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Falling in love, and longing, in Lisbon

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Falling in love, and longing, in Lisbon

The tram twists and turns up and down the hills of Lisbon. Views open up in all directions — the Tagus River sparkling below, the tumbledown facades of once-grand townhouses, laundry-laden balconies and wrinkle-faced women gazing wistfully out their windows.

My Angolan-Portuguese husband is snapping photos. I have my headphones on, tuning out the forgettable narration and tuning in when a fado comes on. The melancholy trademark music of Portugal helps me in my quest, propels me toward an understanding of what I’ve come here to seek.

We are on tram 28, a rickety vintage car that has been winding its way through Lisbon’s streets since 1928. Only, this isn’t the real deal; it’s an ersatz version that travels a slightly more scenic route and comes complete with an audio guide, so that tourists can understand the sights they’re passing.

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The starting point is Praça do Comércio, an expansive waterfront square on the Tagus, also known as Terreiro do Paço. Recently restored, it now showcases sidewalk cafes, restaurants and museums and, on sunny days, crowds of camera-toting visitors and a few Lisboetas passing through.

Then it’s off to the hills of Lisbon, with their aging beauty concealed in the steep maze of alleyways, and back to the mosaic-paved streets and neoclassical architecture of Pombaline Baixa, the city’s elegant downtown district, built in the 18th century after the devastating 1755 earthquake.

I stopped counting my visits to Lisbon years ago; there were too many to keep track of. It’s become one of “my” cities. For my husband, who spent 14 years in Portugal, it’s a second home. So what are we doing on a tourist tram?

I’ve come on a curious mission: to find a key to a sentiment that’s been haunting me since I discovered the country in 2005. That first time I laid eyes on Lisbon, I felt a peculiar kind of wistfulness. I’d never before set foot in Portugal, so there was nothing to be wistful about. But the feeling was present, it was potent, and I found it quite odd. En route from the airport, I remember seeing shabby porticos, a palm tree here and there poking out of spaces between abandoned buildings.

On that first trip, I came with a boyfriend. As we explored Lisbon, we fought. A lot. Instead of setting out to unlock the secrets of this striking city, I spent almost the entire trip feeling sad. Yet the sadness was tinged with strangely sweet undertones.

A couple of months after our return to New York, that relationship ended. Our parting had nothing to do with Portugal itself. But the end of that romance meant a beginning of another. Only now I was in love with a city, my blossoming affair with Lisbon infused with bittersweet emotions.

Portugal’s loss

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A couple of years later, I landed in Lisbon at 5:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Everything was still half-dark, slow, still. Fado was playing on the taxi radio. And there it was again, that same wistfulness. I could recognize it so clearly as the car glided through the empty streets.

Only by then, I knew its name. I was feeling saudade, the famed Portuguese word that has no apt translation. You could describe it as a profound state of longing for someone or something you love, while knowing deep inside that he, she or it may never return. It’s the love that lingers after someone is gone. It’s a mix of emotions — happiness because you once had this person by your side, and sadness because you don’t anymore — and it triggers the senses in poignant ways.

Although the word first appeared even earlier, it’s often said that this yearning stems from the 15th-century age of discoveries. This was the golden era when Portuguese explorers set sail for far-flung seas, many disappearing in storms, others dying in battle or starting new lives elsewhere. Those left behind suffered from saudade, the nagging sense of absence, the wishful longing for what is gone. Saudade became a thread that runs through all aspects of Portuguese society, the foundation of its mentality, a tune that always plays subtly in the background. It has become a Portuguese way of life.

The former colonial powerhouse ruled a number of countries and imposed its culture on lands as far away as India (Goa was a Portuguese enclave), China (Macau belonged to Portugal until 1999), Brazil, Angola (and a string of ex-colonies across Africa) and Uruguay (Colonia del Sacramento in the country’s southwest is a replica of a small Portuguese town). After this period of power and wealth, Portugal was hit by the dictatorship of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, which lasted from 1926 to 1974. Hundreds of thousands of Portuguese citizens left the country during this time. There was that longing again, for the motherland, as emigrants set up new lives elsewhere.

Then the dictatorship fell and the former colonies got their independence, after nearly six centuries of Portuguese rule. Decades later, Portugal is one of the poorest members of the European Union. The country once had it all, then lost most of what it was proud of. No surprise, then, that saudade is omnipresent, shadowing every step.

