As I was meandering around the cobbled streets of Tavira, I spotted, several times, a leaflet in a shop window. Always interested in a new venture, I went to find out more. ” Fado com História” is situated in the heart of the old quarter, just beside the Misericordia Church and below the castle walls. What I found delighted me. If you’ve never experienced Fado, or think that it might not be for you, I can recommend you to this introduction.
Fado originated in Lisbon, and the show begins with a video featuring some of Portugal’s most famous Fado singers, so that you get a feel for the sound. Most prominent among these was Amalia Rodrigues(1920-1999). She said that “Fado has to be felt. Fado isn’t sung, but just happens. You feel it, you don’t understand it, nor can it be explained.” Such passion did she arouse that, when she died, Portugal held 3 days of national mourning.
Nowadays Fado can be heard throughout Portugal, usually in an atmospheric bar or restaurant. “Fado com História” is a small venue, featuring a trio of live artists. They include Virgilio Lanca, who plays guitar and makes most of the explanations in a soft voice. He describes fado as “a song that gives you goosebumps”. Miguel Drago plays Portuguese guitar, which has 12 metallic strings in groups of 2. You could hear a pin drop as the two begin a guitarrada, demonstrating the ebb and flow of their art.
They are joined by a fadista, Teresa Viola, a lovely young woman with a beautiful voice. She closes her eyes, takes a deep breath, and leans into the performance. Accompanied by the guitarists she sings 4 or 5 fados, explaining the stories behind them. The backdrop is a wall-sized photograph of a 1942 performance at Cafe Luso, in Lisbon, featuring the great Amalia.
The passion of the performers for their project is clearly evident, and at the end of the show they are happy to talk about it. They are working in conjunction with the Fado Museum in Lisbon but have found a different way to present fado, and the live performances are key.
The museum is open from 10am to 5pm every day except Sundays, and a new show begins each hour. Details are at http://www.fadocomhistoria.wix.com/fado . I can only suggest that if you have the opportunity at any time you should go along. You will be warmly welcomed. This video is in Portuguese but is quite easy to follow.