Fado (Portuguese: destiny, fate) is a music genre which can be traced to the 1820s in Portugal, but probably with much earlier origins. In popular belief, Fado is a form of music characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor. However, in reality Fado is simply a form of song which can be about anything, but must follow a certain structure. The music is usually linked to the Portuguese word saudade which symbolizes the feeling of loss (a permanent, irreparable loss and its consequent life lasting damage). Amália Rodrigues, Carlos do Carmo, Mariza, Mafalda Arnauth, and Cristina Branco are amongst the most famous individuals associated with the genre.
The word Fado comes from the latin word fatum, from which the English word fate also originates. The word is linked to the music genre itself and, although both meanings are approximately the same in the two languages, Portuguese speakers seldom utilize the word Fado referring to destiny or fate.
Fado only appeared after 1840 in Lisbon. At that time only Fado marinheiro (sailor Fado) was known and, like the cantigas de levantar ferro, was sung only by sailors. Back then, Fado was not sung in the rest of the country. Fado was generally sung by one person called a Fadista, and accompanied by the portuguese guitar and the classical guitar. The 19th century's most renowned Fadista was Maria Severa. Amália Rodrigues, known as the "Rainha do Fado" ("Queen of Fado") was most influential in popularizing Fado worldwide. Fado performances today may be accompanied by a string quartet or a full orchestra.
There are two main varieties of Fado, namely those of the cities of Lisbon and Coimbra. The Lisbon style is the most popular, while Coimbra's is the more classic style. Modern Fado is popular in Portugal, and has produced many renowned musicians. According to tradition, to applaud Fado in Lisbon you clap your hands, while in Coimbra one coughs like if clearing one's throat.
My vision of the future:
Rui Serodio is one of the few pianists in the world playing Fado solo at piano. In this blog he intends to pass the image of true portuguese Fado, although the sonority of guitars and voice sounds totally different from a grand piano. Even so, Rui Serodio maintains the true spirit of this traditional song of his country.
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Fado in North America
Several singers of the traditional Portuguese Fado have appeared in Canada and the United States. One of these, Ramana Vieira, regularly performs in the San Francisco Bay Area without a traditional Fado ensemble. Ramana received her formal voice training at San Francisco's American Conservatory Theater and considers herself to be "The New Voice of Portuguese World Music.
San Francisco's Brava Theater often hosts Fado performances. Since its founding in 1986, Brava has invited a number of Fado singers to perform, including Dona Rosa, Cristina Branco and Ramana Vieira.
California's Central Valley also offers a variety of almost secretive Fado performances. Spread only by word of mouth, these shows attract listeners from all over California for a night of music and traditional Portuguese food.
In Canada one can look to Vancouver based Salome. The large Portuguese communities in Toronto and Montreal are also home to local Fado singers that perform regularly in community events in these two cities.
The Northern California-based band Judith and Holofernes blends fado with indie and punk rock. The group's interpretation, referred to as "fadocore," is also a representative of Northern California's own blend of Portuguese and American cultures that resulted from the mass migrations of the 1950s and 1960s. Other blendings of Fado exist in the music of Mil i Maria, whose 'nu-Fado' takes elements of the style and merges them with modern musical influences.