An air of nostalgia

I’ve always loved wistfulness. I have a soft spot for nostalgia, the bittersweet remembrance of things past. Perhaps it was the saudade that seduced me to Lisbon in the first place. I love walking through the city’s half-empty streets on a quiet Sunday afternoon, past yellow funiculars and wobbly trams, the peeling walls filled with street art that makes you stop and think, the light reflecting off pastel-colored rooftops.

I love hearing fado from the bars of Alfama, the city’s oldest hilltop quarter. I love the laundry lines zigzagging across slim alleyways and staircases that seemingly lead to nowhere. I love the unexpected squares filled with palm trees and colorfully dressed African vendors. I love nibbling on pastéis de Belém custard tarts in the namesake district overlooking the Atlantic.

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I’d been hooked by saudade so strongly that a couple of years after that first visit in 2005, I returned to Lisbon to spend a summer month by the Tagus. I didn’t know that fate had something else in store. I met that something else outside a corner bar in the form of the man who’s now my husband.

While our relationship was still a transatlantic venture with an uncertain future, I decided to spend a few months in Lisbon. I left New York and found a pied-à-terre on the top floor of a ramshackle building in Bairro Alto, a quarter known for its languid days and raucous nights. From one side of my living room I could see São Jorge castle atop Alfama and, if I leaned out the window, the Tagus on the other side.

A lot happened during those four months. Most memorable was my fall down a flight of stairs, on my behind the entire way, which led to a fractured bone and painful bed rest for weeks afterward. It wasn’t the tumble per se, but at some point during those four months it dawned on me that, although I’ll always love Lisbon, it wasn’t going to make the cut as my primary home.

But the relationship continued. Hoji, my new boyfriend, eventually moved across the Atlantic, then became my husband. My love of Lisbon remained. And my obsession with saudade never faded. So, nine years after my first visit, I returned for a couple of days and set out to seek saudade. It felt like a mystery that I simply had to solve.

Seeking saudade

So there we were, on tram 28. The idea was that if only I looked at Lisbon with fresh eyes, I’d finally “get” saudade, put my finger on where it comes from and what it means.

In Santos, the waterside quarter with 19th-century warehouses and wrought-iron balconies, Hoji showed me the spot where he’d performed stand-up comedy for a while. I spotted A Barraca, a 1930s cinema refashioned into a cultural space, where I’d once gone to dance the tango.

We passed Estrela Hall, built in 1906 adjoining the British church and cemetery and converted in 1947 into a theater housing the Lisbon Players, an English-language amateur drama group. Hoji had performed here once, and I’d gone to the premiere with my broken sacrum, sporting a donut-shaped orthopedic pillow to sit on.

The tram zipped past Bairro Alto Hotel, where we were now staying, a boutique hideaway nestled between the chic neighborhood of Chiado and the boho Bairro Alto. Our second-floor room with plush touches overlooked Praça Camões, a square dedicated to the Portuguese prince of poetry.

Just down the hill was Cais do Sodré, the train station serving westbound suburban routes. For years, the riverside district around the train station had been a seedy spot with lackluster back streets haunted by sailors and ladies of the night. A couple of years ago, it turned into boho-chic central, playing rival to Bairro Alto up the hill.

The tourists on the tram looked bored and sleepy as the two of us rode up and down memory lane. The sun was bright. In Alfama, with its crooked streets and gabled houses, I recalled that first visit with my ex, when we’d seen the tail end of our relationship at Palácio Belmonte, an exclusive 10-suite hideaway in a 1449 palace atop ancient Roman and Moorish walls. Then we zipped past the walk-up apartment that Hoji and I rented for 10 days after our Cape Verde adventure last winter, when my mother came to visit, fulfilling a long-held dream of hers. “The city looks ghostly and sad, yet so pretty,” she kept saying, in different ways. To our right, we passed the Santa Luzia Belvedere, a lookout with a view toward the Alfama rooftops, the river, the dome of the National Pantheon, all framed by grapevine-draped lattices and tall palm trees.

As the tram moved, our stories — my own, my husband’s and those we shared — intersected. It felt as though the history of Lisbon was being woven through the experiences we’d once lived in the city.

