The Rough Guide To Fado Legends

Fado is the lifeblood of Portugal’s urban folk scene. Its melancholic songs pump thick through Lisbon’s cobbled streets and steaming port-side bars, piercing the hearts of listeners with typically mournful lyrics and full-hearted vocal performances. Fado is soaked in what the Portuguese call saudade, a word that translates best as a deep-set feeling of melancholy and yearning. The seventeenth century Portuguese writer Manuel de Mello described fado as ‘a pleasure you suffer, an ailment you enjoy’.

Fado emerged in the late 1820s in Lisbon, its irresistible sound trickling outwards from the neighbourhoods of Alfama, Mouraria and Barrio Alto. Owing to the vibrant port at Lisbon, the new cultures and traditions flowed in and out of the waterfront city, promoting a previously unprecedented level of musical exchange. Related to fado’s seafaring origins, is its historic connection to marginal social groups; songs of dispossessed prostitutes, lonely sailors, far from home coachmen and underhand criminals are all common to the genre. One legend tells that the first fado diva was Maria Severa, a prostitute who was embroiled in an affair with a high profile Count. When the affair ended, Maria began to sing impassioned songs about her heartache, giving way to the emergence of the genre.

Today, a young crop of fadistas beat together traditional forms with international inferences. Critics raise concerns surrounding the commodification of fado and the overpowering of the old, authentic fado houses by money-hungry tourist venues. Supporters of new formations point out that by its very nature, fado has always been a fluxing, changing site of creativity. This Rough Guide celebrates the legends of fado that inspire the forerunners of the present day. The classic giants of the genre that are heard on this album performed during the late twentieth century – a heyday for impassioned compositions, trembling portentous guitar parts and dramatic, heart-saddening songs.

Amalia Rodrigues, known as the Rainha do Fado’ (Queen of Fado) is one of the most important figures in fado history, renowned for her consuming performances both at home and on the international stage. Her sister Celeste Rodrigues must also be credited for her deep-rooted influence on the genre. Celeste is also the grandmother of this Rough Guide’s expert compiler: the filmmaker Diogo Varela Silva. Diogo created the 2010 documentary Fado Celeste about his relative, charting her career as one of the oldest fadistas still active on the contemporary live scene. Feel the fado running deep on this compilation, showcasing the great masters of Portugal’s passionately poetic fado tradition.

Also presented as part of this package is the critically acclaimed album from one of Fado’s next generation of promising stars, Katia Guerreiro. Receiving the award for ‘Best Performer of Fado’ from the Amália Rodrigues Foundation, as well as being awarded the ‘Order of Arts And Letters’ in France, Katia is a fantastic ambassador for fado on the world scene and set to become a legend in the future.