The origin of fado is controversial, and there are those who relate it to the chanting of the Muslims who remained in Lisbon after the 12th century’s Christian reconquest and those who associate it to the songs of the sailors involved in the Portuguese discoveries that started in the 14th century.

However, the most likely hypothesis is that fado, with an urban matrix resultant of the different cultures existing in Lisbon, was born and imposed itself in the mid-19th century, from the fusion of a kind of popular songs ("modinhas") with others of afro-Brazilian origin ("lundum").

Initially associated with the populace and with those who frequented the alleys, taverns, and brothels of the capital’s old historical neighborhoods, fado was fast accepted by the higher socio-economic classes and even by the nobles, who introduced it in aristocratic salons, making it more melodic, literary and artistic.

Despite the impulse given by the radio broadcast, theatre, cinema and by the "casas de fado” (fado houses) born in the meantime, it was only in the 50s of the last century that fado surpassed boundaries and was projected worldwide, thanks to the greatest fado singer ever: Amália Rodrigues.

It is, in general, a sad song that expresses the nostalgia, melancholy and saudade (longing, missing) of the Portuguese people. It speaks of love, jealousy, pain and of the misfortunes of fate, and it may also be sometimes associated with bullfighting, religious themes, bucolic themes, etc.. Nowadays, it is almost always sung at night, by a man or a woman, the latter standing out in black clothing and with the traditional shawl. It is accompanied by Portuguese guitar (a 12 string instrument, with a pear-shaped box) and viola.

Classified by UNESCO, in 2011, as World Intangible Cultural Heritage, fado is the greatest Portuguese musical symbol, and, especially, the song of the city of Lisbon.


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