In the formerly working-class Graça quarter, the tram rode past a pink building where we’d once spent Christmas with Hoji’s friends. Azulejos, the painted tin-glazed tiles that are the emblem of Portugal, reflected the sunlight beautifully. We hopped off at Largo Martim Moniz, a once-sketchy square where up-to-no-goods gathered and the two of us used to meet by Hotel Mundial, on the southern end. Now with Lisbon at its most multi-culti, the recently revamped square has gotten a new lease on life: It hosts pretty fountains, a fusion market with kiosks hawking global fare and Chinese groceries, Turkish kebab houses, Indian restaurants and African stores around the edges.

A mood of melancholy

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The next day, we rose to rain clouds that hung heavy over the hilltops. The weather suited my saudade-seeking mission. We strolled to the Fado Museum, housed in a pink building near the waterfront. Fado, which in Portuguese means fate, was born from the songs of saudade. The Portuguese sailors who crossed the globe in the past brought back tales of unknown cultures. Out of these tales rose songs that spoke of danger-filled voyages, homesickness, loneliness and the volatility of nature and fate. So where else if not in this museum would I find the key to saudade?

We found listening stations, an old gramophone, dusty records, video clips of fado performances, a 19th-century square piano and a vintage Portuguese guitar. A wall inscription read: “Fado is a poem that can be heard and seen.”

But nowhere could I find a mention of saudade. There was only one painting that spoke of the sentiment, a 1913 triptych called “O Marinheiro,” an oil canvas by Constantino Fernandes, depicting the life of a sailor. The central panel shows an arrival, or perhaps a goodbye, and it’s steeped in saudade.

Leaving the museum in an irritating drizzle, we walked back toward Bairro Alto in a mood of melancholy. A crowd of tourists was crammed inside Conserveira de Lisboa, an old-school canned foods store from the 1930s known for its colorful hand-wrapped cans of seafood based on the shop’s own recipes. We popped in to see the cobblestone interior and the wooden cash register and to grab some lime-marinated sardines and cod in olive oil and onions. Despite the tourist jam, there was still a whiff of saudade inside

Outside, the drizzle dragged on. The next day, it was time to move on. The saudade mystery lingered, and part of me felt that my pursuit had failed. I was no closer to “getting” saudade. I knew that the moment I left Lisbon, I’d feel that yearning again.

But then a new understanding emerged. Had I unraveled the puzzle, saudade would be gone. And the very point of saudade is that it stays on, lingering until the moment I’m back in Lisbon, and beyond.

Source: www.washingtonpost.com by Anja Mutic

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Cheddar Cheese & Parsley Beer Bread & Exploring the birthplace of Fado – Mouraria

 

Her arms speak of family and home and pride

Her face tells of laughter and sorrow and time

She is a fountain
She is light
In the historic, sleepy district of Mouraria, where the typically cobbled Portuguese streets are ever so slightly narrower, an artist Camilla Watson installed photographs of some of the eldest residents along the walls, close to their homes. The photographs are a triumphant tribute – sensitive and thoughtful. Out of them jump the personalities of Mouraria’s eldest. Some retreating and shy, others calm and fearless, others yet playful. The more you look, the more they reveal.

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What is Portugal? 10 words that define an indefinable country

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What is Portugal? 10 words that define an indefinable country

RESILIENCE

The country with the oldest borders in Europe, the first to adopt its local tongue as its official language, has against the odds survived nine centuries of battles, wars, earthquakes, revolutions, the creation and loss of the world’s first global empire. The Portuguese resilience and adaptability makes certain that no matter what crisis the country goes through, there will always be a nation named Portugal, a bright city called Lisbon, the Tagus, the Douro, and the hills of Sintra

MONSARAZ | VILA VIÇOSA CASTLE

MONSARAZ | VILA VIÇOSA CASTLE

GLOBAL

With such an inviting coastline, Portugal has never been limited by its borders. Being the first Europeans in so much of Asia, Africa and the Americas allowed the Portuguese to transplant their culture in every corner of the globe. The result is that now Portugal has the broadest global spread of UNESCO World Heritage Sites of any country. There are Portuguese forts, churches and other monuments in the oddest, most unlikely of places – from China to Iran, Morocco, India, Malaysia, Kenya… And walk around Brazil and you’ll feel Portugal in a more tropical climate, including in Rio’s beaches, with their Lisbon-inspired wave-patterned pavements. Go to Thailand and the desserts you eat are of Portuguese influence. Learn Japanese and you’ll find that many words originate from Portuguese. Portugal is, more than any other, a global country.

