Amália Rodrigues - The Queen of Fado Correio de Venezuela
Amália Rodrigues

The Fado sings the "saudade" - a Portuguese word that express more than the feeling of missing someone. It expresses the suffering, the tragedy, the misfortune, the fate, the pain, the lovers and the city. The Fado is sad, it's melancholic, it makes the guitars cry. It is about the feelings of Portuguese people. 

The origins of Fado are for sure older but it was only in the 19th century, around 1840, that Fado started to be known on the narrow streets of Lisbon and its tavernas (Portuguese pubs). The first songs of Fado evoked the lifestyle of the Portuguese people, but were mostly connected with marginalised people, prostitutes and sailors. One of the first known songs is a Sailor Fado (Fado do Marinheiro). This association with people on the fringes of society made many Portuguese reject Fado for years.

In the first half of the 20th century, Fado gained a new life. The popular songs evolved into more elaborated verses, giving it a more melodic richness and rhythmic complexity, but at the same time lost its improvisation. With the help of the radio, cinema and theater Fado reached more people, entering mainstream culture.

A Severa, the first Portuguese movie with sound, was about a romance between the first known Fado singer and her lover. It was thanks to the Teatro de Revista, a typical kind of theater from Lisbon, that Fado got more exposure to the public.

During the dictatorship, the Casas de Fado (Fado Houses) started to expand in Lisbon. This gave Fadistas (Fado singers) a new and more professional status. To be able to sing in the Casas de Fado they needed to have a work registration booklet approved by the Portuguese Commission of Censorship. The lyrics were censored and references to society and politicians were banned. The dark dress wore by Fadistas came to symbolise Fado, but the traditional Portuguese song would not be complete with a guitar - the “Guitarra Portuguesa”.

The creation of a national television (RTP - Rádio e Televisão Portuguesa) in 1957 and the wide reach of the television meant that the Portuguese people had even more contact with Fado. This also helped Fado get more notoriety abroad. Nowadays there is even an exclusive radio station for Fado, Rádio Amália.

The most famous Fadista of all the times, was Amália Rodrigues , she was considered the Queen of Fado, and to this day her songs are being sung by other Fadistas. But it was Ercília Costa who first took Fado beyond the borders of Portugal, starting the internationalisation of Fado. Nowadays Fadistas such as Mariza, Ana Moura, Carminho, Camané and Carlos do Carmo are well known abroad.

In 2011 Fado received international recognition by UNESCO, being added to the Intangible Cultural Heritage list. In Lisbon there is an entire museum dedicated to Fado - Museu do Fado.


A musical tribute to Amália Rodrigues

Ruben Alves - a French-Portuguese director who made one of the most successful movies last year in Portugal, “La Cage Dorée / A Gaiola Dourada” - was chosen by Universal to put together a music album as a tribute to Amália, with  a new generation of Fadistas (except Celeste Rodrigues, sister of Amália Rodrigues) and other singers giving a new melody to the old Fados once sung by Amália herself. 

Ruben Alves even invited a famous street art artist to make the cover of the album (in the photo). For this Vhils used another typical art, also started in Lisbon and spread to the world, the Calçada Portuguesa - Portuguese sidewalk. Vhils, aka Alexandre Farto, together with calceteiros (people who do the Portuguese sidewalk) recreated the face of Amália in the traditional Portuguese sidewalk on a wall.

Album cover.jpg

During this representation of Amália, Ruben Alves stated that "the wall is important because it exudes all our memories and guard the emotion of Fado sung in the street", he added that from now on "when it rains, the paving stones will cry" as if they were hearing a Fado from Amália.

The album is titled “Amália, As Vozes do Fado ”, and it is for sure a must hear in 2015.