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Fado Favorites: The Artists We Love

Fado Favorites: The Artists We Love

by Emily Mudge

If you’ve been to Portugal, you’ve probably heard the soulful Fado music playing from cafes or restaurants. This traditional folk music is a staple of Portuguese culture. The lyrics often focus on longing (saudade), or on the working-class life. If you’re new to Fado, or if you just want to hear more, check out some of our Fado favorites to get you longing for your next trip to Portugal.

Amália Rodrigues

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Amália Rodrigues, the Queen of Fado, is easily the best known Fado artist of all time. She is responsible for bringing Fado to the international spotlight in the 1940’s, after performing in Spain, Brazil, Berlin, Mexico, and France. She was also the first Portuguese artist to appear on American television. Amália died on October 6, 1999, leading the Portuguese government to declare three days of national mourning. Her song Fado Português tells of the birth of Fado music, and it’s easy to see the themes that define the genre. Some of her other popular songs are Coimbra and Barco Negro.

Notable lyrics (from Fado Português):

Fado was born on a day,

When the wind barely stirred,

And the seas elongated the skies.

On the main rail of a sailing ship,

In the chest of a seaman

While sorrowful he sang.

While sorrowful he sang.

Carlos do Carmo

Although Amália is indisputably the Queen, Carlos do Carmo may be the best known male Fado artist. His mother, Lucia do Carmo, was also a Fado singer. His style also draws influence from jazz and orchestral music. At 80 years old, do Carmo is still performing today. Some of his best known songs include Lisboa Menina e Moca, No Teu Poema, and Os Putos.

Notable lyrics (from Os Putos):

It’s this people’s kids

Learning to be men

Mariza

Mariza

Mariza

You can’t talk about modern-day Fado without mentioning Mariza. Although she got her start in other musical styles, she quickly rose to fame for her Fado tribute to Amália Rodrigues in 1999. She gained international fame after singing the Portuguese national anthem at the 2002 FIFA World Cup. She covered Amália, as well as producing original music, such as Melhor de Mim and Transparente, which is a tribute to her grandmother.

Notable lyrics (from Melhor de Mim):

I know that the best of me is to come

I know that the best of me is yet to come

Ana Moura

Ana Moura is internationally recognized for becoming the youngest Fado singer to be nominated for the Edison Award, a Dutch award celebrating achievement in the music industry. Moura’s style has attracted the interest of many international musicians, including the Rolling Stones and Prince. Her part in the Fado revival movement definitely lands her on our list of Fado favorites. In addition to her extensive catalog, she performed No Expectations alongside the Rolling Stones in 2007, and covered Joni Mitchell’s A Case of You in 2012.

Notable lyrics (from Desfado):

Oh how I long

To have something to long for

To have longings for someone

That has been here and does not exist

Camané

When it comes to modern male Fado singers, there is no one quite like Camané. His soulful music began gaining popularity in 1979. Since, Camané has put out 11 albums, the most recent of which was released in 2017. His most famous song is probably Sei de um Rio.

Notable lyrics (from Sei de um Rio):

I know a river

Where the lights of the city

are the unique stars

laid over its waters

Dulce Pontes

Dulce Pontes

Dulce Pontes

Singer/songwriter Dulce Pontes is generally considered a world music artist, with her catalog spanning genres from pop to classical. She often incorporates these styles into her Fado, helping bring the genre into a new era. Her unique style and incredible voice make her a definite Fado favorite. Her music reflects a lot of the traditional themes of Fado, which can best be seen in her song Canção do Mar.

Notable lyrics (from Canção do Mar):

If I dance in my vessel

I don’t go to the cruel sea

And I won’t say where I went to sing

To smile, to dance, to live, to dream….of you

Raquel Tavares

Raquel Tavares is probably the newest artist on this list, but that doesn’t stop her from being one of the best up and coming Fado artists. After winning Portugal’s most famous Fado music competition, she went on to perform in the most famous Fado houses across the country. Most of her songs are inspired by Linhares Barbosa, a traditional Fado poet. Though she stepped away from the spotlight in January of 2020, we hope to see her back soon. Her popular songs include Lagrimas do Ceu and A Ponte.

Notable lyrics (from A Ponte):

That I may drown in desire

Before the sea of will

Note: Lyric translations found here.

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