SAGRES (ALGARVE)

SAGRES (ALGARVE)

TIME

Money can’t buy time and Portugal values time. Everything is discussed and decided over a long lunch or dinner where eating is less about being fed and more of a social ritual meant to be well savored. Portugal feels confident and mature enough to just sit back and relax, like a wiser old man who’s had a long fulfilling life and pauses to appreciate the views or a good cheese and bread, a fresh fish just out of the ocean, a glass of wine… Making time, being present and enjoying the now is what makes Portugal so seductive. Spend a few days in Alentejo or even in Lisbon and you begin to feel the clocks ticking slower, telling you to enjoy the moment. Time is Portugal’s wealth.

CASCAIS

CASCAIS

INDIVIDUALITY

It’s Mediterranean but it’s on the Atlantic, it’s Iberian but it’s not Spanish, it’s European but focuses more on the ocean, it’s Latin but with a more reserved Nordic-like temperament. Portugal is difficult to define in familiar terms, a low-profile land with a feeling of apartness, in its own little world that’s more ocean than dry land, more an island than part of a peninsula. It’s a tiny oasis of peace that prevents it from showing up on the radar screen of world news, making it an inconspicuous, indefinable, often overlooked country in a world driven by flashes, categories and trends. It’s a soulful place with a rare individuality, with a consciousness of its unique character, and with little-known treasures that make it so enigmatic and magnetic.

QUELUZ PALACE | ALENTEJO

QUELUZ PALACE | ALENTEJO

DISCOVERIES

Portugal was the pioneer of world exploration, giving “new worlds to the world” five centuries ago, but the country remains a land of discovery today. It probably has the most beautiful places you’ve never heard of and it’s very likely that it has the biggest variety of landscapes per square mile in the world — from the volcanic craters of the Azores to the subtropical world of Madeira, to the plains of Alentejo, the mountains of the Beiras, the verdant parks of Minho and Trás-os-Montes, to the ocher cliffs of Algarve. If the Gerês National Park or the medieval villages of Monsaraz or Marvão were in Italy, France or Spain they’d be filled with tourists at any time, but they’re usually deserted in Portugal. This is a country of constant surprises and unexpected, unsung wonders.

CABO DA ROCA | PORTO

CABO DA ROCA | PORTO

SEA

A small rectangle on the edge of the Iberian Peninsula which only takes two hours to cross from east to west really doesn’t have an interior. Portugal is therefore just one long coastline, a natural port that’s the entrance and exit point of Europe with an endless stretch of sand. Best of all are the mystical capes of Espichel, Sagres, Carvoeiro or Roca which still give you the feeling of being on the edge of the Earth as they did centuries ago before everyone knew the planet was round. It’s not surprising that the Age of Discovery and globalization started here by crossing the horizon as the West looked for the East.

Portugal is still energized by the ocean and the rivers that flow into it, getting from them much of what it eats and drinks – from the Atlantic, the Douro and the Tagus. Some of the country’s biggest icons also float on water – the rabelo boats, the old caravels and the colorful moliceiros of Aveiro.

SÃO LOURENÇO'S CHURCH, ALMANCIL | ÓBIDOS

SÃO LOURENÇO'S CHURCH, ALMANCIL | ÓBIDOS

BLUE

You may paint the word “Portugal” blue. That’s the color that covers the country, and not just because of the Atlantic. It’s also the color of the skies (Algarve is the region with the most sunshine hours per year in Europe and Lisbon is the sunniest capital), the color of the Azores stunning lagoons, and above all the color of the tiles (“azulejos”) that decorate the country from north to south. They’re in almost every church interior (and exterior, as seen in Porto), in train stations, in palaces, and in ordinary homes around Lisbon. Blue also colors the edges of buildings in the many mostly-white villages such as Obidos and around Alentejo. Portugal is blue.

SÃO FRANCISCO'S CHURCH, PORTO | ALGARVE

SÃO FRANCISCO'S CHURCH, PORTO | ALGARVE

GOLD

Portugal is also golden. That’s the color of Algarve’s cliffs, of the profusion of jewelry used in Minho’s folklore and traditional costumes, and of the filigree of the local handicrafts. But then there’s the extraordinary gilding in the churches and palaces, perhaps second only to the azulejos as Portugal’s national art. And gold and blue often go together around the country, presenting some of the most artistic and unique baroque art in Europe (in fact, the word “baroque” derives from Portuguese).

