you’re clearing your throat.


Amália Rodrigues – Triste sina


See original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine November 2015

Posted in Typical Portugal.

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