The lilting sounds of fado, the musical soul of Portugal, are loved and appreciated by many around the world. Even here in Goa, Cidade de Goa honours the greats with a beautiful evening each month that puts the spotlight on Portugal, its food and music.
But the origins of this beautiful, melancholic genre are much debated. The country’s location at the very edge of Europe lends many theories as to how the fado as a musical style began. Many researchers, however, agree that it developed many centuries ago, perhaps even before Portugal became an independent country in its own right.
The most common theory is that the fado, especially the Lisboa fado, came from the Moors – Muslim descendants of the Berber and Arab people from North Africa. Even after the Christian takeover of Portugal, they continued to live near Lisbon and the fado is believed to have originated from their songs, conveying the same sad and melancholic undertones.
Others believe that the fado had its history in the lundum, the music of the Brazilian slaves. This places its date of origin around the 1820s when soldiers returned from the long trips overseas. The lundum began modifying itself until it became the fado we know today.
This theory is supported by the fact that many fado lyrics pertain to the seas and the lands far beyond the shores of Portugal, the places from where the slaves came. The Queen of Fado Amália Rodrigues sings a song called The Black Boat which refers to a senzala, the place where slaves were housed.
Another theory suggests that the fado began with the minstrels and jesters of the Middle Ages. The theme of cantigas de amigo or love songs for a woman can be seen in the Lisboa fado as well. Love songs by a man for a woman can be seen in the Coimbra fados, where students would serenade their love interests beneath windows.
Fado appeared in Lisbon and Porto and was taken to Coimbra by students, as the city was a university town, where it acquired a wide variety of new characteristics.
You can enjoy the diversity and beauty of the fado at Cidade de Goa’s Noite de Fado at its Alfama specialty restaurant on the first Tuesday of every month.