ALMENDRES CROMLECH, ALENTEJO | MONSANTO

ALMENDRES CROMLECH, ALENTEJO | MONSANTO

STONE

One of the most curious and fascinating aspects of Portugal is its abundant use of stone and how well preserved its pre-historic heritage is. From the world’s biggest outdoor Paleolithic art gallery in Foz Coa, to the numerous dolmens and stone circles in Alentejo, to the dinosaur fossils and footprints around the town of Lourinhã that is a real Jurassic Park. There are also the works of art in cobblestone that cover almost every city, the marble towns of Alentejo (Vila Viçosa, Estremoz), the well-preserved Roman mosaics of Conimbriga, or the Manueline architecture that stuns for its carvings. And the countless medieval castles or entire villages made of stone like Monsanto, Marialva, Sortelha, or Piodão… And every town of any importance has a “pelorinho,” stone columns or pillories, symbols of municipal authority transformed into works of art, usually richly decorated with Manueline motifs.

ALENTEJO

ALENTEJO

“SAUDADE”

Using “Portugal” and “saudade” in the same sentence may now sound like a cliché but it’s true that one word defines the other. Saudade has no exact translation in other languages, and it’s much more than nostalgia or melancholy as it’s often explained. It’s an intense passion for life, an acceptance of the incomplete, an appreciation of achievements or generating strength from the good and the bad times. It’s being aware of the passage of time, knowing that you can’t always control the randomness of fate, an insatiable appetite for romance and romantic images; it’s closing your eyes for a moment as you enjoy the image of a fantasy that you don’t dare say out loud. It’s filling the heart with a good memory brought about by a smell or by a feeling caused by a sound. It’s enjoying the view, feeling the serenity of a moment of silence as you sit in the sun or gaze out to the sea and the horizon. It’s finding happiness in simplicity and in small pleasures. It’s living with passion in small steps and being at peace between reality and desire. All this is caused by Portugal, through its history, its geography, its Fado music, its traditions and its “gentle ways.” So to truly understand Portugal you have to be consumed by “saudade” and that only happens after spending some time in the country. Saudade is Portugal and Portugal is saudade.

 

Source:http://www.lisbonlux.com

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Sometimes friends drop in . . .

In Portugal, family ties run deep, and family traditions deeper still.  When both of these join together a deeper passion, then the result is a heady cocktail.
 
There is, in Portugal,  a policy between family and close friends of Porta Aberta.  Open door hospitality, when within reason, visits are made spontaneously, and without invitation.  Usually the "payment" for this "intrusion" is food, or more often wine.  But sometimes the callers bring the gift of talent.  Fado itself, as a genre, was based on spontaneity, so it is no surprise to find that a spontaneous visit, ends in an evening of Fado.  For when D. Francisco's cousin, D. Manuel da Camara comes calling with friends, that is usually what happens!
 
Fado is the Portuguese way of expressing, in song, how people feel about their lot in life, good or bad.  It has, many forms, but Fado is particular in that it is geared in its form to the situation or surroundings in which it finds itself.  It is no surprise, therefore, to learn, that when the Fado Marialva sing, it is particularly suited to the rural lifestyle.  The Marialvas have been together for around eight years, but have known each other always.  D. Manuel da Camara, Rodrigo Pereira and Francisco Martins were good friends,  "but needed to do something different".  So when three friends get together to sing, about those things in this life, about which they care passionately, then the result is almost always guaranteed to please.  There are things other, in this life, than an early morning crossing of the Tagus, to give one that certain "frisson".
 
They sing about "the countryside, horses, bulls and bullfights, love, women", and D. Manuel, like D. Francisco, can look to father and grandfather when it comes to being in the family tradition.  D. Manuel's grandfather was a professional opera singer, and his father, D. Vincente is a famous Fado singer, and can remember his younger days in the company of Amália.
 
But the real heady mix of passion shared by the cousins, is the love of the Lusitano horse.  Listen now to a solo by D. Manuel, Meu cavalo Lusitano........

 An evening in the country with friends is always a pleasurable thing.  An evening in the country with the Marialvas as your hosts would be even better.
 
To find out more please visit D. Francisco de Bragança website or get in touch through email: info@franciscobraganca.com.  Groups can be catered for Friday and Saturday evenings with the Marialvas at Archino.

