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Fado and the Portuguese Soul

Fado and the Portuguese Soul

All poetry - including song as an aided poetry - reflects what the soul lacks. That is why the song of the sad people often comes across as happy, and the song of the happy people, sad. 

Fado, however, is neither joyful nor sad. It is almost the intertwining of the two emotions. It was formed by the “Portuguese soul” when it didn't yet exist, expressing desire for everything without fully having the strength to desire it. 

"Strong souls attribute everything to Fate; only the weak trust in their own will, because it does not exist."

(Fernando Pessoa)  

There is no use in trying to explain fado. Many have tried, in various ways, but have never succeeded. Some say that fado was born from the songs of the Moors, that founded the neighbourhood of Mouraria. Others believe that it replaced medieval song. 

The only certainty is that the word fado has a Latin origin meaning "destiny" and that nobody remains indifferent after listening to it. Fado is emotion and those who sing it do so with their heart in their throat and with an emotion worthy of being seen. 

Another great truth is that we can't talk about fado without talking about Lisbon. In fact, fado is the soul of Lisbon and its inhabitants. There is no one who sings fado as well as the typical "alfacinha" (the name given to the people who were born in Lisbon). Fado almost always speaks of love and heartbreak, of betrayals and lost feelings, but contrary to what is often said, fado is not always sad, it is often joyful, fun, bohemian and sometimes a little audacious. 

Fado has its origin in the meeting between the inhabitants of Lisbon and the sailors that visited the city, telling stories of fleeting love affairs between the women and the sailors, many of them who never returned. This is why fado is known to be associated with a sad and nostalgic feeling.  

Lisbon and fado are inextricably linked: Lisbon does not live without fado, nor fado without Lisbon. Those who visit our city quickly realise that the two merge perfectly in the picturesque neighbourhoods of Lisbon, as if Fado were speaking of both the soul of the city and it’s inhabitants. 

It’s hard not to be enchanted by Lisbon. A city by the sea, steeped in history, with every corner having a little piece to discover and a story to tell. Whoever strolls through Lisbon should always be alert to not miss out on the many snippets of history and culture around them. On the ground, the limestone and basalt stones form authentic works of art, hard to find in other European cities. It is not only on the ground that we find works of art, they are seen everywhere, decorating the facades of houses, painted on the walls, embroidering the street signs, decorating interiors and exteriors of buildings. Azulejos are without any doubt another essential landmark of Lisbon's culture. Centuries ago, tiles began to be used to preserve the warmth of homes, but soon became a decorative piece when painted in homage to the bravest Portuguese discoverers.  

The city of the 7 hills (name given by many to Lisbon) saw the birth of many poets and writers like Fernando Pessoa, Almeida Garret, Luís de Camões, Sofia de Mello Brayner, Almada Negreiros among many others who made this city their confidant and inspiration. Maybe that's why it is the protagonist of so many texts and poems spread around the world and well known to all of us.  

Those who visit Lisbon know that there is something magical in the air. What you feel when you go down each hill to the river and see the sunlight reflected on so many of houses and rooftops is hard to describe. This light that is talked about so much warms the heart which is perhaps why it is something referred to in many texts by different authors.  

Positioned by the Atlantic, Lisbon has in the Tagus River, an immense mirror of water that helps to reflect even more light on the city, endowed with one of the mildest climates in Europe, meaning hot summers come without being unbearable and inversely the winters are cold, but tolerable. Lisbon attracts many tourists just for its climate, not surprising since it is the European capital with the most hours of sunshine, reaching 9 hours on average. 

From fado, to the "varinas", to the tiles that embellish the facades of the houses, to the cobblestones that trace different paths, to the trams and the colourful and picturesque neighbourhoods, there are countless reasons to fall in love with Lisbon. 

Let yourself be charmed by its characteristics and the soul of its people. If you are planning to live in the fantastic city of Lisbon, take a look at our website and see if there is anything that takes you fancy. 

"He who has never seen Lisbon, has never seen anything good".  

(Popular proverb) 


Written by Cláudia Ferreira