Fado in Mouraria and Alfama

Tue, 10.03.2020

Unveiling the origins of Fado in Mouraria and Alfama

On the last March 10th, our Portuguese language school organized a walking tour about the origins of Fado in Mouraria and Alfama.

Indira Leão, our history teacher, guided us during the afternoon.

We started at Rua do Capelão in Mouraria. It was here in this street where the first known Fadista, Severa, lived and died in 1846 with only 26 years old. At that time, only the public women, mostly prostitutes, could perform in public. It wasn’t a job for a honourable woman. Therefore, the female Fadistas during the 19th century were mostly prostitutes. Fado was also considered a marginal music, which led to addictions. In fact, Fado flourished in the taverns full of prostitution, alcoholism and smoking. The musicians and singers weren’t paid to perform, once Fado wasn’t considered a profession.

Then, we walked until the mural Amália of the Portuguese urban artist Vhils. Here, Indira explained us that with the establishment of the Portuguese dictatorship in 1926, Fado was recognized as profession. The artists had to have a license to perform Fado and the lyrics of the songs started to be controlled.

Amália Rodrigues started her career as Fadista very young. She reinvented the way to perform Fado by using dark colours and giving more expression and feeling to the music. The dictator Salazar appropriated Fado as a political strategy to get closer to the Portuguese people. For the connotation of Fado to the fascist regime, with the Carnation Revolution (1974) Fado was rejected by democracy.

Only during the 80’s and 90’s appeared a new generation of Fadistas with Camané and Mariza, which are very popular.

After the walking tour, we watched a Fado performance. Check out our photos!


Let’s learn about origins of Fado in Mouraria and Alfama

Fado is a Portuguese musical style, usually sung by one person (fadista) and accompanied by a classical guitar. The most important thing in Fado, more than the technique, is to sing with feeling, passion. We’ll explore the origins of Fado in Mouraria and Alfama on the next walking tour on March 10th.

Indira Leão, our history teacher will guide us during the afternoon. We’ll start in Mouraria, one of the cradles of Fado. During the second half of the 19th century, Fado flourished here and in Alfama.

Some musicologists as Rui Vieira Nery defend that African-Brazilian people brought Fado to these neighbourhoods. However, why to these particular neighbourhoods? Because they were the poorest in Lisbon and this population that brought Fado was mainly servants or slaves. Fado already existed in Brazil, but it was danced. Initially Fado was danced, but with industrialization, it started to be sung. The Portuguese feeling (saudade) that characterizes Fado existed in Portugal since the Portuguese overseas expansion. It was a feeling of nostalgia and sadness felt by those who missed their relatives that left the country.

In Mouraria, we’ll have the opportunity to see the house where Severa, the first known Fadista lived. She became a reference for the Fado community. Along the way to Alfama, Indira will evoke some important names of Fado.

When we reach Alfama, we’ll stop in front of the work of the street artist Vhils. Its work is a tribute to Amália Rodrigues, the most international Fadista.

After the walking tour, we’ll go to watch a Fado performance in the tasca Fora de Moda. You cannot miss it for anything!

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