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Amália, the Queen of Fado

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Amália, the Queen of Fado

 

Amália da Piedade Rodrigues, (July 23, 1920 – October 6, 1999), known as Amália Rodrigues (Portuguese pronunciation: was a Portuguese singer and actress. She was known as the Rainha do Fado ("Queen of Fado") and was most influential in popularizing the fado worldwide. She was one of the most important figures in the genre's development, and enjoyed a 50-year recording and stage career. Amália' performances and choice of repertoire pushed fado's boundaries and helped redefine it and reconfigure it for her and subsequent generations. In effect, Amália wrote the rulebook on what fado could be and on how a female fadista — or fado singer — should perform it, to the extent that she remains an unsurpassable model and an unending source of repertoire for all those who came afterwards. Amália enjoyed an extensive international career between the 1950s and the 1970s, although in an era where such efforts were not as easily quantified as today. She was the main inspiration to other well-known international fado and popular music artists such as Madredeus, Dulce Pontes, and Mariza.

Source: wikipedia.org

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Lisbon Deserves Its Title As European City Of The Year

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Lisbon Deserves Its Title As European City Of The Year

By Barbara Barton Sloane

Climbing down a dark,narrow staircase, I entered a tiny room lit by countless candles. Flickering shadows danced languidly across the walls and, as my eyes adjusted to the murky atmosphere, I saw two men playing guitars and a heavy-set, 50-ish woman swaying to the rhythm. Her eyes were tightly closed as she swayed to the music. When she began her song, the sound was low, guttural almost, mournful and seductive. This was Fado, the traditional music of Portugal and high on my bucket list of things to experience.

I recently visited Lisbon, Portugal and this year a prestigious award has been conferred on the city. The Academy of Urbanism bestowed on Lisbon the award of The European City of the Year, 2012. The Academy is an autonomous, politically independent organization whose goals are the recognition, learning and promoting of the best practices in urbanism; its award is presented yearly following careful and detailed inspection of nominee cities.

The fabulous capital of Portugal has always enjoyed the superb combination of a vibrant downtown, historic quarters with parks and gardens and cool, contemporary development. It has successfully managed to sustain its classical and modern architecture and has carefully invested in worthy urban projects. This, in combination with Lisbon's recent project to develop the River Tagus waterfront in a sensitive and responsive manner, has garnered this singular award for Lisbon.

里斯本.jpg

The city has still another reason to kvell. A few years ago, the Portuguese Parliament started an initiative to promote Fado as UNESCO's World's Heritage Cultural Patrimony and former Lisbon mayor Pedro Santana Lopes came up with the idea that Fado should be considered as a cultural heritage. The result: this year the UNESCO Intangible Heritage of Humanity award has been conferred on Lisbon for its Portuguese Fado music. According to UNESCO, intangible heritage includes traditions and skills passed on within cultures. The UNESCO's committee of experts unanimously praised Fado as an example of good practices that should be followed by other countries.

This traditional art form, Fado, is music and poetry representing a multicultural synthesis of Afro-Brazilian song from rural areas of the country. It is performed professionally on the concert circuit and in small 'Fado houses in numerous grass-root associations located throughout older neighborhoods of Lisbon.

After my scintillating Fado experience in that tiny neighborhood boite, the next day I visited the

Museu e Casa do Fado located on Largo do Chafariz de Dentro 1, directly opposite the entrance to the Alfama. It's a small museum with a packed collection that includes many interactive exhibits. The permanent collection is a wondrous journey through the history of Fado -- the music, the singers, the musicians and instruments. I loved the room displaying hundreds of photos of famous singers as well as old posters and advertisements, each wall crammed with information on how Fado developed as a musical genre. My favorite room had an installation that recreated a Fado bar. I found myself alone in this room, dark and loaded with atmosphere. Lining the walls, original costumes worn by some of the great Fadistas like Lidia Riberiro, Maria da Fe and Amalia. As music played softly, I had the overpowering sensation of being an integral part of this scene. Leaving the museum and entering the bright, relentless sunlight of Lisbon was jarring, disconcerting. The cure: another visit to a Fado club that evening.

Mariza, a leading contemporary performer, multiple award winner and the ambassador for Fado's UNESCO candidacy said that, because Fado has been so honored, "perhaps we Portuguese will now take greater pride in who we are, especially in the so very grey times we currently live in."

