Fado songs are usually performed by a solo singer, male or female, traditionally accompanied by a wire-strung acoustic guitar and the Portuguese guitarra – a pear-shaped lute with twelve wire strings, unique to Portugal, which also has an extensive solo repertoire. The past few decades have witnessed this instrumental accompaniment expanded to two Portuguese guitars, a guitar and a bass guitar. Fado is performed professionally on the concert circuit and in small ‘Fado houses’, and by amateurs in numerous grass-root associations located throughout older neighbourhoods of Lisbon. Informal tuition by older, respected exponents takes place in traditional performance spaces and often over successive generations within the same families. The dissemination of Fado through emigration and the world music circuit has reinforced its image as a symbol of Portuguese identity, leading to a process of cross-cultural exchange involving other musical traditions.
The word Fado comes from the latin word fatum, from which the English word fate also originates. The word is linked to the music genre itself and, although both meanings are approximately the same in the two languages, Portuguese speakers seldom utilize the word fado referring to destiny or fate.
Fado only appeared after 1830 in Lisbon. It was introduced in the port districts like Alfama, Mouraria and Bairro Alto. There are many theories about the origin of Fado. Some trace it's origins or influences to "cantigas de amigo" (friends songs) from the Middle Ages, or Moorish songs, or also to African-Brazilian rhythms. Since there was very much contact between Portugal and its colonies, particularly Brazil (between 1804 and 1822 the Portuguese court resided in Rio de Janeiro since the king had fled from Portugal after Napoleon's invasion), it is not strange that Portuguese fado has some roots in Afro-Brazilian slave dances and also Spanish and Portuguese songs; like Fandango, Samba, Lundu and Modinha and on the other (notice that these roots are similar to those of the Samba). As a consequence, fado was initially very rhytmical and danceable. Fado performers in the middle of the 19th century, where mainly from urban working class and sailors, that did not only sing, but also dance and beat the fado. During the second half of the 19th century, the African rhythms would become less important, and the performers became merely singers
The 19th century's most renowned fadista was Maria Severa. More recently Amália Rodrigues, known as the "Rainha do Fado" ("Queen of Fado") was most influential in popularizing fado worldwide. Fado performances today may be accompanied by a string quartet or a full orchestra.
A few links to youtube videos of Fado Songs
Fado song by Amália Rodrigies http://ow.ly/7Ob5D
Fado by Madredeus http://ow.ly/7Obo8
Fado by Mariza http://ow.ly/7Obqi
Fado by Camané http://ow.ly/7ObCj
Fado by Carlos do Carmo http://ow.ly/7ObIi
If you are visiting Lisbon I recommend a visit to one of the following Fado houses. They are picturesque restaurants of small size, delicious food and a warm atmosphere that will make you feel at home among strangers
A Tasca do Chico (Bairro Alto) Rua do Diário de Notícias, 39 21 343 10 40
Clube de Fado (Alfama) Rua de S. João da Praça, 92-94 21 885 27 04
Mesa de Frades (A Alfama) Rua Dos Remédios, 139-A Tel:21 887 1452
A Taverna d’ El Rey (Alfama) Largo do Chafariz de Dentro, 14 21 887 67 54