The Soulful Story of Fado: Its Origins, Types, and Iconic Performers

The Soulful Story of Fado: Its Origins, Types, and Iconic Performers

What is Fado?

Fado (fate or destiny in Portuguese) is a genre of music that is mainly associated with and originated from Portugal, primarily in Lisbon, Portugal, in the 1820s-1830s.

Today, musicians typically play this music with a guitarra (Portuguese guitar), an accordion, and a piano in pubs, restaurants, clubs, and cafes.

This music is also widely known for being highly melancholic and emotionally expressive. It explains true fate and destiny in feelings of regret, love, hatred, heartbreak, and depression.


Origins of Fado

This genre of music came to life in the early 1800s in mostly Lisbon, Portugal. Large and marginalized economic districts in the city, like Mouraria, Bairro Alto, and Alfama, experienced the first signs of growth of Fado at the time.

There needs to be more information on the precise reason this genre of music grew.

It is most widely known, though, as a form of music that grew on dangerous colonization voyages to the New World to give the people on that voyage hope to make it to the lands safely and provide hope for the perilous times. The voyagers did things like dance rituals and singing.



Other people who performed Fado were people in the working class in the cities, the upper class, and even bohemians. People who play Fado are called fadistas..



Two Main Types of Fado


There are two different variations of Fado that fadistas play. There is the Coimbra style and the Lisbon style. These styles are rooted in two other cities with two different experiences.

Fado, based in Lisbon, was a way to relate to others about the hard times happening in the town. In the 19th to 20th centuries, there were many restrictions on speech, art, and entertainment until the Portuguese Constitution of 1976, which allowed freedom of speech and press.

Lisbon type of Fado is very emotional, deep, and filled with great sorrow. This type of Fado is the most performed type of Fado today in Portugal by fadistas. Lisbon Fado is sung primarily by women.

The Coimbra version of the genre grew around the community of the University of Coimbra.


This type of Fado is usually a bit more romantic. It is sung by mostly men, especially in the University, to get love from girls. This type of Fado is more for upper-class Portuguese people, and this rarer form of Fado is more positive and happy.


Performers of Fado Today


There are iconic 20th-century fadistas like Amália Rodrigues (1920-1999) and Carlos do Carmo (1939-2021).


There are still a good amount of current fadistas performing, too, such as Manriza, Carminho, Ana Moura, and the list goes on. The most iconic one is Maria Severa, her life of only 26 years (1820-1846). She played and performed in taverns with the guitarra.

Not much was known about her, but she is the founding mother of fadistas. She’s the first one that has risen to fame. She has created the road that led to modern Fado today.


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