2012 European City of the Year coupled with the luscious music of Fado - persuasive, inviting reasons to visit. But do one really need a reason? Lisbon, Portugal: reason enough!

Source: The Huffington Post

*Barbara Barton Sloane is the Travel Writer for The Westchester Guardian, The Westchester Herald and The Yonkers Tribune; a contributing Travel Writer for Bay Area Family Travel, Travel Savvy News, CEO Traveler, Travel World International Magazine, GlobalWrites and many other publications. She is a former Assistant Beauty & Fashion Editor for Ladies’ Home Journal, Associate Editor for McCall’s, and is presently the Beauty and Fashion Editor of Elegant Accents Magazine. In addition to travel writing, Barbara’s interests include running marathons, hiking and cycling. She is a volunteer for The Westchester Bereavement Center, The Lighthouse for the Blind and a member of North American Travel Journalists Association, International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association, Pacific Asia Travel Association, Cosmetic Executive Women and Fashion Group International. Favorite destinations are those that include family travel, light adventure, luxury/spas/resorts, incentive/business travel, wedding/honeymoon destinations and sites of historic and cultural importance both here and abroad. Barbara has a BA in Journalism from Ohio State University.

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An evening in the country

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An evening in the country

An evening in the country is always pleasurable.  And an evening in the country around the supper table with friends, even more so.  But when you find yourself in company where one member has a birthday, and your hostess has arranged a surprise treat, then an evening in the country can turn into something quite special.

And so it was, that I found myself being entertained by the Fado Marialva.

 

Rural areas in Portugal came very late to electricity.  Traditional homesteads, such as the one at which I was a guest, have not abandoned time-served means of cooking, heating and lighting, for who knows when 21st Century power may fail, and necessitate a return to the old ways.

In the failing light, the paraffin lamps were brought out, and the doors and windows flung wide open to receive the cooling breezes, for there were many flushed cheeks that required to be cooled!  The wine was taking effect, and the blurred edges around everything may not have been entirely attributable to the flicker of the lamps!

The evening was gathering momentum, and the once reserved trio were starting to get into their stride.  Their audience was starting to recover from the initial surprise.

To those of us who were familiar with Fado, and especially those songs which form part of the Marialva's repertoire, no sooner was one finished, than another request was shouted out.  With traditional country fare on the table, and a seemingly never ending supply of local wine, short breaks for the singers to step outside for a smoke, and to rest the vocal chords, did not prevent time passing at a gallop.  We cannot remember how many songs we got through, many favourites, or especially stirring ones, being sung more than once.  And we prefer NOT to remember how many times certain of those among us couldn't resist the urge to get up and do a jig!  To think that Fado is funereal, is to do it a great disservice, since while some lovely slow ones were sung, and some which were religious, that evening called for something different.

As I looked at the faces of those men that night, I started to wonder if perhaps I might be able to understand some day, what it is about Fado that means so much to them and indeed all Portuguese.  They were singing about their way of life, and the things which mattered most to them, and about which they cared passionately.  Gone were the cares of the day, the worries about the economy and all those external factors that knaw away at our wellbeing.  The more they sang, the more expressive they became, none more so than the guitarist, who had to be reined in on occasion, and reminded that this was not a solo performance!

And eventually, it was, with great regret, that we had to call it a day.  The food was exhausted, the wine was exhausted and so were the people.

People who started out being strangers, and parted, the greatest of friends.

This most enjoyable of evenings was spent at Quinta do Archino.

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Fado, the soul of Portuguese culture

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Fado, the soul of Portuguese culture

It is  unlikely that you are able to undertand Fado just by reading about it. Fado is a song that touches the deepest corners of Portuguese souls, so to really apreciate and learn about the ways of Portuguese souls you need to find a confortable chair, relax with a glass of red wine and with your eyes close, listen with your heart this anciant melody.

Carminho belongs to the new generation of Fado singers, her style and tone is in my opinion very similar to the Queen of Fado, Amália, but brings a new enchantment to this world intangible heritage

It is impossible not to have a view on Fado.  People either love it or hate it. The subject raises as much passion as the genre itself. 

