If you ever stepped foot in Portugal, even if you didn't leave the airport or stuck to the less populated costal areas, you probably heard at least a note of Fado. Maybe you didn't realize you did because you didn't know what it was, but you did. To be sure you recognize it next time, here is a short description:
"Fado" means fate or destiny, but is used in Portugal to describe a music genre, which origins are still unclear, although usually set around the 1820s. It is characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor, and infused with a sentiment of resignation, fatefulness and melancholia. The song itself can be about anything, but must follow a certain traditional structure.
Fado also illustrate the Portuguese concept of Saudade, a strong feeling of loss and longing. It is said to be born in Alfama, Lisbon's old port district. Indeed, port means boats and dangerous seatrips. Men who go and never come back. However, ports are also the most popular area of a city. Alfama was no exception, and you can find traces of it in older Fado songs: stories about gypsies, prostitutes, ...
It is traditionally during convivial and leisure moments that Fado is mostly to be heard. Today, it is still very common in taverns, tascas and cafés. It also airs on the radio.
The most famous fado singers are Maria Severa, Amalia Rodrigues (called the "Queen of Fado") and, more recently, Mariza.
The following video is "Chuva" interpreted by Mariza: