Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Portuguese manuscript from 1189.

Crystal posted on David Hart and Voltaire, commenting in passing on one of the cities most dear to me, Lisbon. This led me to think of the beautiful, sad Portuguese song known as the fado. I found a decription of fado on the NPR website in an interview with my favorite fado singer, Misia:
Songs of longing and despair are a national tradition in Portugal -- a musical tradition called fado. The word comes from the Latin fatum, meaning fate, destiny or doom.

Fado emerged from the brothels and taverns of Lisbon about 200 years ago, and were first sung by lonely sailors. Today the songs are mostly performed in restaurants and special fado clubs.

I have seen Misia a couple of times in Spain. She has a strange, ethereal beauty, with pale skin, and black hair in a Lousie Brooks cut. Dressed in black, she stands still as she sings, moving only one arm in a slow, expressive arch like a ballet dancer. You can listen to the interview and hear some of the music on this site.


The fado is spine-chilling in its nostalgiac beauty. It's different than the firey, Mediterranean flamenco. It is cooled by the Atlantic breeze and filled with the longing one feels looking at the westward ocean, so different from the welcoming mother sea that warms the Eastern shores of Spain. Portugal is much, much different.

You can see an interview in Spanish with Misia here, and a 1961 video of the great "Queen of the Fado," Amalia Rodrigues here. Misia's website is here.


cowboyangel said...

Ah yes, "the hand." I remember well how in love you were with that hand after going to the concert. Nice to see her again. Unfortunately, I only have her music on a cassette tape and we no longer have a player. Gotta get a CD.

Enjoyed the post a lot.

"Songs of longing and despair . . . fate, destiny or doom. . . . spine-chilling in its nostalgiac beauty."

Funny, I feel the same way right now listening to George Strait sing "All My Exes Live in Texas."

Must be that global village thing.

crystal said...

Liam, nice music! I listened to some of the songs at NPR. She has a brautiful voice. I've only seen flamenco once, and that was at North Beach, so it probably wasn't very authentic :-)

Liam said...

cowboy -- yes, the hand. I bet George Strait can't do that.

Crystal -- I'll have to do a post on Flamenco soon, then.

crystal said...

Happy thanksgiving to you and your family, Liam :-)

Deloney said...

Hi Liam. I just ordered one of her CDs from the library. How is her name pronounced...is it Miss-sigh-uh?

And fado...how is it pronounced?

Liam said...

Hi Deloney...
That's a good idea. I wonder if the library here has her cds...

I'm not good at phonetic spelling, but it would be something like "Mis -SEE-ah." And fado is "fAH-dough."

Jeff said...

Hi Liam,

Interesting, especially the Fado. I once took a train from Madrid to Lisbon once, spent a couple of days, and then headed down to Setubal and Sines on the Algarve coast. I was amazed at how different Portugal and Spain were. It was certainly an unexpected surprise for me, but then again, even within Spain each region is very different.

lullaby said...

thank you for this. amazing.