The possible origins of fado include: Arabic from the population remaining in the Mourarias after the Christian reconquest in 1147; Afro-Brazilian from the mixture of the modinhas (soft romantic music of the Portuguese elite in Brazil) and the lundum (Angolan) which came to Portugal with the returning Royal family in the 1820s; maritime from the sailors returning to Lisbon after their voyages of discovery who may have sung sea-songs of nostalgia for Lisbon; medieval from the troubadours with their romantic poetry; 16th century from the narrative singing of the C16 romanceros.  

Other theories suggest a connexion with the Afro-American blues; or a gypsy element from Andalucia; or because the Jewish community was present in Lisbon for years after their forced conversion of 1497, it could be that their secret suffering contributed to the saudade of Fado.  

Fado comes from the Latin fatum meaning fate.  Fate describes the individual’s future and fado bemoans the unchangeable nature of the individual’s destiny and the unforgiving and unchanging nature of the lottery of life.   

The songs are urban folk songs from four of the poorest districts of Lisbon: Alfama, Bairro Alto, Madragoa and Mouraria. 

Saudade, which has a multiplicity of meanings such as longing, yearning, regrets, homesickness, memories, is the essence of Fado.  

Fado is sung by male or female fadistas with a traditional accompaniment of a melody line from the guitarra portuguesa and the rhythm is provided by the acoustic guitar, which the Portuguese call viola. Sometimes a double bass adds extra bass to the rhythm.  

First recognised in Lisbon in the 1820s, Fado o riginated in the taverns and brothels and the first famous exponent was Maria Severa. Her fame rests on a play of 1901 by Júlio Dantas (later made into the first Portuguese talkie A Severa in 1931).  From about 1870, the Teatro de Revista began to incorporate Fado songs and soon no production was complete without fado.  

Many Fados are about the city of Lisbon and the city is likened to a girl who is always beautiful and elegant.  It is likely that of all the cities in the world, Paris and Buenos Aires included, Lisbon is the city which is the subject of most songs.  

In the 1890s, Fado de Coimbra appeared. Sometimes this form is referred to as canção de Coimbra because it does not belong to the Lisbon tradition of Fado. It is usually sung by male students or graduates in the street (preferably on the steps of the Old Cathedral) and is firmly identified with the University of Coimbra, and the performers are always in the black capes which the students wear. 

Lisbon Fado is usually sung by only one person.  A woman fadista normally wears a black shawl over her dress signifying mourning for the first fadista, Maria Severa.  Men used to dress in suits but now a black polo sweater or an open necked shirt is accepted.  

There are different types of Fado:  menor is sad, slow and melancholic and is sung in a minor key; Mouraria is nostalgic but in a major key and faster; corrido has cheerful and upbeat music but the words do not necessarily reflect that mood; bailado is danceable.  

Fado canção or fado musicado is more commercial and appeared in the 1930s with Amália Rodrigues, its greatest exponent.  Fado castiço is the original type of fado and considered the best by the aficionados.  It is accompanied by the guitarra portuguesa and viola only.  

Fado à desgarrada and Fado vadio are different from the professional Fado found in Casas de Fado.  In these formats, amateurs take turns to sing their emotions.  A Portuguese friend tells me that the only proper form is Fado vadio; the rest is just for show.

Because fado was tightly controlled by the Salazar regime, some Portuguese have an ambivalent attitude towards it and its most famous exponent Amália Rodrigues.  It was announced by Salazar that he would give the Portuguese three ‘Fs’ to be proud of - fado, Fátima and football.  And so, perhaps in spite of themselves, both Eusébio and Amália Rodrigues became apologists for the regime. 

After the 1974 revolution, Fado became less popular and it was not until the late 1980s that younger artists have realised that fado is greater than the history of the dictatorship. 

Traditionally, most fadistas came from Lisbon but over the last 100 years, Lisbon Fado has lost its connexions with Lisbon, bullfighting, the nobility, saudade and Fado menor.  It is becoming an international genre scarcely distinguishable from other song types.  

Perhaps the recent recognition by UNESCO of fado as part of Portugal’s intangible cultural heritage will encourage a return to its roo ts. 

Text source: Algarve Resident

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World’s Intangible Cultural Heritage –  Fado

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World’s Intangible Cultural Heritage – Fado

 

 

Last week Portugal was graced with the recognition of its most traditional music genre as one of World’s Intangible Cultural Heritage. This Lisbon mournful song, Fado, is in the hearts of every Portuguese around the world and brings the suffer and nostalgy to a poetic song  

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